Day 1: Arrive Ho Chi Minh City
On arrival at Tan San Nhat Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is a center of commerce, finance, culture and tourism in Vietnam. This bustling metropolis ,contradiction of its northern counterpart, is crowded with bikes and motorbikes, excited by numerous shopping area and sidewalk cafés. ( If time permits) we stroll around the down town to explore the different local ways of life.Overnight in Saigon.
Day2: Ho Chi Minh – City Tour (B, L, D)
Sightseeing in Saigon and Cholon (Chinatown)
Saigon is the largest of Vietnamese cities, with the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life visible everywhere. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new bars. The city churns and bubbles. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is District 5, the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cholon, which means ‘Big Market’.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL: built between 1877 and 1883 and set in the heart of Saigon’s government quarter. It has a neo-Romanesque form and two high square towers, tipped with iron spires. In front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary.
CENTRAL POST OFFICE: a French-style building with a glass canopy and iron frame, situated next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure was built between 1886 and 1891 and is by far the largest post office in Vietnam.CITY HALL: completed in 1908, also known as “Hotel de Ville”, and located at the northern end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard. With its ornate gingerbread façade, it looks like the town hall of a French town. (May be viewed from the outside only).
OPERA HOUSE: built around the turn of the century and first renovated in the 1940s, the building housed the lower division of the National Assembly. Today it is a Municipal Theatre and also known as the Saigon Concert Hall. (May be viewed from the outside only).
JADE EMPEROR PAGODA: was a key meeting place for Chinese secret societies. It has very colorful and mysterious ambience.
REUNIFICATION PALACE: this was the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president and was stormed by tanks on 30 April 1975, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM: collections of weapons and photographs from two Indochina wars are exhibited along with the original French ‘Guillotine’ brought here in the early 20th century.
BEN THANH MARKET: the central market of Saigon, its surrounding streets make up one of the city’s liveliest areas. Everything commonly eaten, worn or used by the average resident of Saigon is available here.
GIAC LAM PAGODA: the oldest pagoda in Saigon, built at the end of the 17th century. Because the last reconstruction here was in 1900, the architecture, layout and ornamentation remain almost unaltered by the modernist renovations that have transformed so many other religious structures in Vietnam. Ten monks live in this pagoda, which also incorporates aspects of Taoism and Confucianism.
BINH TAY MARKET: Cholon’s main marketplace, much of the business conducted here is wholesale.
THIEN HAU PAGODA: built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century. The pagoda is one of the most active in Cholon and is dedicated to Thien Hau. It is said that she can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to wherever she pleases.Overnight in Saigon.
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh – Cu Chi Tunnel (40km cycling) (B, L, D)
Excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels and Tay Ninh
CU CHI TUNNELS: Cu Chi was an important base during the American War, because of its strategic location. The Vietcong built a 200km long network of tunnels connecting command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapon factories. Dug out of hard laterite by hand tools without the use of cement, this amazing network was never discovered.
TAY NINH: this town serves as the headquarters of one of Vietnam’s religions, Caodism. The Caodai Great Temple at the sect’s Holy See is one of the most striking structures in all of Asia and was built between 1933 and 1955. The area’s dominant geographic feature is Nui Ba Den (Black Lady Mountain), which towers 850m above the surrounding plains.
Please note that shortly before and during the annual TET festival (Vietnamese New Year) the daily ceremony of the priests in Tay Ninh may be cancelled without prior notice.Overnight in Saigon.
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City – My Tho – Tra Vinh (52km cycling) (B,L,D)
After breakfast, transfer a couple of hours out of Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho – the gateway to the Mekong Delta. Today’s ride will lead you right into the heart of rural Mekong. Start cycling after the ferry journey across the Tien Giang River at My Tho. Pedal narrow roads and lanes, past banana plantations, fields of sugar cane, through the lush green landscape of the Delta, crossing rivers and canals by numerous, ubiquitous, fascinating ferries. A section of biking cuts off road onto gravel and dirt lanes, and weaves around hamlets, across water channels and through quite dense vegetation. This makes for superb biking. A final ferry across the gaping expanse of Co Chien River leads us to Tra Vinh, a pretty tree lined town with a large population of ethnic Khmer.
Day 5: Tra Vinh – Can Tho (82km cycling) (B,L,D)
The route is peaceful, the road narrow and very pretty all the way to Can Tho. There is plenty along the way to see, from the contrasting architectural styles of ethnic Khmer homes, to the numerous colourful Khmer temples and to the fascinating river scenes witnessed when pedalling over countless small wooden plank bridges. Visit Ba Om Pond with its magnificent lotus flowers, and observe local women having their future predicted in the small temple nearby. En route, spend time at a local Khmer Temple School and learn about the life of the students.
Day 6: Can Tho – Long Xuyen (95km cycling) (B,L,D)
Today’s ride is spilt into two sections and is a contrast to the previous day’s ride. After a very early breakfast, you will ride on a narrow paved road via Can Tho floating market to Phong Dien floating market. Weave through morning market bustle along the banks of the very busy river. Absorb the sights of endless cottage industries, timber merchants, coconut shredders, small docks loading/unloading rice, tiny vibrant markets. After reaching Phong Dien, take a quick boat trip on the river before continuing by bike on the narrow lane to the main road. Transfer along the highway back to Can Tho for lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, continue riding along a tiny road leading upstream towards Long Xuyen. For the last 15-20kms, the road is a little busier but there is the chance to ride single track alongside a canal paralleling the route. End the ride with a final 5 minute ferry crossing and short transfer to Long Xuyen.
