Vietnam & Cambodia
Vietnam & Cambodia
A Christian Tour Leader
throughout your holiday
Return economy airfares to Asia (plus internal flights)
Quality accommodation with private facilities
Sightseeing as outlined and all entry fees included
Luggage assistance at hotels
Our South East Asian adventure begins as we board our flight from Sydney to the southern Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh City. Still commonly referred to as Saigon, the city is best known for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War.
Originally part of the Khmer kingdom of Cambodia the port settlement was absorbed by Vietnam in the 17th century, becoming the base for the Nguyen lords. In 1859 the region was conquered by France and 70 years later almost one-tenth of the population was French, leaving an architectural legacy of charming, colonial style buildings and wide boulevards.
Saigon served as the capital of the Republic of Vietnam from 1956 until 1975, when it fell to advancing North Vietnamese forces and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Today Saigon is the country’s most populous city and its bustling markets, unique culture and recent war history have become a real drawcard for Westerners.
On Sunday morning we'll enjoy worship at The Well International Church before we enjoy a city tour of Saigon in the afternoon. We see the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes when we visit the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace (former Presidential Palace). Visit French colonial landmarks, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th-century Central Post Office.
A Dinner Cruise sailing along the Saigon River and admiring the beautiful Ho Chi Minh City at night will be a perfect end to our Sunday.
Whether you are a veteran of the Vietnam War or not, the impact of this divisive conflict still resonates in Australia today. In Vietnam the legacy of war is all around and today we will visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels; learn about their construction and then spend time exploring the maze of tunnels and mantraps that were used by the Viet Cong fighters.
Whilst the war concluded over 40 years ago the long-lasting effects of Agent Orange and land mines continue to take their toll on the local population. On our way to the tunnels, we will visit a craft factory that employs these disabled locals to make traditional, wooden Lacquer Ware.
Back in Saigon you will have some free time to explore the city at your own pace, shop in the famous Ben Thanh Markets or relax at the hotel before dinner.
We leave behind the hustle and bustle and visit the tranquil and beautiful Mekong Delta. A scenic boat ride from Ben Tre will see us cruising through small channels lined with water palms and past thatch and bamboo houses that are nestled in lush orchards. We will disembark at a Honey Farm to meet the friendly locals, hear a performance of traditional music and sample farm produce. Enjoy tasting seasonal, tropical fruits, drinking honey tea and visiting a workshop making coconut candies, a specialty of the province. Take in the daily life of the Mekong people as we tour sleepy villages, passing rice paddies and vegetable gardens. Lunch at a riverside restaurant before returning by boat to Ben Tre and travelling on to Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong Delta.
On Wednesday board a motor boat in the early morning to enjoy the local colour and spectacle of the Cai Rang Floating Market, the region’s busiest and liveliest of markets. Marvel at the hundreds of boats lining the river and the sheer abundance of the exotic fruits, vegetables and skilfully handcrafted regional products on offer. Trade with the merchants as we pull up alongside the boats to bargain over the many wares. After the market we will continue to cruise along the river and follow a small creek to a local orchard where we can enjoy some seasonal, tropical fruits.
After lunch in town we will return to Saigon. We will have a short stop over at the Vinh Long Market before crossing the My Thuan Bridge on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City. This cabled suspension bridge was a co- operative venture between the Australian and Vietnamese governments and provides vital infrastructure for the region.
Back in Saigon we will check-in to our hotel and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Today we fly to Dalat, a popular resort town in the Central Highland that is surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its distinctive temperate climate, the French came here in the early 1900s, fleeing the humidity of Saigon. Reminders of its colonial heritage remain today, including European style villas, horse and carriage rides and a mini Eiffel Tower at its centre!
Dalat is famous for the wide variety of flowers, vegetables and fruit that grow in its surrounding farmlands. Showcasing the fertility of the region are the beautiful Dalat Flower Gardens where we will see an extensive collection of both native and exotic blooms.
