Without a doubt travelling through the rural and urban settings of Vietnam and Cambodia by private coach is one of the finest ways to discover these two fascinating countries. Our complete service includes modern air conditioned vehicles, expert local guides, and nights spent in comfortable hotels where the tasty local food will be sure to satisfy the fussiest of eaters! With many opportunities to meet the people who live and work in the ever-changing landscape of quiet villages to busy cities whilst also appreciating the stunning rural of rice paddies and coconut groves. Stopping at wayside tea stalls the locals’ curiosity often translates into invitations to visit their homes and schools. We start the adventure by navigating the old quarters of Hanoi, before setting sail amongst the lime stone pinnacles of Ha Long Bay where we learn from experts about the social, environmental and economic issues impacting the status of the areas UNESCO World Heritage listing. Next we catch the Reunification Express train south to the ancient imperial city of Hue where we deliver much needed gifts and supplies to the Duc Son Orphanage and enjoy a vegetarian lunch cooked by the nuns. We then continue our travels to Hoi An, a town originally based on trade and commerce and now one would think silk and tailors as this is the best place in Indochina to get clothes made. The town has a bustling Old Town with a colourful wet market and nearby villages which we explore on foot. There is so much to see and do in this magic town and we use our time wisely to also visit many of the historic sites and museums. A short flight takes us west across the border to Siem Reap, Cambodia to the mesmerising World Heritage listed temples of Angkor Wat. We wonder amongst these ancient temples and pagodas in awe of their size, age and elaborate carvings before participating in a discussion on Buddhism at a local pagoda and hear from a senior monk an introduction on the different concepts of Buddhism. The group then conduct a two day community service project at a small orphanage which Killara High has had a long association with. Bidding farewell to our new found friends we travel south by private coach to the capital, Phnom Penh where we visit the Royal Palace and learn about the harrowing Pol Pot regime. We then turn our attention to wildlife conservation by working alongside the volunteers at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) which is funded by the Australian organisation Free The Bears, before attending a dance performance by Cambodia Living Arts and meeting with the staff and team from Skateistan, who use the skateboard as a way to empower disadvantaged youth. Throughout our time in Indochina we will be looking to appreciate the human realities of Global Challenges as they manifest in developing nations. Participation will contribute greatly towards your studies of Senior Geography, Studies of Religion or Society and Culture. This is a learning experience to get excited over!
Although there is no commitment to extended physical activity on this journey we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect and enhance your travel experience. Remember the fitter you are the more enjoyable your experience will be. Please ensure that you discuss with your excursion organiser all health related issues which may impact on your enjoyment of the tour.
After so many months thinking, preparing, and planning for your Vietnam and Cambodian adventure the departure day has finally arrived!
On arrival in Hanoi you will be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to our centrally located hotel. There are no activities planned for this evening and we encourage you to have an early night so as your ready to get out and explore and get amongst the amazing temples and pagodas which make Hanoi such a fascinating city.
We start our day by visiting the Ho Chi Minh complex, starting at the President’s Mausoleum (visit outside only). We continue to his humble “house on stilts”- see the French colonial Presidential Palace and the 11th century One-Pillar Pagoda. The following destination is the thought-provoking Hoa Lo Prison turned museum. Ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs during the American War. Most exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. We then break for lunch at K.O.T.O Restaurant (set menu), which is no ordinary restaurant. It’s a place where customers enjoy delicious Vietnamese and European cuisine and where the staff (mostly former street and disadvantaged youth) are so full of energy and enthusiasm that it’s contagious. Across the road from lunch we visit the Temple of Literature - one of the most interesting shrines in Hanoi, called “Le Pagoda des Corbeaux” by the French, because of the huge flocks of crows gathering in the mango trees near the entrance. Built in 1070, the complex consists of five courtyards dedicated to Confucius and the pursuit of Confucian thought and behavior. It is here that Vietnam’s first university was founded. We then climb aboard cyclos to enjoy a tour to explore the vibrant Old Quarter. Here many tiny streets join to sell a huge diversity of products. In the old days, each street bore the name of the product sold - “Shoe Street”, “Noodle Street” and the like. Today, the streets sometimes sell a variety of items, but often the names are accurate. The Old Quarter also houses some of the most interesting art galleries and fashion houses. We then head back out on the streets and will experience a Vietnamese coffee shop where you see how the local people enjoy life, you may also reward yourself with a unique drink known as “bitter sweet” coffee at Café Ging- the oldest brand in Hanoi, since 1946. Our last stop on this busy day will be a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppet theater, a series of 17 stories presented by 11 puppeteers whom traditionally performed during the monsoonal period when rice farming in the Red River Delta was not possible. The stories reflect their way of life and dreams as well as providing respite from their demanding work schedule.
