This journey provides you with a 'non tourist trail' view of these two fascinating countries. In Vietnam, we start by getting amongst the hustle and bustle of the country’s capital, Hanoi. Here you will find French inspired boulevards, lakes, grand merchant houses and streets and alleyways which are as ancient as they are interesting to wander down. We then drive to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay where we set sail amongst limestone pinnacles and quiet bays. Returning to Hanoi we catch the Reunification Express train overnight south to Vietnam's ancient capital, Hue. We visit regal citadels, pagodas and learn of a rich and powerful past before heading onto the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An. This old trading town still has clear signs of having been influenced by the Portuguese, Chinese, French and Japanese at different times of its history. Once one of the world’s busiest and wealthiest port towns, Hoi An is now filled with interesting galleries, museums, shops and restored buildings which line its harbour and provide a glimpse into the past. The town has a bustling Old Town with a colourful wet market and nearby villages which we explore on foot. 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 conducts a two day community service project at Anjali which is a community centre providing a range of classes and lessons across a diverse range of subjects to all members of the surrounding villages. The project specifics will be clarified closer to departure. 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 meeting the 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. 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. We believe the fitter you are the more you will be able to take part in each day’s adventures.
After so many months thinking, preparing, and planning for your Vietnam and Cambodian adventure the departure day has finally arrived! Your flight to Hanoi aboard Singapore Airlines departs from Perth Airport at 2:05am bound for Hanoi with a short stopover in Singapore, before arriving into Hanoi at 11:40am. On arrival in Hanoi you will be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to our centrally located hotel. You will have time this afternoon for an orientation look around the Old Quarter, change money or make a visit to an ATM. Tonight we have organised a welcome meal for dinner which will also give you an opportunity to get to know your guide. We suggest 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. Welcome to Vietnam!
Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel
SQ 216 27 NOV PERTH to SINGAPORE 0205 0720
SQ 176 27 NOV SINGAPORE to HANOI 0925 1140
Today, we commence our exploration of Hanoi by visiting the impressive Museum of Ethnology, the finest museum in Vietnam. This museum is dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities, several of which we will see on our forthcoming trek. Afterwards 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.
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.
In the afternoon, we enjoy walking 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 walking & stop over at a coffee shop where you see how the local people enjoy life, you may also award yourself with a unique drink known as “bitter sweet” coffee at Café Gi?ng- the oldest brand in Hanoi, since 1946. After that, we will walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, visit Ngoc Son Temple and you then have tickets for a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppet theatre, 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 at local restaurant
Overnight in Hanoi
Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel 3*
We depart Hanoi for Ha Long Bay in our private air conditioned coach for approximately a 3 hour drive. On arrival, we board our traditional junk for a journey through the 3,000 limestone islands dotted with caves and grottoes. After lunch your captain will find a secluded spot and from here the choice is yours. There is time for exploring the Bay at a leisure pace: swimming, sunbathing, relaxing and experiencing the magic of falling asleep on board in this beautiful part of the world. The boat will stop at the emerald water of the Bay where we would enjoy the first kayaking activity. After you have finished exploring we retire to the junk and relax on the top deck to view the sunset. In the evening your cook will prepare a delicious seafood extravaganza using beautifully prepared fresh ingredients straight from the sea as we find a secluded place to anchor for the night.
Overnight on Bhaya Classic Junk, Ha Long Bay
NOTE: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather, tide levels and operating conditions.
Early risers can enjoy a morning swim in a quite bay or with a Tai Chi Class on the sundeck while complimentary tea and coffee are served. You will continue enjoy cruising through the Bay passing beautiful spots like Trong (Drum), Trinh Nu (Virgin), Mekong Caves, Coc Ngoi (Toad) islets… explore the Sung Sot cave (Surprise cave), one of the highlights of the bay. Buffet brunch is served on board before the vessel cruises leisurely back to harbor.
We return to Hanoi arriving in the afternoon where you will have access to a suitable number of hotel rooms to freshen up before heading out for an early dinner at Alfresco, a well known pizza restaurant. We then transfer 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 soft sleeper cabins where we sleep in comfortable berths swaying to the timeless rhythm of the railroad.
Overnight on train. Second class sleeper, 4 berth cabin.
We will arrive into Hue aboard the Reunification Express around mid morning and transfer to our centrally located hotel. There is time in the morning to have a shower, eat some breakfast and relax or recover from the overnight train journey. At midday we will head out to explore this ancient and historically significant city. First will be a visit to the Duc Son Pagoda where we enjoy special vegetarian meal with monks and orphans. Hue is known for the magnificent architecture of its Royal Tombs, pagodas and temples built by the Nguyen Dynasty along the picturesque setting of the Perfume River. The royal relics of the Nguyen Emperors are located on the outskirts of the city. In the afternoon you will visit some ancient tombs of emperors past. We will travel to the eccentric Tu Ducs tomb located in a serene setting on the outskirts of town. Time permitting we will also visit Dong Ba market, the most popular local market in Hue, before stopping at a local restaurant for dinner and returning to the hotel for our overnight accommodation.
Accommodation: Duy Tan II Hotel
This morning on our way to Hoi An we will travel past rice fields, small villages, local markets, a famous covered bridge and see various other traditional crafts. Lunch is at a scenic ocean side restaurant on Lang Co Beach. Following lunch we board the coach again for the journey to Hoi An town via Danang City.
In the evening you will take a short walking tour through the old streets of Hoi An. 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.
Accommodation: Thuy Duong III 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 we join later in the day.
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: Thuy Duong III 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: Angkor Holiday Hotel
VN 825 04 DEC DANANG to SIEM REAP 1625 1825
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: Angkor Holiday Hotel
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 Anjali House. For two days you will work on a community project to support the children who rely on this dynamic and 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: Angkor Holiday 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: Ohana Hotel 3½*
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: Ohana Hotel 3½*
This morning we drive 35km to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre to spend time 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 enrichment's, 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: Ohana Hotel 3½*
After breakfast 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 to Perth via Singapore. Upon arrival in Perth all services conclude.
Congratulations on completing a service learning journey through Vietnam and Cambodia and assisting the community and sun bears of Anjali House and Free The Bears! The lessons learned and friendships made will last a lifetime.
SQ5005 11DEC PHNOM PENH to SINGAPORE 1405 1710
SQ 215 11DEC SINGAPORE to PERTH 1840 2355
Per Person, Twin Share