We also visit the “Crazy House” and the XQ Historical Village which offer us two very different artistic perspectives. “Crazy House” was designed and constructed by Vietnamese architect Đặng Việt Nga; a surrealist building, it resembles a giant tree that incorporates sculptures of animals, mushrooms, spider webs and caves within it.
The XQ Historical Village features embroidered artworks that are so delicately hand-stitched that they appear painted. Laid out like an art gallery, XQ offers the finest examples of Vietnamese embroidery, most of which are created on site.
A marvellous day filled with both natural and man-made beauty.
This morning we visit the Bao Dai Summer Palace, the retreat of Vietnam’s last emperor, and the St Nicholas Cathedral, built by the French in the classical style. We travel by cable car to a height of 2300 metres for spectacular panoramic views and then visit Trúc Lâm Pagoda, a Zen Buddhist Monastery, and the nearby Tuyen Lam / Paradise Lake.
After lunch we will visit a Dalat jam factory to enjoy locally produced jam before flying on to Danang city. From here it is coach transfer to Hoi An, an ancient trading port with a 2000-year history. Our hotel is located in the historic heart of the Old Town; full of winding lanes and cut through with canals you will find this area particularly atmospheric in the evening as the sun goes down.
See why Hoi An’s Old Town was given UNESCO World Heritage Listing when we immerse ourselves in the past on a 2-hour guided walking tour. The different architectural styles reflect the melting pot of cultures so common to port cities – view ancient tea warehouses, merchant houses, Chinese temples, ornate Vietnamese tube houses, colourful French colonial buildings and the iconic 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge complete with a pagoda. Visit the Tan Ky Old House, an almost perfect example of an 18th century merchant’s residence, and the Museum of Trade Ceramics, which details Hoi An’s long history as one of the Asian leaders in the pottery trade.
An afternoon at leisure will give you time to wander or you may want to take the opportunity to get some clothes custom tailored. Enjoy dinner tonight in one of the Old Town’s many restaurants.
Morning worship for our “travelling church” before we head off to Hoi An’s colourful central market. Take the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and learn about some of the ingredients that will be used in our lunch time cooking lesson. In Tra Que village we will walk through the market gardens where local farmers continue to utilise the traditional farming methods handed down for generations. With a chef at our side we will learn the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food before enjoying the delicious lunch that we have helped make. Yum!
This afternoon we will drive to Cam Thanh Village for a buffalo cart tour of farming villages and rice fields. Dubbed “the BMW of Vietnam” water buffalo are indispensable out here in the countryside and not only will you learn all about them, but you can feed them as well. Visit a local farming family who will share with us a little about their lifestyle as well as an authentic Vietnamese rice meal. A memorable day!
Monday morning we leave Hoi An to travel to Hue via the mountainous stretch of road known as Cloud Pass (Hai Van Pass). Once the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945, Hue’s imperial past has left it a rich architectural and cultural legacy.
After lunch, our city tour of Hue will include the 400-year old Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most beautiful and well-preserved religious sites in Vietnam, as well as the beautiful An Hein House, an imperial residence set in magnificent gardens. Our day concludes with a 2-hour dinner cruise on the delightfully named Perfume River.
Tuesday we will explore Hue’s Imperial past, learning about the feudal dynasties that once ruled the whole country from this city. Visit the impressive Nguyen Dynasty tomb of Emperor Minh Mang and the replica of the Royal Theater, an arena for staged fights between tigers and elephants. Legend has it that the fights were fixed with the tigers having both fangs and claws removed so that the royal elephants always won!
In the afternoon we will visit the vast 19th-century Citadel complex and enter the Imperial City. Tuesday night we will dine like royalty as we enjoy a special Imperial Dinner.
This morning we fly to Hanoi, one of the most ancient capitals in the world. Located on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is sure to surprise and delight you with its picturesque pagodas, well preserved colonial building, unique museums, delectable cuisine and rich culture.
After lunch you are free to relax or explore before a Cyclo Tour takes us into the Old Quarter, a bustling commercial centre where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade.
Enjoy a traditional Water Puppet Show at the Thang Long Theatre; the performance has its roots in a 900-year-old art form and is accompanied by a traditional orchestra and authentic Vietnamese operatic songs. A restored 19th-century villa houses the well-known Madam Hien’s Restaurant where dinner will be delicious and elegant versions of traditional street food.