Dinner tonight is at Mam Restaurant www.mamrestaurant.vn which is renowned for serving well prepared authentic Vietnamese food.
Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel 4*
We depart Hanoi for a 3 hour drive to Ha Long Bay in our private air conditioned coach. Upon arrival at Ha Long Bay you will be transferred by motorized boat to our junk, which awaits us in open water. We are welcomed aboard Bhaya Cruise with welcome drinks and a safety briefing from the Cruise Manager. Lunch is enjoyed while the boat is cruising towards south east of Halong Bay passing by Chicken Rock and Titov Island. In the afternoon we board a tender boat to discover the floating village of Vung Vieng. Whilst sitting on row boats with local people we learn about the growing need to relocate the floating villages to more permanent dwellings on the mainland. The sustainability of the current way of life of the villagers has become a cause for concern. The villagers are aware that the steady supply of fish and shellfish will not last forever, and there is also a need for the communities to plan out what changes they will need to adapt to rising seawater and the effects of tourism in the area. (Suggested reading:- http://www.wmf.org/journal/overview-ha-long-bay%E2%80%99s-fishing-villages)
In the afternoon a cooking demonstration of traditional Vietnamese food will take place on the sundeck of the junk. Later as evening descends we enjoy a delicious seafood extravaganza using beautifully prepared fresh ingredients straight from the sea. We then find a secluded place to anchor for the night.
Accommodation: Bhaya Classic Cruise 4*
NOTE: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather, tide levels and operating conditions.
For those looking for a unique and traditional start to your day then head to the sundeck and give the ancient martial art of Tai Chi a try. Breakfast will be served in the dining room before we head out to discover more of the bay including one of the biggest caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and Soi Sim Island where you can climb to the top of the hill and get a magnificent panoramic view of Halong Bay. A buffet lunch will be served while the boat cruises to jungle covered Cat Ba Island. Here we meet with experts from The Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project to learn how this endemic primate species was almost poached to extinction if it wasn't for a German zoo and conservation organisation which came to its rescue.
Time permitting there might also be an opportunity to visit the Gia Luan Kindergarten and Elementary school where previous Killara High School groups have conducted service projects at.
Upon returning to the junk there will be a Workshop World Heritage Listing & impacts of Economic Development.
The vessel will cruise back through the Bay to its overnight anchorage. Dinner will again be on board and then you may wish to relax under the starlit sky or jag for squid off the back of the junk before retiring to the comfort of your cabin.
Overnight on Junk, Ha Long Bay
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner on boat
Accommodation: Bhaya Classic Cruise 4*
We will continue to cruise through the Bay passing magnificent geographical formations before commencing our second Workshop discussing the impacts of development on Ha Long Bay. A buffet brunch is served on board before the vessel cruises leisurely back to the dock where our coach is awaiting your arrival.
We then drive back to Hanoi where for the remainder of the afternoon will be free to do some last minute shopping and looking around the Old Quarter of Hanoi. We will enjoy our last meal in Hanoi before transferring to the train station for our overnight train journey on the Reunification Express southwards to Hue. The overnight accommodation aboard the train is in four person cabins where we sleep in comfortable berths swaying to the timeless rhythm of the railroad.
