- Explore Angkor Wat with a local archaeologist, and go behind the scenes at the Angkor Conservation Center to view Khmer artifacts that are off limits to the public.
- Meet a former Viet Cong soldier and hear gripping stories about the Vietnam War and life in the famed Cu Chi Tunnels.
- Enjoy an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay aboard a privately chartered traditional-style wooden junk and explore the floating villages of pristine Lan Ha Bay.
- Encounter critically endangered species at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife rescue center in Cuc Phoung National Park, and hear from local conservationists about National Geographic-funded research into pangolin trafficking.
Delve into the treasures of Indochina, where rural villages, ancient temples, and French colonial cities weave a cultural mosaic that is vibrant and timeless. Contrast Ho Chi Minh City’s neon-lit streets with charming, traditional Hanoi and its intoxicating Old Quarter; then set out into the Vietnamese countryside to discover the spectacular karst landscapes of Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh. Meet National Geographic Grantees working to conserve endangered wildlife in Vietnam and Laos, and join an archaeologist to explore the ancient, crumbling temples at mystical Angkor.
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and transfer to our hotel.
Spend the day exploring Ho Chi Minh City on a guided tour. Visit the War Remnants Museum; wander the stately Reunification Palace, once the seat of the South Vietnamese government; and spot the building from which U.S. citizens were evacuated by helicopter as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese army. Admire the ornate French colonial architecture of the Central Post Office and City Hall, and delve into bustling Ben Thanh market, one of the oldest and largest markets in the country. Navigate stalls selling everything from electronics and handbags to fruits and spices, and replenish yourself with a tumbler of fresh sugarcane juice. Later, gather for a welcome reception and dinner.
Descend into the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a 155-mile network of underground passageways used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The tunnels connected schools, residents, and hospitals, creating an intricate subterranean city that played an instrumental role in the eventual victory of the North. After emerging from the bunkers, meet with a Viet Cong veteran, and hear extraordinary tales of the war.
Fly to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Stroll tree-lined boulevards past serene lakes and charming pagodas, as you acquaint yourself with this atmospheric city. See the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh on a visit to the imposing mausoleum erected in his honor, and soak up the lively Old Quarter, where vendors hawk all manner of trinkets and the sizzle of roadside woks mingles with the beeping of whizzing motorbikes. Finish the afternoon with draft beers at a typical makeshift street bar.
Take a meditative walk around Ngoc Son Temple, set in the middle of an emerald-green lake. Sip on a Vietnamese iced coffee, and sample a mouthwatering banh mi—a spicy sandwich served in a split baguette. Continue your exploration of the eclectic Old Quarter, moving from the Gothic St. Joseph’s Cathedral to a colonial-era prison, known by American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. Stop at the 11th-century Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university; and visit the sprawling Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, historic seat of the Vietnamese monarchy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Venture south from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, a rustic region in the Red River Delta nicknamed “Ha Long Bay on land.” Here we'll be joined by National Geographic grantee Le Khac Quyet, a leading Vietnamese wildlife biologist and avid photographer who will share updates on his latest research. Hop aboard a sampan, a flat-bottomed Chinese boat, paddling past lush rice fields and towering limestone cliffs. Tread over a stone bridge to reach the incense-infused Bich Dong pagoda, perched on three rocky outcrops. Later, explore the Van Long Nature Reserve by bamboo rowboat. Spot scores of bird species as you drift along the peaceful, grassy wetland, and search for the endangered Delacour’s langur in one the primate’s last wild refuges.
Spend the day in the misty, lush Cuc Phuong National Park, the oldest and largest natural reserve in Vietnam. Meet the director of the Endangered Primate Rescue Center for a behind-the-scenes tour. Visit the Save Vietnam’s Wildlife rescue center, where orphaned and injured pangolins, civets, mongooses, and other small carnivores are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. Learn about a project to reduce the demand for pangolins, the world's most trafficked animal, spearheaded by the center's founder: National Geographic grantee, Nguyen Van Thai.
Head north to Ha Long Bay and explore this mystical World Heritage Site on an intimate, traditional-style wooden junk chartered just for our group. Cruise serene, turquoise waters scattered with tiny forested islands and fantastic karst formations, and go off the beaten path at secluded Lan Ha Bay. Enjoy a quiet swim or kayak ride at the pristine Ba Trao Dao beach before returning to our ship to watch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin. At dinnertime, learn to cook up local specialties with the ship’s chef, and stargaze from the deck before turning in to your deluxe cabin.
Rise early for a relaxing tai chi session on deck while the sun lights up the bay and the neighboring floating villages stir to life. Set out by kayak to explore the spectacular landscape up close, paddling past dramatic limestone cliffs and magical grottoes. After a hearty brunch back on the ship, transfer to Hanoi airport to catch a flight to Luang Prabang.