Our day starts by visiting the final resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. Contrary to Uncle Ho’s desire for a simple cremation, his Mausoleum is a monumental marble edifice. Next door, the humble, traditional stilt house where Ho lived intermittently from 1958 to 1969 may be a better reflection of the man himself; take the opportunity to walk around the garden and look into the house that has been preserved just as he left it.
Nearby is the iconic One Pillar Pagoda, a beautiful and beloved replica of the original structure that was built in 1049. From here we visit the 1500- year-old Tran Quoc Pagoda at West Lake. This Buddhist temple is the oldest pagoda in Vietnam and its tranquil setting provides wonderful respite after the bustle of the chaotic city.
After lunch we visit the interesting Museum of Ethnology to learn about the 54 officially recognised ethnic groups in Vietnam before a visit to the Hỏa Lò Prison. Used by the French colonists to hold political prisoners it is better known to many as the “Hanoi Hilton”, a nickname bestowed on it by American P.O.W.s imprisoned by the North Vietnamese Army.
Tonight, we will eat at the Hoa Sua Training Restaurant, a NGO and training school for disadvantaged youth offering delicious French and Vietnamese dishes – “Do a good deed, enjoy a great feed”.
The otherworldly Halong Bay must be seen to be believed. We leave the hubbub of Hanoi behind us when we travel to the coast and board our deluxe V’Spirit Cruise – these newly-built wooden junks are designed in the time-honoured traditional style, but with contemporary, deluxe cabins and facilities, including sea-view windows in each cabin, private, modern bathrooms, and a comfortable sun-deck bar.
As we cruise the tranquil emerald waters through the 2000 limestone islands you will truly amazed. This is God’s Creation at its finest, a magnificent natural wonder of the world and well deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage Listing.
This afternoon we will explore Sung Sot (or beautiful of all the limestone cave formations. Visit Titop Island and hike to the summit for panoramic views of Halong Bay or simply relax on the beach and go for a swim.
Return to the boat to soak up the scenery from the sundeck before a delicious dinner is served.
Greet the new day on Saturday by joining the ship’s Tai Chi master for some morning exercise or taking photos of the sun rising over the bay. Swim or kayak in the enticing waters around the Drum Cave or just relax on board and take in the beauty of your surrounds.
We cruise through the Bay passing such sights as Ba Hang fishing village and Dog Islet. On our way into the harbour we will participate in a Cooking Class before enjoying a traditional Vietnamese lunch.
We will return to Hanoi for an early dinner and a chance to freshen up and relax before boarding our overnight train to Sapa.
On Sunday we'll arrive early in Lao Cai where we will enjoy a scenic trip into colonial hill station town of Sapa – take in the views of the rice terraced mountains and be enchanted by the locals’ colourful costumes. As today is Sunday we will once again form our own travelling church for a time of worship.
A morning walking tour to the Cat Cat Ethnic Village of the Black H’Mong tribe -this part of North Vietnam is especially beautiful and the waterfall and surrounding mountains at Cat Cat are a photographer’s dream. In the afternoon we will walk up Ham Rong Mountain to visit the gardens and climb to Cloud Park. You will also have time at leisure to explore the Sapa Market and visit the Stone Church.
After breakfast we will walk down through the terraced paddy fields to Lao Chai Village to visit the Tay and Dao tribes before continuing to Ta Van Village at the bottom of the valley. These visits offer a unique opportunity to observe the traditional lifestyle of the ethnic minority groups with Ta Van Village considered the most beautiful in the region.
We return to Lao Cai for dinner then board the overnight train to Hanoi.
On Tuesday we arrive in Hanoi for an early check in to our hotel for a shower and breakfast. Later we will visit the Temple of Literature, a beautifully preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Built in 1070 as a university dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the buildings and picturesque gardens offer a relaxing glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Our lunch venue today is KOTO, a restaurant with a difference as it trains and employs street children and disadvantaged youth. Now there is a meal to make you smile!
