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Vietnam, Cambodia, Mekong River Cruise and Thailand

April 15-30, 2014

Local Market in Hanoi

Learning about Vietnamese food and cooking
at a local market in Hanoi
Our trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand was a very exciting and outstanding adventure with many highlights. After a long flight from the US, we arrived in Hanoi in the northern part of Vietnam. We received a very warm welcome at the historic Metropole Hotel. Since most of us added a few days in Hanoi prior to the tour start, we had time for additional sightseeing. Our first tour was a trip to one of the food markets in Hanoi. There we learned a lot about exotic fruits and vegetables and how they are used in the Vietnamese cuisine.


The busy capital of Hanoi offers a unique combination of East and West - ancient and modern, existing side by side. Renowned for its graceful colonial architecture, frenetic streets clogged with motorbike traffic, verdant parks, tranquil lakes and ancient temples, Hanoi offers a range of historic and cultural landmarks. Highlights of our morning city tour included the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, The Temple of Literature and the Hanoi Hilton Prison. In the afternoon, we explored the city's famous old Quarter, a haven for the senses.
Guided Tour in Hanoi

We visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum during
a guided tour in Hanoi.



Ha Long Bay

Visiting the Floating Village in the Ha Long Bay area
A scenic motor coach ride via a picturesque countryside landscape to one of Vietnam's most treasured landmarks: the spectacular Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin. Known as the "Bay of the Descending Dragon," this UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its dramatic limestone cliffs, thousands of islands and islets and groups of "floating villages." Multiple generations live and work aboard small wooden junks dotting the bay; fishermen cast their nets and tend to pearl farms; women tend to giant woks and curious children hang over board from the railings to greet new faces. We boarded a traditional wooden Junk that combines classic beauty with modern conveniences, plus luxurious overnight accommodations.

In the morning, our Junk continued sailing through the magnificent scenery of Ha Long Bay. Tranquil waters, stunning limestone cliffs and majestic caves kept us in awe. Some of us took a tender to visit Sung Sot Cave, the Cave of Surprises, the largest in Ha Long Bay, known for its stalactite and stalagmite formations. After disembarking the Junk we returned back to Hanoi via mororcoach. There, we arrived at the airport and boarded a Vietnam Airlines flight for Siem Reap, Cambodia, the gateway the Angkor Archaeological Park. After a short transfer from the airport, we arrived at the beautiful Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra golf & Spa Resort. Our home for next few nights.

Junk

We enjoy the stay on board a traditional Junk


Angkor Archaeological Park

Angkor Archaeological Park



A morning guided sightseeing tour took us to the Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its spectacular temple remnants and rebuilt structures. We visited Angkor Thom, built as a royal city and last capital of the Khmer empire in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII; the Bayon, located in the center of Angkor Thom, consisting of a multitude of towers adorned with 216 gigantic smiling faces; Baphoun Temple, the newly-reopened three-story temple, constructed during the 11th century; Terrace of the Elephants, used by King Jayavarman VII as a reviewing platform for public ceremonies and Terrace of the Leper King.




We concluded our tour program with a visit of the English-language school sponsored by AmaWaterways in the village of Ta Toum. The students welcomed us with a show of traditional dances. Afterwards, we visited the school. Proudly, the students showed us their art works. Many of them were bought by us and brought home as a meaningful souvenir. English-language school

English-language school sponsored by AmaWaterways
Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple

The morning started with a visit of the most iconic of all Angkorian temples - Angkor Wat. (A Khmer word derived from the Sanskrit term for "temple"). Built by Suryavarman II as his state temple, this enormous "temple-mountain" is dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. It is the largest religious monument in the world. Afterwards, we visited Ta Prohm, best known as the temple where overgrown trees have interwined themselves into the crumbling stone.
Hotel

Our beautiful hotel in Siem Reap with
a lake filled of Lotus flowers
Night Show

At night, we were delighted by a very
colorful show of traditional dances
AMALOTUS

Our river cruise ship MS AMALOTUS

With a lot of excitement, we were looking forward to our transfer to the Mekong where our river cruise ship was waiting for us. We waved good bye to our beautiful hotel in Siem Reap and boarded a motor coach for the transfer to our ship in Kampong Cham. Along the way, we made a stop at the Spean Praptos Bridge and Kampong Thom Village. After a drive of several hours through the countryside of Cambodia, we arrived at our ship, the AMALOTUS. After a Welcome Reception in the Saigon Lounge, we enjoyed a Welcome Dinner. The ship anchored overnight on the Mekong River near Wat Hanchey.



