Thailand & Mekong Experience
20 Nights / 21 Days
Go Beyond Tour ¦ 21 Days ¦ Physical Level 1
Saigon – Victoria Mekong River Cruise – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap – Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – Hua Hin – Chiang Mai
Experience the very best of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in a three-week Asian adventure. Begin in Saigon, cruise upriver to Phnom Penh, and travel north to explore the jungle-swathed temples of Angkor, before heading west into historic Thailand to discover its sandy beaches, revolutionary vineyards and wild national forests with free-roaming elephants.
• Visit Saigon’s historic Cu Chi Tunnels
• Relax on a 4-night 4* Mekong cruise
• Visit a craft brewery in Phnom Penh
• Uncover the glories of Angkor
• Pay respects at the River Kwai Bridge
• Visit an award-winning Thai vineyard
• Spot wild elephants on a 4x4 forest safari
• Get culinary tips at a Chiang Mai cooking class
Thailand & Mekong Experience Inclusions:
Meals as stated (19 breakfasts, 14 lunches & 14 dinners)
Entrance fees, guides and touring as stated
All transportation and transfers
English speaking National Escort (if your group is 10 or more passengers) or Local Guides
Visa fees for UK and EU passport holders
Specialist advice from our experienced travel consultants
Comprehensive travel guides
Safe and secure with ABTA, ATOL and IATA
Itinerary – Thailand & Mekong Experience
Day 1-2: Saigon
Fly to Saigon, where you will be met at the airport in the arrivals hall by your Local Guide or National Escort. Together with all other group members who may be arriving at a similar time, you will transfer 45 minutes to your hotel and check into your room, or store any luggage if arriving before check in time. This evening, you’ll meet your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner and guide briefing. (D)
● The exuberant metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, still locally referred to as Saigon, is driving Vietnam forward into the modern world
● yet it is also a treasure trove of fascinating heritage. During the 1960s and early 1970s, it was heavily influenced by the American occupation. It was the seat of the South Vietnam government, until the events that led to the country's reunification in 1976. Today, the old mixes seamlessly with the new; you can wander through timeless alleys to incense-infused temples before catching up with the present in designer malls beneath sleek skyscrapers.
Day 3: Saigon
Enjoy a relaxed introduction to Saigon, including architectural landmarks such as the French colonial-style Notre Dame and Central Post Office. Tonight’s dinner is at NOIR, a true ‘dining in the dark’ experience. This social enterprise employs visually impaired locals, who invite you on a culinary journey with lasting impact. (B, L, D) Please note: The Notre Dame Cathedral will be under renovation until 2023. During this time, we are unable to enter the Cathedral; however, we can view it from the outside.
Notre Dame Cathedral
● Influenced by French design and built between 1863 and 1880, the red brick exterior and 60-metre bell towers overlook downtown Saigon.
Central Post Office
● Located next to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office building was constructed in the late 19th century. It counts Gothic, Renaissance and French influences and was designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux, though it is often erroneously credited as being the work of Gustave Eiffel.
Day 4: Cu Chi Tunnels
This morning, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels to learn about the Viet Cong’s tactical strategies during the Vietnam War. Relax with a fresh ‘farm-to-table’ lunch at a Vietnamese farm before an afternoon at leisure. You may wish to independently visit the War Remnants Museum, see a show at the opera house, (B, L)
● The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.
Day 5: Board the Victoria Mekong
Travel from Saigon to Can Tho, the beating heart of the Mekong Delta, where you will board the Victoria Mekong, your home for the next four nights. Sip a sundown cocktail and hear a traditional music performance as the ship casts off towards Long Xuyen. (B, L, D)
● Although primarily rural, the Mekong Delta is a densely populated area where life progresses around its fertile banks. The Mekong is the 13th longest, and the 10th largest river by volume alone and people live, trade, travel and even go to school on the riverbanks. The rice which is cultivated in the many farming lands is said to be enough to supply the entire country with a little extra.
● Launched in December 2019, the Victoria Mekong is a contemporary 4-star river vessel cruising between the Mekong Delta and Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. It offers 33 spacious, deluxe cabins and two luxurious VIP suites, while facilities on board include a cocktail pool, three bars, a restaurant and a spa with massage service. To put you right in the heart of local life, there are shore excursions with plenty of opportunities to interact with local people and their culture.
Day 6: Long Xuyen & Tiger Island
Tender ashore to visit Long Xuyen floating market and the An Giang Traditions Museum with its exhibitions on local cultures. During lunch, the ship sails upstream to Tiger Island. Head ashore to explore by rickshaw, visiting local crafters such as incense makers and a wood carver. Tonight, the ship cruises on to Tan Chau. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Mekong Silk Village
Head ashore by sampan to visit the local silk village where you will witness the many steps involved in silk production, from traditional looms to the use of natural dyes made from tree bark, leaves and fruit. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Into Cambodia
Today the ship will cruise to Phnom Penh, crossing the border en route. Spend the day in the infinity pool or taking part in the onboard activities. On arrival in Phnom Penh, enjoy a lively apsara dance performance to welcome you into Cambodia. (B, L, D)
● The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia is built around four river arms formed by a sharp curve in the Mekong River near the junctions of the Bassac and the Tonle Sap tributaries. This charming city has an atmospheric blend of old Khmer and French colonial architecture, but reminders of the brutal 1970s regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge have left their mark.