Accommodation: Reunification Express
We will arrive into Hue aboard the Reunification Express around mid morning where we will be met by our vehicle and driven to the markets. Here we will purchase educational materials, basic sanitary items and much needed supplies which you will donate to the orphanage at the Duc Son Pagoda http://www.ducsonorphans.org. Over many visits Killara High School have built a warm friendship with this orphanage and the nuns take great pleasure in preparing a special vegetarian meal for you all.
In the afternoon we drive to Hoi An via the scenic Lang Co lagoon, Hai Van Pass and Da Nang where we visit Marble Mountain. We arrive into Hoi An mid afternoon and enjoy an evening walking tour through the old streets. The streets are charming at night with lanterns hanging from shop fronts and café patrons spilling onto the streets. Amongst other things - Hoi An is famous for a particular noodle dish (Cao Lau) which we endeavor to sample during our time here around the historic town before eating at a restaurant for dinner.
Accommodation: Hoi An Lantern Hotel
Hoi An, probably the most delightful town in Vietnam, was a major sea port in the Middle Ages. Untouched in any of the wars, Hoi An retains influences from Chinese, Japanese, French and even Portuguese and British traders who stopped here between China and India. Adding to Hoi An's beauty is the Thu Bon River which winds its way through the city and out to the South China Sea.
In the afternoon, we will visit Hoi An’s colourful market and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy market. We will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson later.
We board the Red Bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. This is a chance to view local river life, so make sure your camera is handy. On arrival, we explore the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden, before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s well-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours - each dish is first demonstrated by the Red Bridge chef’s, before we prepare the same dish ourselves. Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration).
After the lesson, we sit down and eat exactly what we have cooked.
Accommodation: Hoi An Lantern Hotel
Today is all about getting out and about in the neighboring villages so as to gain an understanding of the many aspects which combine to create a typical village and to meet the people who call them home. We begin the adventure by sailing up the Thu Bon River to Tra Nhieu village. Here you will have an introduction to the history, see which traditional handicrafts are produced and why, witness a variety of farming methods and gain a deeper understanding on the similarities and differences of a community like this to what it may be like in Australia. After, you will be taken on a boat with local fisherman to learn how to cast a net and hopefully catch yourself a fish! We will enjoy some village delicacies for lunch before bidding farewell to the local fisherman and returning to Hoi An by boat.
Afternoon workshop: Cultural Communication & Religions of Vietnam (Ancestor Worship, Animism and Traditional Gods, Buddhism)
Accommodation: Hoi An Lantern Hotel
Morning visit to My Son Sanctuary, one of the most famous Champa architectural and sculptural monuments in Vietnam. The remaining towers which date back from 7th-14th century were constructed in fired brick with stone pillars and decorated with sandstone bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. They were used for religious ceremonies for Kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes.
After lunch we will transfer to the airport for our direct flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Upon arrival, you will be met by our Cambodian guide at the airport and transferred to the hotel. Enjoy dinner in this bustling little town which popped up as the number of travellers coming to visit Angkor Wat increased.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Accommodation: City River
VN 825B 25 SEP DAD REP 1605 1820
This morning is an early start to go an see the sunrise above the extraordinary temples of Angkor Wat. We will take some breakfast refreshments with us before then heading to the Southern Gate of Angkor Thom to admire the extensive temple complex of soaring towers, elaborate carved murals, colonnades and courtyards that ushered in the classic age of Khmer art architecture. Here we explore the centerpiece of the ancient city, The Bayon. The Bayon contains 54 towers decorated with more than 200 enigmatic smiling faces. Also included in the morning tour is the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of Leper Kings as well as Ta Prohm Temple.
