Vietnam & Cambodia by Sea with Angkor Wat

Published on Thursday, April 04, 2013

  • Qui Nhon, Vietnam

  • Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Vinh Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

  • Vinh Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

  • Vinh Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Hue, Vietnam

  • Da Nang, Vietnam

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

  • Qui Nhon, Vietnam

  • Qui Nhon, Vietnam

  • Port Dayot, Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Mekong Delta, Vietnam

  • Mekong Delta, Vietnam

  • Mekong Delta, Vietnam

  • Con Son, Vietnam

  • Con Son, Vietnam

  • Con Son, Vietnam

  • Phu Quoc, Vietnam

  • Sihanoukville, Cambodia

  • Sihanoukville, Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat, Siem Ream, Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat, Siem Ream, Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat, Siem Ream, Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat, Siem Ream, Cambodia

  • Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - Hanoi, Vietnam: For those of us who arrived early, we were able to enjoy the finest Hanoi has to offer, including the incredible amount of motorbikes! In a city of 9 million people, there are at least 4.5 million motorbikes, and it seemed like we saw them all. After the opportunity to walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, enjoy a local lunch, or simply relax in the lovely Hotel de l’Opera, we were excited to meet our expedition staff and fellow explorers at a lovely welcome dinner.

 
Wednesday, January 30 - Hanoi / Hai Phong / Embark Clipper Odyssey: Our first day of touring and we hit the ground running! We began at the impressive Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the father of the country lies in state. We were able to wander around Ba Dinh Square and see both the Presidential Palace, used for ceremonial activities, and the cottage where Ho Chi Minh actually resided. We finished the morning with a special performance at the Water Puppet Theater, showing us some of the many cultural traditions of Vietnam, and a visit to the Temple of Literacy.
 
After a massive, and delicious, lunch of local specialties, we visited the Hoa La Museum, also known as the Hanoi Hilton, where prisoners of war such as John McCain were held. Soon we were on our way to embark the Clipper Odyssey, our home for the next two weeks.
 
Thursday, January 31 - Vinh Lan Ha Bay: After breakfast, we all enjoyed the chance for a quick Zodiac ride to our traditional junk in the middle of the bay. We cruised among the limestone karsts all morning, surrounded in mist, weaving in and out and watching the local Vietnamese carry on their day-to-day lives. Our only stop was to visit a huge cave—centuries of water erosion formed stalactites, stalagmites, and bizarrely-shaped rock structures.
 
After lunch onboard, we ventured out for an up-close-and-personal view of the formations. On the Zodiac, our local guides told us how these impressive rocks were formed and directed us to the fishing village, an area with over 800 people living on the water. The highlight of the day was cruising into Cat Ba National Park—not only were we greeted by some of the ship’s crew with hot chocolate and Bailey’s, but we came across a family of gibbons! We observed them jumping from tree to tree before we left for our captain’s welcome dinner.
 
Friday, February 1 - Vinh Moc: We began our lecture series this morning with great talks from Shirley Campbell and Jim Delgado. Shirley spoke on the pre-history of Vietnam with The Rivers of Change in Southeast Asia: A Prehistory, and Jim focused on the history of war in the country, followed by some sobering images of the Vietnam War. After lunch onboard, we were ready to visit the tunnels of Vinh Moc but the waves had other plans for us. The decision was made to not risk the weather on our return, and we were instead treated to a discussion with Ron Wixman on the movement of various peoples into southeast Asia and the rise of Chinese and Indian cultures, a transition which resulted in the area being called ‘Indo-China.’ Our first official recap was held before dinner.
 
Saturday, February 2 - Hue: A big day off the ship, we started early this morning in the city of Hue, officially pronounced whey. We began at the Dong Ba Market, before embarking in rickshaws to the Imperial Citadel. We set off to the Thien Mu Pagoda, home of the car Thich Quang Duc used to drive to Saigon, before demonstrating against the Diem regime.
 
Lunch was aboard a Dragon Boat on the Perfume River, where we saw countless boats cruising around, mostly families going about their daily lives. The food was spectacular with a variety of dishes, including a local specialty consisting of dried fig, pork, and shrimp. Once full, we walked on to our last two stops of the day, the Minh Mang Tomb and Emperor Tu Doc’s Tomb, the latter built to resemble a miniature palace. We returned to the ship for recap and dinner.
 