Day 9: Introduction to Phnom Penh
Disembark the Victoria Mekong this morning and discover Phnom Penh by cyclo, taking in the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom. Your afternoon is at leisure. (B, L, D)
The Royal Palace
● Built in 1866 by the French colonialists, these ornate buildings are now the official residence of the reigning Cambodian royal family and King Sihamoni. View the Throne Hall and Silver Pagoda.
● This concrete and marble structure includes a floor with over 5,000 silver tiles, each weighing 1kg. Famous artefacts include a 90kg solid gold Buddha made in 1907 and an Emerald Buddha said to be made of French Baccarat crystal.
● Home to a hilltop temple that carries the city’s namesake. Locals come here to pray for good luck and success.
Day 10: Phnom Penh & the Khmer Rouge
This morning’s excursion to the Cheung Ek Killing Fields outside the city gives a sombre insight into Cambodia’s turmoil under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. This afternoon, fly to Siem Reap. (B, L, D)
Please note: You will reach Siem Reap on Day 10, and be provided with a one-day pass for the Angkor complex on Day 11. If you are planning to use your free afternoon on Day 12 to return to Angkor, speak to your guide in Siem Reap on Day 10. They can advise you of the cost to upgrade your pass validity from 1 day to multi-day (approx. $25). If you do not wish to return to the Angkor Archaeological complex on Day 12, there is no need to upgrade your pass.
Cheung Ek Killing Fields – Visiting the Killing Fields is a deeply moving experience. You will see a short documentary summarising the Khmer Rouge regime and the violence experienced by the victims before walking through the fields independently. You may wish to stop at the memorial stupa to pay your respects.
Please keep to the walkways and be respectful of the memorial. For many Khmer people, the brutality of the 1970s is a living memory; for younger generations, it is a deeply personal piece of Cambodian history that affected their parents and grandparents.
Day 11: Siem Reap & the Temples of Angkor
The Angkor Archaeological Park is home to over 1,000 temples dating back to the Khmer Empire. Best preserved of all the temples is Angkor Wat, while the jungle-swathed ruins of Ta Prohm evoke a sense of mystery and true adventure. This evening, enjoy a leisurely boat ride on the moat of Angkor Thom as the sun sets. Dinner is at leisure. (B, L)
Angkor Thom – (lit. ‘Great City’) This was the last capital of the Khmer empire, established by Buddhist King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. This walled city, covering an area of 9 square km, is flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side, which leads visitors through an imposing stone entrance gate to the various temples inside.
The Bayon – A rich, late 12th century state temple at the centre of Angkor Thom. Its beautifullycrafted central towers are decorated with four opposing faces representing Jayavarman. Bayon’s stone galleries display extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating over 11,000 figures.
Ta Prohm – One of Angkor Thom’s most atmospheric ruins, swallowed by the roots of the jungle, it was made famous by the film Tomb Raider. It was originally dedicated to Sri Jayarajacudamani, the mother of the king who established Angkor Thom.
Angkor Wat – This 12th century temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat showcases the Khmer civilisation at its grandest, and was originally designed to represent Mt Meru, the Hindu equivalent of Mt Olympus. With its fascinating decorative flourishes, it is the best-preserved temple within the complex.
Day 12: APOPO Hero Rats Project
This morning, visit APOPO Hero Rats Project. This humanitarian centre trains rats to scent-detect unexploded wartime landmines in more rural areas of Cambodia so they can be safely deactivated by expert teams, saving untold lives. Stop by a local artisan project before enjoying an afternoon at leisure. You may wish to return to Angkor Wat independently, visit the Angkor National Museum, or simply relax in the hotel. (B)
APOPO Hero Rats Project Visitor Centre – During the turmoil of the twentieth century, landmines were used extensively in Cambodia. Most have been removed, but some rural areas remain uncleared, leading to tragic accidents even today. APOPO is training rats to save lives by sniffing out these mines. You will learn about the APOPO mine clearance programme from the guides, watch a video of their work, and see a Hero Rat demonstration. APOPO has been working on this scheme since the mid-1990s and to date, no rat has ever been harmed by the project; like sniffer dogs, their role is detection only. You can read more about the organisation’s work at: https://www.apopo.org/en
Day 13: Bangkok
Take a one-hour flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Check in at your hotel to refresh yourself before a street food tour. (B, L, D)
Day 14: Bangkok at Leisure
Today is at leisure to relax or explore Bangkok independently. Optional private excursions, e.g. to Ayutthaya or the Thonburi canals, are available. (B)
Day 15: Kanchanaburi & The Bridge on the River Kwai
Travel to Kanchanaburi, made famous by ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. Here, learn about the experience of Southeast Asian and Allied POWs, who were forced to work on the railway during the Japanese occupation of WWII. Pay respects to the victims at the Allied War Cemetery and museum, and walk through Hellfire Pass before a short train journey through the Kwai Noi Valley. Your hotel tonight is in Kanchanaburi. (B, L, D)
● Constructed for the Burma Railway during the WWI Japanese occupation of Thailand, this brutal project was carried out by Allied POWs and South Asian forced labourers. Of the 330,000 people who worked on the line, it is estimated that 16,000 Allied soldiers and 90,000 South Asian civilians died as a result. This remote part of the railway was particularly hard to build due to the scale of rock-cutting required. Its name derived from the eerie glow produced by the torches at night.