As the day warms up we will return to Siem Reap for lunch before heading out on Tonle Sap Lake where you will see how people live and work on the lake and are forced to adapt to the changing size and state of the lake as the seasons change and environmental forces take affect. You will have an opportunity to meet with families and learn firsthand hand what is being done to protect this vital environmental, social and cultural resource. In the late afternoon, you will participate in a discussion on Buddhism at a local pagoda and hear an introduction on the different concepts of Buddhism.
Dinner at a Pizza restaurant with soft drink included before returning to the hotel for the night.
Accommodation: City River
This morning can be used as a contingency in case yesterdays sunrise was not clear - if so, sleep in! After breakfast we return to Angkor Temple complex. Angkor - is not one temple but an expanse covering several square kilometers containing the remains of an early civilisation as well as many temples. Angkor flourished and prospered from about 800 to 1400 AD. The majority of the temples were built between the 6th and 13th Centuries. Many of the temples are in excellent condition, however a large amount, are in poor repair and in need of extensive restoration. The surrounding forest has grown into and destroyed several of these magnificent works of art. We avoid exploring Angkor in the heat of the day and travel to our project site at the Farm Orphanage Centre. For two days you will work on a community project to support the children who live at this vital organisation. We are awaiting some final details to advise what the work will involve yet we are looking at some major improvements which will make an immediate and long standing improvements for the children. Remember the more successful you are in fundraising then larger the budget will be to spend on improvements. Lunch will be alongside our new found friends and in the afternoon there will be some time to either play some games or teach them some conversational English. Working alongside the locals, teachers and students will provide a rare insight into the people of Cambodia. Regular breaks will be taken so as to keep energy levels high and we suggest you wear suitable light weight clothing, a wide brimmed hat and a pair of gardening gloves. On completion of the project a handover ceremony will take place, a plaque will be unveiled and lots of singing and dancing will follow. In the late afternoon we will say goodbye to the students and return to the hotel in Siem Reap for refreshment and dinner at Somadevi Angkor Hotel’s pool side restaurant on one of the nights.
Accommodation: City River Hotel
Today we travel to Phnom Penh by private coach giving us opportunities to stop and walk around local villages. We may be lucky enough to witness the setting of cricket traps in the rice fields. This is a favourite way for locals to catch crickets for food - another local culinary delicacy! We stop for lunch in Kompong Thom before driving to Sambor Prei Kuk, another impressive group of pre-Angkorian monuments dedicated to Shiva. It was built in the 7th century, abandoned, rediscovered and restored in 1980. Here, our guide introduces us to Hinduism; Hinduism has strongly influenced pre-Angkorian and Angkorian civilizations; its impact and artistic testimony is worth focusing on. Lunch will be a picnic set amongst the monuments and trees. Today visitors to Phnom Penh find a bustling, multicultural city at the confluence of the historic Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac Rivers. The drive to Phnom Penh will be slower than usual as currently the road is being improved. Upon arriving in Phnom Penh we will participate in a discussion on Buddhism at a local pagoda and hear an introduction on the different concepts of Buddhism. You will then walk around the temple grounds to understand more about monastery design and the meaning of the various pagodas or statues. The Monks will happy to answer all of your questions. Upon arrival at the hotel the rest of the afternoon is to rest and relax. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Cardamom Hotel
After breakfast we will visit the Cambodian Living Arts where you will view a dance performance from one of Cambodia's best dance groups and then partake in a workshop to learn some traditional Cambodian dances from their expert staff . The CLA is a ground breaking organisition formed in 1999 to resurrect the once abundant arts, music, dance, theater and cinema cultures of Cambodia after they were virtually destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. It is estimated between the years of 1975 and 1979, 2 million Cambodians died from execution, starvation and overwork. It is also believed that among the dead were 90% percent of Cambodia’s artists, who were specifically targeted for execution, a devastating blow to Cambodia’s oral traditions. http://www.cambodianlivingarts.org/
We then drive 35km to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre to spend a day assisting the animal keepers at the Free The Bears sanctuary which is Cambodia's premier zoological park and rehabilitation centre. Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) is very large and houses many species of animals. Volunteers will be working with our groups of rescued Sun bears and Moon bears. The centre currently has over 120 bears in 24 large outdoor enclosures covering about 8 hectares. The enclosures are very natural and have large rocky outcrops, native fauna, climbing frames and platforms, pools and other enrichment's. It is a safe and happy home to bears that have been rescued from a range of different situations including poachers, the black market, the bile farm industry and businesses using them for entertainment, trades which often leave behind very young orphaned cubs.