We say a final farewell to Vietnam when we fly to Siem Reap, a northern Cambodian city and gateway to the Angkor Region. Tonight, you will have the chance to explore the Night Markets and the many local restaurants – dinner is at your own choice and cost.
The immense Angkor complex, the capital of the Khmer Empire is an awe-inspiring sight and the famous temple at its heart, Angkor Wat, is the largest religious structure in the world.
Built originally as a Hindu temple in the early 12th century it transformed into a Buddhist temple and has remained a significant religious centre since its foundation. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia and is considered one of the man-made wonders of the world. This morning we will visit the immense walled city of Angkor Thom, the Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King and the Temple of Bayon. After lunch, our exploration brings us to the magnificent Angkor Wat. The best preserved of all of Angkor’s temples as it was never abandoned, the Wat’s symmetrical beauty is breathtaking from a distance. It is up close however, you will discover the uniqueness, detail and intricacies that make Angkor Wat one of the world’s greatest structures. Watch the sun set over this archaeological marvel before dinner. A traditional Cambodian dance show in the evening will top off an incredible day.
We venture by boat out through the flooded mangrove forests to the intriguing Kampong Phluk Village. Here the houses are built on 6-metre- high stilts above the floodplain – when the water level is low these buildings tower above you yet in the wet season the houses appear to “float” on the lakes surface.
Back in Siem Reap we transfer to the airport for a flight to Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, the final stopover of our holiday.
The brutal regime of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge filled the power vacuum left by the U.S military after the official end of the Vietnam War in 1975. At the end of Pol Pot’s 4-year rule more than 21% of the population was dead. We pay tribute to these victims of war when we visit the notorious S21 Security Prison, a once ordinary high school that was turned into a torture, interrogation and execution centre. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered, only seven survived and today it is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
We will also visit the Killing Fields where the victims of genocide were buried in mass graves. Today the nearby buildings are preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979.
After an emotional journey into the past we are inspired by the vision the Daughters of Cambodia offers for the future. This wonderful Christian charity is dedicated to freeing women and young people from the sex industry and empowering them to start a new life. One of their innovative social enterprises is a restaurant at the Visitor Centre where we will enjoy lunch. Browse the boutique for high quality handicrafts made right here in Phnom Penh by formerly trafficked young men and women, now free from prostitution.
This afternoon you will have time at leisure to further explore the city and buy souvenirs at its famous Russian Market.
An inspiring day as we will see some of the incredible work that the Tabitha Foundation does to move people from poverty to sustainability. The Canadian Christian, Janne Ritskes is the founder and indefatigable power behind Tabitha Cambodia. Janne worked as a missionary in Kenya and the Philippines and first went to Cambodia in 1992. Frustrated by the lack of aid for Cambodians, Ritskes sold most of her belongings and started Tabitha Cambodia in 1994 with the help of family and friends, and the local Australian and Canadian embassies.
Tabitha Foundation has created cottage industries, encouraged savings programmes, built schools, dug wells for clean water and ponds for irrigation. Its house-building programs have created homes for thousands of Cambodians and its latest project is the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital. Today we will take a full day to visit the Hospital and other Tabitha project sites including a Phnom Penh centre where women from squatter communities create a variety of handicrafts. These Tabitha Cottage Industry projects means that the beautiful gift or souvenir you take home will help its creator achieve a better life. The Tabitha Foundation is a heart-warming testimony that faith and one person’s vision can really make a difference in the world.
We celebrate our last group dinner together at a local restaurant.
It is fitting that our final day is a Sunday, a day to come together and give thanks to God; we have much to be grateful for, not least the opportunity to visit Vietnam and Cambodia with fellow Christians. Morning’s Worship is at Phnom Penh International Christian Fellowship and then lunch at a local restaurant before our flight home.
We will return with a greater understanding of these countries as well as wonderful memories of the people met, and experiences shared.
31 August 2019
22 September 2019
Connections from regional towns and cities arranged upon request (extra cost).
Connections from regional towns and cities arranged upon request (extra cost).
31 August 2019
22 September 2019