Sunday, February 3 - Da Nang / Hoi An / My Son: We were offered several options today, consisting of visiting My Son or Hoi An. Those who visited My Son saw some of the 70 structures dating from the 7th – 13th centuries. The cooking group in Hoi An was treated to an intimate market tour, sampling local fruits and herbs like rambutan and mangosteen, before trying their hand at making fresh spring rolls, marinated chicken, and crispy pancakes. A third group enjoyed a relaxing morning onboard before shopping in town. After a few people visited the Cham Museum, home to many artifacts from My Son, we all met back onboard for recap and dinner.
 
Monday, February 4 - Qui Nhon: Our day began with a visit to Banh It, a group of Cham towers that date back to the 11th century. After making it through the swarm of dragonflies, we departed for Quang Trung Museum, dedicated to Nguyen Hue, a national hero who defeated invading troops in 1788. We walked through the fascinating displays before enjoying a martial arts demonstration, complete with traditional weaponry and music. We had time to stop at a local shipyard before heading back for lunch; we walked gingerly among the equipment, but marveled at the building of ships while taking in the smells of construction.
 
Back on the ship for lunch, we were able to try on various snorkel equipment before Shirley’s lecture on Who are the Cham? She was elated to reveal the Cham are actually an Austronesian people, most likely from Borneo. We ended the day with recap and dinner.
 
Tuesday, February 5 - Nha Trang: The day began with our arrival into Port Dayot and one of the most beautiful sunrises to date. We were lucky enough to walk through the village of 4,000 people and take pictures of everything, from the local shop-owners to the friendly children buying goldfish off the backs of motorbikes. The fantastic morning was capped by some of us visiting a local kindergarten and serenading the children with Do-Re-Mi.
 
Jack Grove taught us some of the do’s and don’ts of travel photography before lunch onboard. Afterwards, we were off to either visit the town of Nha Trang or try our hand at snorkeling with Jack. The snorkelers had decent visibility and saw both staghorn and lettuce corals, four species of butterflyfish, Moorish idols, and sea urchins. Those who visited the town spent time in a rush mat village, observing how the beautiful mats are made. They also enjoyed a local kindergarten, the stunning Long Son Pagoda, the Po Nagar Temple, and an embroidery demonstration, complete with silk worms on display. Many of us left with arms full of mats, pashminas, and art work.
 
Wednesday, February 6 - Ho Chi Minh City: This morning began at sea with Shirley leading a yoga class. Jack gave a lecture titled Marine Biology and Ocean Science, reminding us that global warming is real, and bringing a great visual in the form of a bow-mouthed guitar fish. As a pilot came on board, we cruised down the Saigon River, some of us even catching glimpses of dolphins. After a fun barbeque lunch on board, we were soon off to explore Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City. After passing the American Embassy where the last Americans fled the city by helicopter in 1975, we visited the Presidential Palace. Designed by a Vietnamese architect, the interior looked like any home in 1960s America. We walked through the basement with its strategic military maps, warren of tunnels, and the American-made telecommunications equipment still in place. Afterwards some of us visited the Goddess of the Sea temple, Thien Hau, and others went straight to the Binh Tay market. The market was bustling with shoppers eager to buy last-minute items for Tet, the lunar new year, celebrated by the entire country. Having already seen the ubiquitous kumquat trees and countless yellow and orange mums used as decorations for the holiday, it was entertaining to see even more excitement in the market. Dockside for the night, many of us enjoyed dinner on shore before an evening stroll around the city.
 
Thursday, February 7 - Ho Chi Minh City / Mekong Delta: We had an early departure in order to fully enjoy all the Mekong Delta has to offer. After a ride along Highway One, we arrived in My Tho, ready for a quiet cruise along the river. Our first stop was a coconut plantation where we got to sample the candy and sniff around the notorious durian fruit. Though locals say it tastes like heaven, we took Ron’s word for it that it did not.
 
We hopped on pony and traps before making a stop for delicious local fruit, including rambutan, jackfruit, and dragonfruit, and traditional music. To add yet another mode of transportation to our day, we boarded sampans and cruised down the Mekong Delta, watching locals pass us by.
 
We were treated to a fantastic lunch, complete with elephant ear fish and a hot pot. On our way back to the city, we stopped at the famed post office and Notre Dame Cathedral before spending the remainder of the day shopping or wandering around Ho Chi Minh City on our own. Zegrahm and MIT Alumni Travel treated us to cocktails on the pool deck before dinner.
 