We started the day by exploring Wat Hanchey, a hilltop pagoda with beautiful panoramic views of the Mekong. This ancient 8th century pagoda is characteristic of the Chenla Empire, which pre-dates the Angkor period. The afternoon excursion took us to the Kampong Cham area. We visited the Mahayana Buddhist temple of Wat Nokor, where the 12th century temple has been 'fused' with modern architecture. Afterwards, we saw the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey (man and woman hill) symbolic of marriage in Cambodian culture.


Hilltop Pagoda

Hilltop Pagoda at Wat Hanchey


Hilltop Pagoda


Hilltop Pagoda

"Public Transportation" to the Hilltop Pagoda at Wat Hanchey
Royal Palace

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

During a morning motor coach tour, we saw the highlights of Cambodia's capital city, famous for its French Colonial architecture, busy cafes and vibrant nightlife. We visited the Royal Palace and the spectacular Silver Pagoda, as well as the National Museum and its outstanding collection of Khmer crafts. In the afternoon, we headed towards the infamous Killing Fields and the Khmer rouge's grim Tuol Sleng or S21 Detention Center.


Kids

Children are the pride of Cambodia

In order to get on shore, we transferred to a small, local boat. We traveled through narrow channels and several scenic locations, including a small village known as "Evergreen Island". Later, we saw Tan Chau from the vantage point of a traditional "xe-loi" (trishaw) that took us around to all the sights, with stops at a silk-making workshop and another that produces rattan mats and slippers. Back on the ship, we cruised to Sa Dec, where the ship moored overnight.


trishaw



trishaw



trishaw

Trishaw ride through town


In the morning, we strolled through Sa Dec, the town where French writer Marguerite Duras spent part of her childhood. We toured the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, Duras' Chinese paramour, which is now a small museum. Afterwards, we transferred to Xeo Quyt, a former military base that is now an important ecological site. We returned to the ship and continued cruising to Cai Be. In the afternoon, a small boat trip took us to Cai Be's spectacular floating market. Later, we went ashore to visit the French Gothic Cathedral, a candy workshop, and a rice paper workshop. In the evening, we enjoyed a Farewell Cocktail and dinner on board.


Candy Workshop

Sitting down in the Candy Workshop for a short rest
Meeting with Hoa and her students

Meeting with Hoa and her students

The day was available to explore Ho Chi Minh City individualy. At dinner, we got together with Hoa and some of her students.


Group Picture




Some of us had their flight scheduled to go back home, and others went on a Vietnam Air flight to Bangkok, Thailand. After a short flight, we arrived in Thailand's capital and transferred via motor coach to our hotel, the Siam Design Hotel & Spa. The rest of the day was free time.



In the morning, we visited the Grand Palace a "must see" attraction in Bangkok. It is an architectural wonder of golden stupas, walls and pillars encrusted in shining and colorful mosaics. In the afternoon, we went to the Thon Thonburi Kongs canals. One of the best ways to explore Bangkok is by boat. The city's network of canals earned Bangkok the title of "Venice of the East". We traveled along the waterways by long-tail speed boat to see family homes and temples. On the return journey, we stopped at the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) whose towering spire has become an iconic symbol of Bangkok.


Grand Palace

Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand



Today's tour took us to Amphawa, a small riverside town located in Samut Songkram province, 90 minutes south of Bangkok. Amphawa offers a beautiful and atmospheric experience and is full of wooden shop houses, narrow walkways, arched bridges, a small floating market and the railway market. The famous railway market is located on a working railway track. Visitors are amazed at the sight of a train approaching the market and the vendors frantically packing away their stalls from the tracks as it approaches. Then, we continued into town for exploration, with visits to the King Rama Memorial Park and one of the highlights; the Floating Market. We had lunch in a local restaurant. Then, we spent the afternoon relaxing, exploring and watching the boats come in for the floating market in the late afternoon. In the early evening we headed back to Bangkok by road.



In the morning, we left the hotel for visit of the Jim Thompson's House and the Suan Parrakd Palace. We stepped back in time and wandered through Wang Suan Pakkard, the "Lettuce Farm Palace". Once the residence of Princess Chumbot of Nakhon Sawan, this is one of Bangkok's most delightful retreats. The landscaped grounds are a peaceful oasis and the perfect retreat from the noise and bustle of Bangkok. Lunch was served at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, we visited Chatuchak Weekend Market. Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists.