Experience stunning Luang Prabang, nestled into jungle-covered hills at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. Visit the area’s most revered Buddhist temple, and stop by the National Museum—formerly the Royal Palace—to see the golden Prabang Buddha statue for which the town is said to be named. Later, immerse yourself in a graceful baci ceremony at the home of a village chief. In this uniquely Laotian ritual, cotton cords are tied around the participants’ wrists to wish them good fortune, health, and prosperity.
Venture south of Luang Prabang for a glimpse of rural Laos. Visit the dewy mountain villages of the Hmong and Khmu ethnic groups, and chat with the village chiefs. Hike to the ethereal Kuang Si Waterfall, its milky blue water gushing into tiered limestone pools. Enjoy a cookout lunch, prepared by locals with fresh ingredients. Later, see endangered Asiatic black bears at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, and hear from a conservationist about National Geographic-funded research assessing the threats faced by these gentle animals.
Rise at dawn to witness the age-old Laotian tradition of Tak Bat, the daily almsgiving to Buddhist monks. Watch as hundreds of saffron-robed monks walk quietly through the streets collecting offerings of rice, fruit, and flowers from the smiling locals. Spend the rest of the day at leisure before flying to Siem Reap.
Rise early to watch the sunrise over the spires of the mesmerizing Angkor Wat temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Delve into the magnificent World Heritage Site of Angkor with an archaeologist as your guide. Built in the first half of the 12th century in the depths of the Cambodian jungle, the mysterious capital of the Khmer Empire is replete with massive towers, carved murals, and enchanting crumbled courtyards. At the walled city of Angkor Thom, wander the Bayon temple and the Terrace of the Elephants, or explore the haunting Ta Prohm, tangled in thick banyan roots. Tour the Angkor Conservation Center and go behind the scenes with the center’s director to view thousands of priceless statues recovered from the archaeological site.
Set out for Kampong Khleang village and drift down in a wooden boat to the great Tonle Sap lake, discovering a boisterous floating city complete with markets, clinics, schools, and even basketball courts and karaoke bars. Later, visit Banteay Srei, an exquisite 10th-century Hindu temple north of Angkor Wat, before heading to the Golden Silk Pheach Preservation Center, a Cambodian NGO working to preserve ancient Khmer silk production techniques. Gather for our farewell reception, and take in a traditional Cambodian dance and music performance over dinner.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
- Bangkok Extension4 days from $1,995
Continue your Southeast Asia adventure in Bangkok, Thailand’s delightfully chaotic capital. Explore vibrant streets and picturesque canals, discover centuries-old Buddhist temples, and learn about Thai history on visits to the Grand Palace and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya. Enjoy a variety of delectable meals along the way, sampling the fresh, spicy flavors of Thai cuisine.
Fly from Siem Reap to the bustling city of Bangkok. Enjoy a delicious Thai lunch before setting out to explore the sprawling Grand Palace, the official residence of Thailand’s royal family from 1782 to the early 20th century. Visit Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which houses one of the country’s most sacred icons; and admire the monumental reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. This evening, relax at your hotel, nestled along the shores of the Chao Phraya River.
Soak up the sights and sounds of Bangkok on a full-day exploration of the Thai capital. Venture to Wat Traimit, or Temple of the Golden Buddha, to view an enormous Buddha sculpture dating to the 13th century and composed almost entirely of gold. Craft a garland of jasmine flowers at a flower market alongside a local artist; then embark on a private boat tour of Bangkok’s khlongs, or canals. This maze-like network of waterways was created in the late 18th century by King Rama I, earning Bangkok the nickname of “Venice of the East.” Glide past ornate temples, stilted wooden homes, and floating markets, watching daily life unfold along the water. Stop at Baan Silapin, an artists’ gallery and performance space located in a former merchant’s home, and admire the local artwork. Later, visit Wat Bang Chak, a Buddhist temple located just outside of the city, where we’ll make an offering of our jasmine garlands. This evening, delight in mouthwatering Thai specialties on a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River.
Travel north to Ayutthaya, a historic capital of Siam and a UNESCO World Heritage site. On the way, stop at the 17th-century Bang Pa-In Royal Palace for a private tour. This eclectic and whimsical palace complex used to be a summer residence of the Siamese kings. Visit nearby Wat Niwet Thammaprawat, a unique Buddhist “church temple” constructed in the Gothic Revival style; then make your way to ancient Ayutthaya, which served as the second capital of Siam before being destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Take a cruise around this splendid city—perched on an island surrounded by three rivers—and enjoy lunch on board. Spend the afternoon exploring Ayutthaya’s weathered towers, ruined temples, and numerous Buddha sculptures with a private guide. Return to Bangkok for an evening at leisure.
Enjoy free time this morning before transferring to the airport for your flight home.