Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. You are greeted by your driver at Tan Son Nhat International Airport for your transfer to the hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign in the arrivals hall. You will have time to relax at your hotel and adjust to the pace of Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of Vietnam. It is the bustling and dynamic economic capital and the cultural trendsetter of the country, yet within the teeming metropolis you will find the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture. This beautiful city is bustling with energy and will soon dispel even the slightest feeling of jetlag. In the late afternoon meet our guide at the hotel lobby for a trip briefing before a welcome dinner.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
This morning we set off on a day of sightseeing, taking a short bus trip to Hoc Mon town where we'll hop on our bikes and cycle through scenic rice paddies and rubber plantations making our way to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a twisting network of narrow underground tunnels and rooms the Viet Cong used as its military base and living quarters during the Vietnam War. We'll learn about the Viet Cong's life underground as well as being able to explore the network of tunnels by foot. After lunch at a local restaurant we'll then drive back to Ho Chi Minh City for the afternoon, taking in some of the city's most important sights. We begin with the Reunification Palace, an outstanding example of 1960s architecture that is steeped in modern history. It was here that the Vietnam War ended in 1975, when the city of Saigon fell after a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through the palace gates, from which point the city was to be known as Ho Chi Minh City. From here we visit some of the city's major landmarks: the Notre Dame Cathedral, an imposing neo-Romanesque Catholic cathedral built in the late 19th century, the Saigon Post Office, a classic French colonial building bearing a giant portrait of 'Uncle Ho' and many grand architectural details. To finish the day, you might like to visit the famous Ben Thanh Market, an enormous sprawling covered marketplace that is packed to the gills with everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and sweets, to suitcases, clothing and white goods, traditional lacquer ware, handicrafts and kitschy tourist trinkets. Bargaining is key here, but even if you're not shopping, it's a dazzling spectacle to photograph.
Cycling distance: ~26 km
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
So as we don't ride on the busy city roads, we start the morning with a car transfer out toward the Mekong Delta region. Once at our starting point, bikes ready, we start our ride on the quiet roads to the Mekong delta. This region is rural, locals are friendly and riding affords a connection to the people and their daily lifestyle, lifestyles of agriculture and craftsmanship. After about 20 kilometers, we stop for a light picnic lunch in a garden caf . In the afternoon, we head south passing from one island of the mighty river delta to another, one of which we must catch a ferryboat to cross. Our destination for the evening is a simple but comfortable local guesthouse.
Cycling distance: ~65 km
Overnight in Vinh Long
After breakfast we saddle up and begin our ride, heading south to a region deep in the Mekong Delta called Tam Binh. Riding at a relaxed pace along the backroads allows us to fully appreciate the tranquility of the area, making stops en route to sip tea with the locals and enjoy snacks. A traditional lunch will be served at a friendly local's house, giving us the opportunity to gain a further insight into the local way of life. At Tra On we board a boat to cruise the Hau River upstream to Can Tho, the largest town in the Mekong Delta.
Overnight in Can Tho
Cycling distance: ~60km
Rise early this morning to visit the Cai Rang floating market, a market typical of the delta. We return to the hotel for breakfast before riding out along the roads winding up the Hau River, northwest to Long Xuyen - a market town renowned for fish, rice and cashew nut trading. En route we'll drop by Bang Lang Stork Garden, a 1.3 hectare bird sanctuary with astonishing views of thousands of resident storks and snowy egrets. There is a tall viewing platform to see the birds filling the branches. We'll arrive at our final destination Long Xuyen in the late afternoon where we check into our comfortable accommodation.
Overnight in Long Xuyen.
Cycling distance: ~60km
We again start our day in the vehicle before switching over to the bikes for our ride to Chau Doc, an important port hub of the region and a likable small town with significant Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities. Chau Doc's cultural diversity, apparent in the mosques, temples, churches and nearby pilgrimage sites makes it a fascinating place to explore. Before arriving in Chau Doc however, we have time to explore the stunning verdant water world of Tra Su Cajuput forest, a remarkable wetland flooded forest and mangrove nature reserve.
Overnight in Chau Doc.
Cycling distance: ~50km
Today we enjoy a rest day off the bicycles, catching the early morning boat across the border into Cambodia and on to its capital city, Phnom Penh. During the 1950s & 60s, Phnom Penh was viewed as the 'Pearl of Asia', a shining light in city planning and architecture, one which cities like Singapore drew much inspiration from. Although tarnished by the impact of revolution and war, the city is once again fast regaining its shine. The chaotic yet charming city, with a one of the best riverfronts in the region, now takes its place as one of South East Asia's boom cities, boasting a charming cafe culture, bustling bars and a world-class food scene. Urban explorers can experience emotional extremes at the inspiring National Museum and the heartbreaking Khmer Rouge sites, illustrating the best and worst of Cambodia's past. Once we've checked in to our comfortable city centre accommodation, we venture out for our first taste of Khmer food after which the remainder of the day is free at leisure.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Our first excursion today will be to experience the rural within the urban catch a ferry to Koh Dach, known as Silk Island. Here we pedal through rustic scenic villages, silk weaving workshops, pagodas and meet friendly local people along the way. After this we drive back to the city and scale the steps up this small hill to see Wat Phnom Temple, the birthplace of Phnom Penh. Next we visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in a former high school which was used as the Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the communist Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.
