Fly overnight from the UK to Hanoi.
Meet your tour manager and transfer into elegant, romantic Hanoi, for a two-night stay. Enjoy an introductory tour of the Vietnamese capital, with its old quarter, tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake and island temple. Perhaps visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the former leader’s traditional house, the Imperial Citadel and the Temple of Literature, and enjoy dinner at your leisure.
Journey through a timeless landscape to the Gulf of Tonkin, and cruise through the stunning seascape of Ha Long Bay, with its limestone pillars, cone-shaped islands, floating villages, pearl-fishermen, and exquisite beaches. Return to Hanoi this evening.
Fly south to Siem Reap, gateway to the incredible Angkor Thom complex and home to the Angkor National Museum. Enjoy a traditional Cambodian dance performance at dinner.
One of the tour’s most unforgettable highlights is today’s visit to Angkor Thom, the great Khmer citadel. Great ruins litter the verdant jungle, including awe-inspiring Angkor Wat – the world’s largest religious building, with its towers and 1,000-metre-long carved bas-relief. Equally astounding, is the Bayon temple with its four giant heads and countless other faces carved into the rock. Return to your hotel, amazed at your discoveries.
Cruise the waters of Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s great lake, passing villages built on stilts, and the floating communities that make a living from the waters. This afternoon, complete your visit to Siem Reap with a stopover at the Angkor National Museum and marvel at its priceless artefacts.
Journey through the Cambodian countryside to the Mekong River in bustling Kampong Cham, and board the RV Mekong Pandaw to begin your unique seven-day cruise. Settle into your cabin, perhaps try the on-board spa to unwind, and sail upriver to moor overnight at colonial village Chhlong. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and first dinner aboard.
Having cruised upstream to delightful Kratie, with its shop-houses and tiny farms, today begins with a morning visit to Koh Trong Island, with its sand dunes, traditional smallholdings and laid-back way of life. A delightful couple of hours are spent exploring by ox-cart or bicycle, with the chance to plant a tree as part of a reforestation programme, before lunch is enjoyed on board. This afternoon, journey by local boat to the waters of the Kampi pool, you’ll hope for a glimpse sight of the extremely endangered, snub-nosed Irrawaddy dolphins, one of the cruise’s undoubted highlights.
Turning downstream, you’ll enjoy a leisurely day of cruising, passing through Phnom Penh and enjoying a fascinating on-board lecture and film presentation as you head into the pretty Tonle River. The river connects the Mekong with Tonle Sap lake, and undergoes a twice-annual reversal of its flow according to the level of water in the Mekong relative to the lake. A visit is made by smaller Pandaw Explorer to Ko Oknha Tey, or Silk Island, where there will be the opportunity to learn about the process of silk-making, from worm to weaver, and to see a demonstration of Bokator, an ancient Khmer martial art.
Today, Mekong Pandaw arrives in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, a French colonial treasure chest, and home to the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and a superb National Museum. You’ll enjoy a tour by private cyclo taxi and a sobering afternoon excursion by coach to the sombre Killing Fields and Tuoi Sleng Museum, which chronicles the Pol Pot years. Perhaps enjoy a drink at the Foreign Correspondents Club or the Royal Elephant Bar at the Raffles Hotel, before dinner aboard.
Turning south, today you’ll cross the riverine border into Vietnam, completing customs formalities, and enjoying the chance to tour the ship while she awaits clearance. This afternoon, explore Tan Chau’s labyrinthine network of canals, visit a Taoist temple, meet locals tending fields near Xi Loi, and visit a fish farm, later releasing fish back into the Mekong.
This morning, sail into a canal to moor off beautiful Con Phuoc Island, where local artisans engage in basket-weaving, woodworking and delicious coconut-candy-making. Explore by tuk-tuk, visiting the island’s 100-year-old Catholic church and the artisans’ workshops, before re-boarding the ship to cruise downstream. An afternoon visit is made to the colourful Gao Giong bird sanctuary, where several species of water bird, including thousands of egrets, can be seen nesting amongst the reeds.
A morning call is made at colourful Cho Lach Island, where more glimpses of Delta life can be enjoyed, and there’s a chance to take a culinary lesson in how to make Banh Xeo, traditional Vietnamese savoury crepes. A last delightful afternoon sees you cruise downstream through the tranquil Delta to Ben Tre, with its ancient waterfront. Board a traditional sampan to journey through mangroves and bamboo groves to the local fruit orchards, sampling the delicious jams and honeys, before returning to Mekong Pandaw by horse cart, for a last memorable dinner aboard ship.
Disembark in bustling delta town and commercial hub My Tho and journey through the landscape of rice fields, orchards and verdant foliage, to Ho Chi Minh City for an overnight stay. Enjoy a guided tour, a fascinating mix of French colonial past and the pulsating Vietnam of today. Highlights include the grand General Post Office, Reunification Hall, Xa Loi Pagoda and time-permitting, the War Remnants Museum.
Visit the labyrinthine Cu Chi tunnel complex, used by the Viet Cong, and which now serves as a poignant memorial to the conflict. After a last dinner with new-found friends, transfer to the airport for the return overnight flight.
Arrive back in the UK early this morning.