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VIETNAM and CAMBODIA 2013

Ancient Lands of Natural Splendor

17 Day Cultural and Natural History Trip from May 14 – 30, 2013

EcoQuest Travel, Inc. is proud to offer an exciting trip to the ancient lands of Vietnam and Cambodia. Vietnam and Cambodia offer a unique blend of rich cultural history and exquisite natural beauty. They are lands which overload the senses with ancient temples and pagodas, emerald waters, a seemingly endless patchwork of rice paddies, busy cities, incredible forests and cuisines full of pungent smells and dynamic tastes. Join us as we sail on the enchanted waters of Halong Bay weaving our way through a maze of island pinnacles. We will explore the ancient royal city of Hue, the Cham ruins of Hoi An and the bustling streets of modern Ho Chi Minh City. In Cambodia we will explore the fantastic, awe inspiring, temples of Angkor Watt. We invite you to join us as we discover the natural wonders, cultural sites and magic of the ancient lands of Vietnam and Cambodia.

ITINERARY

Day 1 – Tuesday, May 14: Charlotte to Our Gateway City and on to our Gateway City in Asia

We will depart from home airports early this morning for our flight to our US gateway city – likely Atlanta or Chicago. Please make sure that you arrive at your airport no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Once we arrive at our gateway city we will change planes for our flight to our Asian gateway city. We will arrive in Asia in the early afternoon on May 15th and transfer to our flight to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Day 2 – Wednesday, May 15: Asian Gateway to Hanoi, Vietnam

We will depart our Asian gateway city in the late afternoon or early evening and arrive in Hanoi at a reasonable hour tonight.  After clearing customs and immigration we will transfer to our hotel for a night of much needed rest. Our hotel while we are in Hanoi is the Thang Long Opera Hotel, a charming hotel located in heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and close to Dong Xuan Market and Hoan Kiem Lake.

Day 3 – Thursday, May 16: Hanoi

Today will be a fairly easy day to aid in our recuperation from the long journey. After breakfast we will depart for a city tour visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda and a couple of local markets. We will take a break from touring to have lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we will continue sightseeing until returning to our hotel to prepare for dinner. Dinner will once again take place at a local restaurant and after dinner we will return to the Thang Long Opera Hotel for a night of rest as we continue to try and reset our biological clocks. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Friday, May 17: Hanoi to Halong Bay

Today we will depart early for the Vietnamese coast crossing over the Red River Delta and winding through bustling villages and past stunningly green stretches of rice paddies. Along the way we will stop at a shop famous for its silk weavings and stone carvings. We should arrive in Halong City, the gateway to the magnificent World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, by noon where we will transfer to our private sailing junk. Halong translates to ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ – an apt description for the thousands of jagged islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. We will sail through this spectacular seascape full of tiny beaches, grottos and forested slopes echoing with bird song. We will be served a lunch of fresh seafood while we glide past some of the beautiful areas of the Bay such as Seadog Rock and Fighting Cock Islet. After lunch we will visit Surprising Cave before having a chance to enjoy some swimming and kayaking. Back onboard we will enjoy a fantastic sunset and dinner. We will overnight aboard the boat in a nearby harbor. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Saturday, May 18: Halong Bay – Lan Ha

Our boat will be on the move very early this morning as we sail from our overnight anchorage to the southeast corner of Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay. Early morning is the best time to experience Halong Bay. The mist is lifting around the pinnacles giving a very otherworldly feeling to this remarkable place and with boat traffic at a minimum it feels like we have the entire landscape to ourselves. The reason for our early departure is that a very special animal inhabits the islands in Lan Ha Bay. We will search for the extremely rare Cat Ba langur both this morning and again this evening. These fantastic rock-dwelling monkeys are one of the rarest primates on earth and we will need to be very lucky to spy them. Even if we do not find the monkeys this part of the bay is rugged and especially scenic. During the midday we could explore some of the numerous beaches, swim and/or just relax amid the beauty of jungle-cloaked crags. In the late afternoon, as the heat of the day wanes, we will once again be on the lookout for the langurs. After a full day we will have dinner and enjoy another night onboard our boat underneath the stars. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Sunday, May 19: Halong Bay and back to Hanoi

After breakfast this morning we will cruise back to the Halong City Wharf and transfer back to Hanoi. Before departing Halong City we will stop at a pearl shop. Halong Bay has a thriving pearl industry with dozens of oyster farms producing high quality pearls. Following a brief introduction about pearls we will have a chance to shop the showroom before driving back to Hanoi with lunch along the way. Once in Hanoi we will check into our accommodations and have a chance for a little down time. This evening we will witness an art form unique to northern Vietnam as we enjoy a water puppetry show. After the show we will head to a local restaurant for dinner and overnight at the Thang Long Opera Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Monday, May 20: Ninh Binh and Van Long Nature Reserve