Please note the 3km walk will be on uneven ground, involves some steep steps and it is likely to be humid; bring mosquito repellent. If you do not wish to take part, you will still be able to see the pass from around 15 minutes’ walk from the museum and you may remain in the museum area independently.
Day 16: Hua Hin & Monsoon Valley Vineyard
Depart Kanchanaburi and travel south to the beach resort of Hua Hin, stopping en route to visit a toddy palm plantation. Arrive at Hua Hin and take a break to refresh yourself with an independent lunch. Later this afternoon, head to Monsoon Valley Vineyard for a surprising insight into Thai viticulture. These award-winning New Latitude varietals have revolutionised winemaking, succeeding in a truly unexpected climate. Enjoy a tour and tasting before dinner at the vineyard’s restaurant. (B, D)
Monsoon Valley Vineyard
● Monsoon Valley (formerly Hua Hin Hills Vineyard) was founded by Chalerm Yoovidhya, a wine-loving entrepreneur who challenged the notion that grapes could not be grown outside traditional latitudes or the four-season cycle. His award-winning wines are now served in restaurants across the world. The key grapes grown here are Shiraz (Syrah), Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Dornfelder and Chianti. You will enjoy a short tour and tasting before sitting down to an early dinner overlooking the vineyard.
Please note that the vineyard previously offered elephant rides, but has put a stop to this practice as of 2020. As part of our commitment to responsible travel, no Wendy Wu tour will ever include an elephant ride.
Day 17: Hua Hin & Kui Buri
Enjoy a morning at leisure in Hua Hin, perhaps visiting the beach, before heading out to Kui Buri National Park, where you’ll join a park ranger on a 4x4 wildlife safari through the forest.
This is one of the few places in Thailand where elephants still roam freely in the wild. Kui Buri elephants are completely wild and sightings cannot be guaranteed, but afternoon safaris here have excellent sighting rates. You may also spot gaurs , golden jackals, langurs or wild boar, and if you are lucky, gibbons, Malayan tapirs or even the rare leopard. (B)
Kui Buri National Park: Considered one of the best wild elephant and gaur sighting spots in Thailand, Kui Buri was established as a national park in 1999. It covers 969 square kilometres, set against the scenic backdrop of the Tenasserim Hills. These sprawling evergreen forests are home to one of the biggest wild gaur and elephant populations in Thailand, and a diverse number of other species of birds, deer and apes. A ranger will drive you out in search of elephants and gaur, and keep an eye out for carnivores such as golden jackals, bears, and the elusive leopard.
Day 18: Chiang Mai
Depart Hua Hin and return to Bangkok for your short flight to the peaceful, laidback city of Chiang Mai in Thailand’s cooler northern highlands. (B, L, D)
Day 19: Doi Suthep
Explore Chiang Mai’s highlights by rickshaw before driving out to Doi Suthep’s magnificent hilltop temple with its panoramic views. Return to Chiang Mai for lunch at a social enterprise restaurant offering lifechanging vocational training to reformed women from Chiang Mai’s Correctional Institution. Enjoy some free time before tonight’s cooking class, in which you will learn to prepare a traditional Thai dinner. (B, L, D)
Chiang Mai – Located among tall mountains, Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. The city was founded in 1296 and was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, which was eventually occupied by the Burmese. For the next 200 years Chiang Mai was virtually abandoned until it was again taken over by Siam in the 18th century. Doi Suthep
● One of Thailands most sacred temples, tucked away in the mountains at 1,056 metres above sea level, and offering panoramic view of Chiang Mai. Catch the cable car to visit the exquisite golden pagoda at the top.
Day 20: Chang Chill
Spend the morning at Chang Chill, a pioneering new ethical elephant sanctuary. This is a respite and care centre for elephants rescued chiefly from the tourist and illegal logging industries. One of the world’s few truly elephant-friendly experiences, Chang Chill invites you to walk into the forest and observe elephants grazing and socialising.
Meet the elephant keepers before continuing to the rest station for traditional Thai refreshments. From the elephant station, visitors can observe the elephants playing and bathing in the mud pit. Continue to the riverside to learn more about elephant enrichment, and help fill feeding tubes with corn, sugar cane and bananas. From the observation deck, watch the herd eat through the treats as you enjoy your own lunch. Later, return to Chiang Mai for a farewell dinner accompanied by a traditional Thai performance. (B, L, D)
Day 21: Departure
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Any time between check out and your hotel transfer is at leisure. (B)
05/02/23 & 24/09/23 & 19/11/23 & 14/01/24 & 22/09/24 & 17/11/24