From here we embark on a cyclo ride through the bustling streets passing by the Central Market, Independence Monument and along the riverside. Among the city's prime attractions, you will explore the famous Royal Palace. The Royal Palace faces the Mekong River, and its adjoining Silver Pagoda was built in 1962, famous for its lavish decorations of silver paved floor and several Buddha statues made from precious metals and stones. Next we wander the National Museum; the museum the Cambodians gathered and kept the statues since the Angkorian period. The National Museum is also called Musee des Beaux-Arts. We will spend the rest of day shopping at the Toul Tompong Market (Russian Market) where you will feel a bustling daily life of local people with Cambodia's special character through local specialties, their houses, their faces, palaces and buildings of Khmer & colonial style architecture.
Overnight in Phnom Penh
Cycling distance: approx. 15km (on Koh Dach Island only)
Note: To enter the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, visitors are required to wear appropriate attire - trousers or shorts which cover the knees and tops which cover the shoulders. Visitors are frequently turned away for wearing revealing clothing.
Today is a rest day from cycling as we take a private bus to Siem Reap. We drive through picturesque countryside, stopping along the way to walk through local villages. We stop by the town of Skuon, also known as Spiderville, which boasts one of Cambodian's more exotic culinary delights the deep-fried spider. We set out again along the road to Kampong Thom, winding through farmer's fields, rubber plantations and typical Khmer villages, on the way to this picturesque town on the banks of the Stung Sen River. After stopping for lunch in Kompong Thom we'll visit Sambor Prei Kuk, an impressive collection of 7th century temple ruins that served as the capital of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom. We continue on to our hotel in Siem Reap. In the evening enjoy dinner with an Apsara dance show.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Drive time: 6-7hours
Today is a full day to explore the most famous temple complex, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Archaeological Park by bike - the perfect way to experience this awe inspiring place. To beat the crowds we start early at Ta Prohm which unlike many other Angkorian temples has been left as it it was when first rediscovered - a photogenic and atmospheric maze of trees growing out of temple ruins amidst jungle surroundings. Continue on to the lofty heights of Ta Keo then through one of four mighty gatehouses into the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII and at the time was the most populous city in the world with 2m inhabitants. The crowning jewel of the city is Bayon at its epicentre. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur, its exterior gallery walls featuring world class bas-reliefs and its 54 towers, decorated with 216 gargantuan faces. We'll break for lunch before completing our day at the most incredible temple of them all, Angkor Wat - the ultimate expression of Khmer genius. The temple is in fact the largest religious structure in the world and has inspired visitors for centuries. This evening, enjoy a special treat with a performance from PHARE. The Cambodian Circus has long been famous for their performances, and this NGO teaching disadvantaged youths in performance arts is a regular at international circus conventions worldwide. Enjoy their interpretations of traditional folklore tales and modern life.
Cycling distance: ~40km
Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel
Note: Appropriate attire when visiting the Temples of Angkor bottoms to cover knees and tops to cover shoulders. these are sacred sites and revealing clothing is not allowed within the temple grounds. Visitors can and are frequently turned away from temples if not wearing appropriate attire.
After breakfast, you head out to Roluos group, located just outside Siem Reap. The temples date back to the late ninth century and are believed to denote the beginning of the 'classic period' in Khmer architecture. We continue our ride south toward the vast wetlands on the edge of Asia's largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap. The lake's size and depth increases with the annual monsoon rains by as much as six times and local people have found ingenious ways to live with the ever changing water world. Kampong Kleang is a stilted village settlement of over 20,000 people where structures tower up to ten meters above the water. Here you can learn about the lives of the subsistence fishing families who call this water world home. Following lunch, we head north toward our final destination for the day, Beng Mealea, a sprawling jungle temple covering over a square km. This temple is largely overrun by vegetation and less frequently visited, giving it an adventurous, 'lost temple' feel. Trees growing from the moss covered towers and galleries offer some fantastic opportunities for photography.
Cycling distance: ~60 km
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Note: From March to August/September water levels of the Tonle Sap Lake can reduce dramatically and may result in an amended itinerary.
The morning is free at leisure in Siem Reap until the airport transfer for your outbound flight.