Today we travel south from Hanoi to the village of Ninh Binh. Once we arrive we will proceed to the Ngo Dong River for our rowboat trip through the caves of Tam Coc. This is a very picturesque area with huge rock formations jutting out of the rice paddies. Once aboard our rowboats we will wind past the rocks and through a series of three caves. After our two hour trip we will have lunch at a local restaurant before departing for Van Long Nature Reserve. When we arrive at Van Long we will board traditional reed boats that will take us to the edge of the towering cliffs that rise up out of the water. From our vantage point among the reeds and lotus we hope to view the endangered Delacour’s langur. This monkey clad in black and white is endemic to this region and we hope to observe them as they scamper up and down the limestone pinnacles and cliff faces. The langurs are most active in the late afternoon and early evening and it will truly be a privilege to observe them in the wild. Numerous species of waterbirds are also protected at Van Long and we will look for several species of herons, bitterns and perhaps even a eagle or stork. The boats are operated by the local community providing a sustainable income that also promotes wildlife protection. As the sun slips behind the mountains we will boat back to our bus and return to the Thuy Anh Hotel in Ninh Binh for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Tuesday, May 21: Hanoi to Hue

We will depart Ninh Binh very early this morning and drive back to Hanoi and the airport to catch our late morning flight to Hue. We will arrive in Hue in the early afternoon and after lunch we will begin our explorations of some of Hue’s most impressive cultural sites. Hue has a long and dramatic history. It has been a city of political intrigue and cultural innovation as well as a religious center and the former capitol of the Nguyen Empire. Today its monuments have been declared a national treasure and a World Heritage site. This afternoon we will visit the Thien Mu Pagoda which is built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. This pagoda is an icon of Vietnam and both the structures and the location are beautiful. From the pagoda we will travel back into Hue for dinner and settle into our accommodations at the Festival Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Wednesday, May 22: Hue

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we will continue our tour of Hue with the remains of the Citadel which was built in 1687. This ancient city was home to the Nguyen dynasty which ruled Vietnam until 1945. It was also the site of two bloody battles – one with the French and one with American forces during the Tet Offensive. After our visit to the Citadel we will depart for lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to the splendid tombs of the Nguyen emperors. Located just outside Hue, the royal tombs are extravagant and we will visit perhaps the most majestic – that of Emperor Minh Mang. After we finish our visit we will return to Hue for dinner and overnight at the Festival Hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Thursday, May 23: Hue to Hoi An

After breakfast we will check out and travel south through Danang to the riverside town of Hoi An. Hoi An is an ancient city and was one of the major international ports in Southeast Asia from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Today Hoi An retains its historical charm and, because it came through the American War undamaged, its old buildings with unique architecture remain little changed. Indeed the “Old Town” section of the city is a World Heritage site. Once we arrive we will check into our hotel and have lunch. After lunch we will explore the Old Town section of the city visiting some of its most important sights including the Quan Cong Temple, the Museum of Trading Ceramics, the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation and Tan Ky House. After a full day we will have dinner and settle into our accommodations at the Ancient House Resort. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Friday, May 24: Hoi An and My Son

Today we will travel to the ruins of My Son which are Vietnam’s most important center of the ancient kingdom of Champa. We will depart for My Son early to avoid the midday heat and the crowds that gather later in the day. My Son was extensively damaged during the American War, but the 20 or so remaining structures are set in a tranquil valley surrounded by green hills and overlooked by the vast Cat’s Tooth Mountain. The ruins are atmospheric and we will have most of the morning to soak in the sights. After our visit to My Son we will return to Hoi An for lunch and the afternoon will be free to explore the city further on your own or just relax. Dinner will be at a local restaurant tonight and we will once again overnight at the Ancient House Resort. (B,L,D)

Day 12 – Saturday, May 25: Danang to Ho Chi Minh City

We will depart Hoi An early this morning and drive north to Danang and the airport to catch our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Once we arrive in Saigon we will check into our rooms at the Sapphire Hotel before departing for a short city tour to visit some of Ho Chi Minh City’s most important cultural sites including the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Church, the History Museum, the Central Post Office and the Ben Thanh Market. After we finish our tour we will return to the Sapphire Hotel to prepare for dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 13 – Sunday, May 26: Cu Chi

This morning we will travel just northwest of the Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were a vast network of tunnels (250 kilometers in Cu Chi District alone) built during the Vietnam War in order to facilitate Viet Cong control over large rural areas close to Saigon. They were also used for protection from American bombings and as way to mount surprise attacks against American forces. Today the tunnels have been enlarged slightly to accommodate visitors. After our visit to the tunnels we will travel back to Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to the Sapphire Hotel. Dinner will be at a local restaurant tonight. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Monday, May 27: Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, Cambodia

After breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. After our short flight we will clear immigration and customs before transferring to our hotel. We will stay at the Pavillon d’Orient Boutique Hotel while in Siem Reap. The Pavillon is a beautiful hotel with comfortable rooms, beautiful gardens, and a great pool. (B,L,D)