Day 7: Long Xuyen – Chau Doc (75km cycling) (B,L,D)
Once more the scenery is completely different. After a short early morning transfer to Tri Ton, the cycling starts to gently undulate and mountains begin to loom as you ride closer and closer to Chau Doc. The presence of Thot Not trees indicates the growing proximity to Cambodia and the local people speak Vietnamese as their second language. Cycle to the Killing Fields of Vietnam at Ba Chuc, where Pol Pot’s regime massacred over 3,000 Vietnamese in 1978. Loop round to Chau Doc from Ba Chuc along the border, or re-trace back to Tri Ton (depending on road conditions) and ride the rest of the way to Chau Doc along incredible country roads. Those with energy to spare can climb Sam Mountain for sunset!
Day 8: Chau Doc – Phnom Penh (no cycling) (B,L,D)
Depart early for the boat journey up the Mekong River to Phnom Penh (take water, food, book etc for your approx 6hr journey). Once arriving at the pier at Chau Doc you will say Goodbye to your Vietnamese guide & bikes and cruise up the Bassac River for approximately 1hr to the Cambodian border. At the Cambodian border the boat crew will obtain your visas on your behalf (you will need a spare passport photo, fill in a form and pay the $20 visa fee). This process will take about to half an hour. The boat will then continue to take you upstream to Phnom Penh, where you new Cambodian team will be ready to greet you with your new bikes. You will then continue your journey into Cambodia & Phnom Penh. This capital city was once considered one of the most beautiful in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history, it still retains a colonial charm. After lunch at the atmospheric Foreign Correspondent’s Club and you will transfer to Cambodia’s killing fields and a visit to S21, Tuoel Sleng genocide museum. Later this afternoon you will transfer to your hotel where your bikes will be ready for you to fit and check. Overnight in hotel.
Day 9: Phnom Penh – Kampong Chhnang (90km cycling) (B,L,D)
We depart in the early morning by bike and we head north on National road N5 via the ancient Japanese bridge and start traveling through the Cambodian countryside. You will share the road with light local traffic and get a good sense of what Cambodian transportation actually is. After 12Km you get to Prek Phnov and at the junction we left turn to unpaved roads passing local villages and rice fields. We pass the ancient capital of Udong where Udong Mountain is still home to many of the old Royal Palaces. We pay a visit to one of the remaining stupa’s and after a visit you will ride on the paved road heading north-west to Kampong Chhnang.Kampong Chhnang is the provincial capital of the province with the same name. The Tonle Sap River passes by Kampong Chhnang and the floating village is an attraction itself. It is located 91 km North of Phnom Penh. The area is scenic and if you cross the river you will find several ancient temples from the Chenla period, such as Samrong Sen and Prasat Prah Srey. You’ll get great views of the countryside and for sure will meet hordes of people welcoming you with a broad smile and a “Hello Mr.!” quote. Overnight in Samrong Sen hotel – Kampong Chhnang & dinner at local restaurant.
Day 10: Kampong Chhnang – Siem Reap (70km cycling) (B,L,D)
This morning you will start with a transfer by (private) boat to Siem Reap crossing the immense Tonle Sap Lake. The Tonle Sap Lake is the beating heart of Cambodia and nearly half of the Cambodians live from this lake. It’s the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia and its biodiversity has put the lake on the ecological 7 wonders of the world. The transfer takes about 4 hours. Upon arrival in Siem Reap we pass the floating village of Chhong Kneas. This large sized village is a bustling trade centre for fish, other lake “products” and tourism. The arrival will definitely one you will never forget. We cycle the 12km into town and settle in our hotel. A lunch will give us the power we need in order to explore the world largest heritage site: Angkor Wat. We will cycle towards a small but very significant temple called Banteay Srey. This temple is best preserved and its carvings and painting are remarkable. The road leading there passes through the Angkor Area and you get a glimpse of the massive complexes that were built between the 11th and 13th century. We continue the 25km to Banteay Srey through pretty countryside over a good and paved road. The late afternoon sun will only contribute to the beauty of the pink stone walls and towers of Banteay Srey. After our visit we cycle back towards Angkor Wat where a nice surprise awaits you! We celebrate your accomplishment and head back to town for dinner, a fine feast & celebration with traditional Khmer dancing and food in the Apsara Theatre. Overnight in hotel.
Day 11: Full day in Angkor Wat (30 Cycling) (B,L)
If you want to this morning you can ask your expedition leader to arrange a sunrise visit to the temples of Angkor (for a small additional fee, approx $5pp) to give you the opportunity see the ruins in all their splendour. Angkor Wat itself is just one of the many temples in the region but is one of the best preserved and most impressive. It is worth climbing the remarkably steep and narrow steps of the central spire for the view over the whole temple surrounded by jungle. Angkor Thom, is a fascinating ruin featuring many mysterious giant carved faces and some incredible wall carvings, and is one of the most remarkable sights in the area. Also not to be missed is the temple of Ta Prohm, which has been left to be reclaimed by nature and features incredible tree roots breaking through the stone carvings and walls, a fascinating tribute to the power of nature over man and an experience reminiscent of ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Tomb Raider.’ . Overnight in Siem Reap
Day 12: Siem Reap – Departure ( B )
Today we have free time to explore Siem Reap by own until transfer to airport for your flight.