Thailand


River Kwai Resotel

Accommodation at the beautiful River Kwai Resotel

After a bus ride of a couple of hours, we arrived in Kanchanaburi. This quiet provincial capital also played an unlikely role during WWII where occupying Japanese forces used captured Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and conscripted Southeast Asians to build a demanding, deadly rail route to present-day Myanmar. We stopped at the World Famous bridge over the River Kwai, visited the War Museum and the Cemetery of the Allied Prisoners of World War II. After lunch, we took an historic ride on the Death Railway Train, passing lush forest. Later, we traveled by speed boats in order to get to our beautiful River Kwai Resotel.



Group with elephants

In the morning, we enjoyed Elephant riding through the bamboo forest. Afterwards, we watched and participated in an elephant show. After lunch, we visited the Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno Forest Monastery) in Saiyoke District. This was built in 1994 as a forest monastery focused on meditation in an area surrounded by mountain ranges and natural forest. Upon arrival at the temple, we walked along the Tiger Valley where tigers are taken for their afternoon exercise. Via motor coach we returned to Bangkok.

A wonderful and unforgetable tour ended with the transfer to the Bangkok Airport. Because this tour was such a special voyage, we will offer the tour again in 2017. Make sure that you join this time.


Thank you note Thank you note


What our clients said after the tour:

Hi Kerstin
I read Travel and Leisure magazine and noted that Metropole and Phokeethreet both made the 100 best hotels of the world! Great job Kerstin! Those places were beauts. We loved the entire trip-every day we remember a nugget or two! Best! Lynn and Joel

Hi Kerstin,
Kerstin, thanks a mil for arranging a great, memorable, bearable and enjoyable trip for us! You did a super job! Al

Hi Kerstin,
After a long period of unwinding from a long journey, I want to tell you something. We were ALL pleased with you and your travel plan very much.I put some comments in Facebook, little of each place we visited. I will check for any possibility of tour with you in near future. Again, many thanks and I enjoyed the tour tremendously. The group was fun. The guides were so nice I couldn't help looking at Tony's (Thai guide) face expression. Pleasant disposition -- He also showed very cheerful and expressive. Again, many thanks for making our tour possible. Ricky Drake

Kerstin,
I had a marvelous time on this Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand tours. You always pick the best of all the tours on every trip. This was my ninth tour with you. I have great memories of all my travels on your tours. The pre tour in Hanoi has an interesting history because of the war. The AMA river cruise enabled us to visit so different cities, temples and farms in Vietnam and Cambodia. I must thank you for adding Bangkok, Thailand as an extended tour. Thailand being Independent and influence by England and west is a beautiful city. Seeing Thailand was a nice ending to this trip. Your Interpreters are the best. Everyday, the tour included an exciting adventure. A highlight of a few adventures that I enjoyed the most: Sleeping on the Junk boat, riding the raft, riding on the River of Kiwi train, riding through towns on Tuk Tuk and rickshaw bike, pet the tigers, and riding the elephant. It was all awesome. I learned so much about these countries, their temples, religions, cultures and close family ties. Visiting the silk factory, gems factory, candy factory and farming was very interesting. I enjoyed seeing the deaf people working at the factory where they made beautiful art with embroidery. I can't say enough about this wonderful trip. Thanks again for all your hard work to make this trip a huge success. Looking forward to traveling with you again soon. As a token of appreciation, I am mailing you a check to help with your support to the Jamaica Deaf school. Best Regards, Lillian

Hi Kerstin,
Thank you very much for the great time and wonderful service!! I surely will tell everyone about it like I did with the Danube River..The interpreters were wonderful..Please continue to keep them forever.:) Hugs Rosy


Hi Kerstin,
We got home safely after very long flight trip! Thank you very much for all your work and the trip of Vietnam and Cambodia... GREAT JOB! Vietnam & Cambodia trips are CHAMPS...as our best trips for our 45th wedding anniversary. Thank you again, Marge and Jack



Fundraising Poster

We would like to thank the following guests for their donation:
  • Lillian Mittauer
  • Lance & Catherine Fischer
  • Beatrice Kramer
  • Alex Richey
  • Stephen & Dorothy Brenner
  • Thomas & Nancy Gallagher

Contact Kerstin's Deaf Travel to book your next cruise by sending an e-mail to kerstin@kerstinstravel.com



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