Cambodia & Vietnam
Cambodia presents a thrilling balance of mysterious cities, deep forests and colonial grandeur. Archaeologically, the country is best-known as the home of the vast and magnificent temple complex of Angkor Wat - a captivating testament to human ingenuity, and to the ravages of time. Of course, Angkor isn’t our only highlight, many other temples and cities, deep in the forests are constantly being uncovered.
In Vietnam, we explore the lands of Champa, a maritime kingdom which flourished from the 7th to the 10th century, with lavish monuments and temples. Our tour culminates in Angkor, which shows testament to human ingenuity, that such a metropolis could be lost and swallowed back into the jungle.
- We receive special access at Angkor Wat and receive a unique introduction to the site, and the latest discoveries which are being made here.
- Explore Beng Mealea – a 12th century temple that has been reclaimed by the Cambodian jungle
- Tour Ta Prohm – an atmospheric 13th century temple-monastery; and the fortified city of Angkor Thom, dominated by giant heads of the Buddha
- Discover the World Heritage Site of Hoi An
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
The trip begins as our flight departs for Hanoi, arriving in the morning of Day 2.
After touching down in Vietnam’s capital city this morning, the afternoon is ours to either rest at our central four-star hotel, or explore the city with our Guide Lecturer and group.
Destinations include the History Museum, which contains bronzes from the Dong Son culture of 3 BC; the Temple of Literature, a Confucian temple for scholars which dates from 1070; the excavations at Hanoi Citadel, or a reviving bicycle ride around the rambling streets of the Old City.
After breakfast our tour of Hanoi continues. We visit the Governor’s Palace, a colonial building constructed to house the French Governor-General of Indochina; the iconic One Pillar Pagoda, a wooden temple built to resemble a lotus flower, and the traditional stilt house in which Ho Chi Minh once lived.
Following an early lunch we hop on a flight south to Hue, Vietnam’s capital until 1945, where we view the Ta Duc Mausoleum – a beautiful royal tomb complex devised by the heirless emperor Tu Duc.
This morning we travel by dragon boat along the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-storey symbol of the city built in 1601, and home to a mighty bell said to be audible up to 10 kilometres away. Back on land, we enter the 19th century walled citadel at the heart of Hue, where the remains of the Forbidden Purple City lie. Little is now left of this once magnificent residence, to which only the emperor, his concubines, and eunuchs were admitted.
Our discovery of the Imperial City continues throughout the afternoon, and we end the day at the Fine Arts Museum, an exceptional attraction that brims with ancient treasures.
We begin the day by heading south along the coast, via the spectacular Hai Van Pass (‘Pass of the Mountain Clouds’), from where we enjoy transcendent views of the Annamite Range and the glittering South China Sea.
Arriving in the city of Da Nang, we follow lunch by the river with a visit to the Cham Museum. This quaint building houses the world’s best collection of religious sculpture from the Cham culture, dating from the 5th to the 15th centuries. Our journey continues through the Marble Mountains to the well-preserved trading port and World Heritage Site of Hoi An, a delightful city whose patchwork of styles and architecture reflects a rich cultural heritage.
This morning we make our way inland to My Son, the religious centre of the Cham people, stopping at the Champa empire’s first capital, Tra Kieu, along the way. My Son is believed to be the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. More than 70 Hindu temples and tombs are nestled amongst the wooded hills here, all dedicated to the goddess Shiva. The site was also a burial place for the Cham kings. We spend a full day exploring these romantic ruins before returning to the sea breezes and bustle of Hoi An in the late afternoon.
This morning is ours to discover Hoi An at our leisure. Browse the shops for local arts and crafts, stroll past the creaking old merchant houses, cross the famous covered bridge, or breathe in the city’s ambience with a local coffee in hand.
This afternoon we return to Da Nang for a flight to Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. In the comfort of our hotel we enjoy a lecture introducing Angkor Wat and the Khmer kingdom from our esteemed archaeologist, Dr Damian Evans.
Our introduction to the Khmer kings continues with a short transfer to the Roluos group of 9th century temples – some of the earliest Khmer structures ever found, and once the seat of the ancient Khmer capital Hariharalaya. A magical site fringed with palm trees.
Following lunch we continue to the remote temple complex of Banteay Srei ( ‘Citadel of Beauty’) where exquisite Angkorian frescos shine out from pink sandstone, many as detailed and precise as if they had been carved only yesterday, not several centuries ago. Among the many highlights here are the ornate library buildings, and the three central towers, adorned with deities.
We drive north through beautiful countryside to Koh Ker this morning, a remote 10th century Khmer city hidden in the forest and only recently opened to visitors. We see the ancient city’s large stepped pyramid – the biggest of its kind in this region – and view the romantic remains of its numerous temples.
This afternoon we travel further into the jungle, to the Beng Mealea Temple complex, an incredible site where the natural world has slowly taken hold, with massive tree roots snaking through the stones of stunning Hindu architecture. A truly breathtaking sight.
An early start brings us to Cambodia’s most famous wonder: the outstanding Angkor Wat. We cross the moat into the site just after sunrise to avoid the crowds, and maximise our time exploring this enormous complex, with its assortment of Khmer capital buildings; a testament to the powers of this incredible civilisation.
As well as taking in the site’s best-known monuments, we also visit the smaller temples of Ta Som, Preah Khan and Baray Reach Dak, which are rarely visited by Western tourists. In the afternoon we spend time at the Angkor National Museum, where fragments and finds from the temples are displayed alongside illuminating exhibits about Angkor Wat’s construction and inhabitants.
We enjoy a free day at Siem Reap today. Given that the world’s largest religious monument is on our doorstep, it is likely that you will want to return to Angkor Wat, where there are always new discoveries to be made. Take the ruins at your leisure on foot, or even by bicycle – an option allowing you to reach the further flung parts of the complex before the day is through.
On our last of the action-packed days of this trip, we rise early to discover some of Cambodia’s lesser-known temples, beginning with Ta Prohm, a Buddhist monastery held together by banyan and strangler fig roots. We also stop at the 12th century stone temple of Ta Nei, and the impressive Ta Keo, thought to be the first wholly sandstone temple built by the Khmer.
Our highlight of the morning, however, has to be our special behind-the-scenes visit to the French Institute, where Dr Evans will show us his conservation work at the statue stores.
After lunch we delve into the fortified city of Angkor Thom, an astounding location dominated by giant stone heads of the Buddha, and which features the stunningly carved ceremonial Terrace of Elephants. This evening we fly into Saigon to catch an early morning flight back home on Day 13…
…and our amazing expedition comes to an end.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach and river boat
- Meals - All meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme, porterage and tips included
- Field Notes
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