Friday, February 8 - Con Son: We arrived in Con Son this morning, the first ever passenger vessel to do so. Via mini-vans, we drove through the former penal colony, stopping at the Con Dao Museum and seeing both the French and American tiger cages. We also visited the Hang Duong Cemetery, where the first woman killed in the war was laid to rest. We learned that, as a form of remembrance, visitors often leave combs and mirrors for her—items that ladies need. Before returning to the ship, we stopped at the beautiful Con Dao Resort, sipped fresh watermelon and pineapple juice, and relaxed in the sun.
 
After lunch we were able to go snorkeling or enjoy a ride in a glass-bottom boat. Those who got in the water saw few fish, but enjoyed the beautiful surroundings before heading back to the Clipper Odyssey.
 
Saturday, February 9 - At Sea: Our first day at sea brought us another yoga session with Shirley before Ron’s lecture on Religion and Culture in Vietnam and Jim’s presentation, Finding the Remains of the Mongal Invasions of Vietnam. After lunch, those of us who wanted to duck away from the hot sun watched Return with Honor, a documentary about American fighter pilots during the Vietnam War. We were treated to an ice cream social before our group photo and later, recap and dinner. This evening, Jim presented us with a series of images entitled Titanic @ 100, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.
 
Sunday, February 10 - Phu Quoc: After anchoring off the island of Phu Quoc, we split into groups for snorkeling and a village visit. The snorkelers disembarked first, then enjoyed a calm ride to their snorkel site. They came back relaxed, having seen even more coral than the previous excursions, and having tasted fresh sea urchin. The other group enjoyed a walk around the Duong Dong village, visiting a temple right on the water, and walking over a floating bridge with typical Vietnamese traffic rules—hope for the best.
 
After lunch onboard we departed for our island tour, stopping at a pepper garden, fish sauce factory, pearl farm, and the Coi Ngui Museum. The museum was spectacular, with thousands of artifacts and antiques. We enjoyed farewell cocktails from the captain before dinner, and then watched Jack’s lovely slideshow of images from the trip so far.
 
Monday, February 11 - Sihanoukville, Cambodia / Disembark / Siem Reap: After making sure our luggage was safely off the ship, we split into groups with some of us visiting the town of Sihanoukville and the rest walking through Ream National Park. The town tour visited a fishing village and stopped at Intra Ngean pagoda, the most prominent religious site in the area. Those visiting the national park cruised through a mangrove-lined river before hiking to a beach where we said our goodbyes to our fearless expedition leader Little John, Jack, and Shirley.
 
Both groups met up at the airport where our cruise director Lynda Murphy was waiting for us with passports in hand. We boarded our plane and enjoyed a casual evening in Siem Reap at the Grand Hotel d’Angkor.
 
Tuesday, February 12 - Siem Reap: This morning started early for almost everyone, as we trekked through the grounds and watched Angkor Wat come alive at sunrise. The sky a perfect pink, we stopped for breakfast before meeting up with the rest of the group for our tour of the great temple complex. Ron gave us great insight on the carvings and meanings behind the impressive structure before we headed back to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon we visited Banteay Srei, the Citadel of Women, before stopping at Artisans de Angkor for some shopping. Back at the hotel, we were able to go for a swim or share shopping finds with our friends before a buffet dinner.
 
Wednesday, February 13 - Siem Reap: After breakfast we visited Ta Prohm and Preah Khan. Ta Prohm is perhaps one of the most impressive temples, as it has been left largely in its natural state, surrounded by jungle with trees growing in and among the buildings. The trees looked like tentacles crawling around the different structures. Preah Khan translates to ‘sacred sword,’ and is an extensive monastery and teaching complex. After lunch at the hotel, we were off to Angkor Thom, the ancient walled city, built in the 12th century. We saw the Bayon temple, covered in thousands of carvings of daily life from the time it was built, and stopped at the Elephant Terrace for pictures.
 
A few people visited the market to burn off any remaining riel before our farewell dinner. A spectacular night, we enjoyed cocktails under the stars before a phenomenal series of traditional Apsara dances. All too soon the night, and trip, came to an end.
 
Thursday, February 14 - Siem Reap / Home: Most of us were able to enjoy one last breakfast on the balcony before heading off to our respective homes. An incredible journey through Vietnam and Cambodia during the Tet holiday left us all saying, ‘Chúc mừng năm mới!’