HOW CLOSELY WILL I BE WORKING WITH THE BEARS?
There will be tasks that will not involve direct contact with the bears, but will benefit them greatly. These include building new enrichments, repairing and maintaining their enclosures and maintenance of the area surrounding the enclosures. You will also get to work with the keepers giving out the daily feeds and cleaning the enclosures (the bears will be brought in to holding cages whilst you are in the enclosure). Obviously, direct physical contact is not possible as these are large wild animals and can potentially be dangerous.
You will have a unique, once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes of this world class bear rescue facility. Your time and your financial contribution will provide critical aid enabling us to rescue more bears and continue to improve and enrich their lives. On a personal level you will have an amazing opportunity to work alongside these incredible animals and gain the satisfaction of helping to make a difference to their lives.
In the late afternoon, we will return to hotel for refreshment before dinner at local restaurant.
Accommodation: Cardamom Hotel
Today we have a full day's sightseeing in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The city is regarded by many as the most beautiful of all the French-built cities in Indochina. Its location is also important as it sits where the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers converge. At one time it was a bustling commercial hub during the French occupation and today has re-established itself as the political and financial center of the country. Its rich historical past can be traced to the Khmer and French influence evident in the ornate Khmer-style temples and the grand colonial buildings. On today's tour we visit the most important sites in the city. First, we will see the riverside to explore daily lives of the local people and then head to Wat Phnom, a 15th century stupa. Wat Phnom, a small hill crowned by an active wat (pagoda) marks the legend of Phnom Penh City. Wat Phnom is the only hill in Phnom Penh and is the historical seat of Lady Penh and centre of Phnom Penh City. Next is the Royal Palace and the adjoining Silver Pagoda. The Silver Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, named after the statue housed there, was created by King Norodom in 1892. The floor is comprised of more than 5,000 silver blocks, weighing a total of 6 tones. The National Museum, built in the Khmer style in the 1920's has an extensive collection of Khmer art. The highlight of the exhibit is a 6th century bronze figure of the Hindu god Vishnu.
Next stop after lunch is the Tuol Sleng Museum, or Museum of Genocide. This place is testament to a more recent and bloody past. Originally this building used to be a high school, until in 1975, when it became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre, gaining the acronym 'S-21'. From here the victims were taken out and executed in what is now known as the Killing Fields. Aboard our private coach we drive to the killing fields of Choeung Ek (16 km south of Phnom Penh). Between 1975 and 1978 about 17, 000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners) were detained and tortured at S-21 prison, and were then transported to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek.
The visit to the Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek is a very powerful and confronting experience where many conflicting emotions maybe experienced. There will be time after the visit to reflect and discuss these and to try to make some sense of one of humankind most brutal historic periods.
Tonight a special farewell dinner will be had to celebrate and reflect on all you have done, seen and contributed towards.
Accommodation: Cardamom Hotel
This morning we visit a fun and empowering organisation called Skateistan. Skateistan Cambodia uses innovative, youth-led programming that builds confidence, trust and social capital among children. They use "the hook" of skateboarding to connect kids with education. They provide opportunities for education, leadership, and creative thinking that help break the cycles of poverty and exclusion. At the required time we will transfer you to the airport for your flight back home.
Per Person, Twin Share