Day 15 – Tuesday, May 28: The Fabulous Temples of Angkor Watt

We will arise very early this morning in order to arrive at Angkor Watt for sunrise. The huge temple is fantastic in the early morning light and will be a great start to a full day of exploring the incredible ruins of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer empire. After sunrise most tourists depart for Siem Reap for breakfast, but we will bring a packed breakfast in order to visit Angkor Watt after sunrise when it’s less crowded. We will spend the majority of the morning at Angkor Watt, the largest religious structure in the world. The grandeur of this temple is unmatched with its exquisite bas-reliefs, flooded moat, sandstone causeway, carved outer walls and three storey central temple. After Angkor Watt we will visit the decaying temple of Ta Prohm whose walls and spires are still draped in vegetation including enormous trees whose roots meander over and through the temple stones. Ta Prohm looks much as most of the ruins did when they were first discovered giving it an other-worldly feel. We will have a packed lunch with us as well and after visiting Ta Prohm we will take a break to have a picnic lunch. After lunch we will have a brief visit to the temple of Preah Khan (the Temple of the Sacred Sword) with its maze of vaulted corridors, lichen-encrusted stones and elegant carvings. From Preah Khan we will finish our day at the complex of structures that make up Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was a fortified city that covered 10 square miles. Today the monumental gates each with gigantic stone faces will welcome us to the central temple area. Within this complex we will visit the Baphuon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and most impressive of all Bayon Temple. Bayon’s gothic towers decorated with huge beguiling faces are extraordinarily impressive and should yield fantastic photos in the late afternoon through to sunset. We will return to Siem Reap in the early evening to enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance during dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 16 – Wednesday, May 29: Tonle Sap Lake or Free Day

After breakfast, for those who wish to participate, we will depart for Tonle Sap Lake. Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and during the wet season the rising water level of the Mekong River backs up into the lake causing the lake to grow from 2500 sq km to more than 13,000 sq km. This seasonal flow of water also moves vast quantities of nutrients making Tonle Sap an incredibly rich spawning grounds for fish. The lake is the largest inland fishery in the world. Once we arrive at the lake we will board our motor-powered sampan for the journey to Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. Along the way we will wind through floating villages and flooded forests and have a chance to observe the different fishing methods used on the lake. We will have a packed lunch with us. The bird sanctuary and biosphere reserve of Prek Toal protects some of the rarest water birds in Southeast Asia and if we are lucky we could see both lesser and greater adjutant storks, spot-billed pelicans, milky storks and perhaps even a sarus crane. Besides the big wading birds the sanctuary is home to a host of other bird species and the concentrations can be staggering. We will return to Siem Reap in the early evening for dinner and overnight. For those who wish to opt out of the Tonle Sap trip you are free to explore Siem Reap on your own, go back for another visit to the temples or just relax at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 17 – Thursday, May 30: Siem Reap to Our Asian Gateway and on to the US

We will transfer to the airport early this morning to begin our long journey home. Our flight will take us to our Asian gateway city where we will change planes for our flight back to the US. We will arrive in the US in the afternoon on the same day we departed, perhaps even earlier than we left, due to the magic of crossing the International Dateline. Once we go through immigration and customs we will transfer to our final flight home arriving in Charlotte in the early evening.

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.

Cost:

$3,493.00/person all-inclusive tour package

$1,900.00/person estimated international airfare*

$   395.00/person estimated domestic airfare within Vietnam and Cambodia*

$5,788.00/person all-inclusive*

*Note: It is EcoQuest Travel’s philosophy to provide an all-inclusive price, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, we are only able to provide estimated airfare at this time.  The actual date of ticketing will determine the price.  Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimates the savings will be passed on to you. If ticket prices are higher you will be invoiced the difference.

What’s Included:

  • Round-trip airfare from US gateway city to Hanoi, Vietnam (see conditions above)
  • Land, air and boat transportation within Vietnam (see conditions above regarding domestic air)
  • All accommodations – based upon double occupancy (single supplement is available for an additional $452.00)
  • All tours within the scheduled itinerary
  • Most meals are included (please see the trip itinerary to see what is included)
  • Permits, entrance fees and guides
  • The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel professionals

What’s Not Included:

  • Drinks during meals (though bottled water will be available on our bus)
  • Gratuities (for our Vietnamese drivers and guides)
  • Passport and Visa fees
  • Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
  • Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)
  • Gifts and personal items or expenses

Travel Documents:

A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Vietnam. In addition Vietnam requires an entry visa available from their embassy in Washington DC. The fee for a tourist visa to visit Vietnam is $70.00, but this can and does change so we will update you before you apply. Complete instructions for obtaining a visa and visa application forms are found on the Vietnamese Embassy’s website: www.vietnamembassy-usa.org.

A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is also required for travel in Cambodia. In addition, Cambodia requires an entry visa available from their embassy in Washington DC. The fee for a tourist visa is $25.00, but this can and does change so we will update you before you apply. Complete instructions for obtaining a visa and visa application forms are found on the Cambodian Embassy’s website: www.embassyofcambodia.org.

Group Size:

The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 8 people. Although 8 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 16 people.

Health Requirements:

The Vietnamese and Cambodian Governments do not require vaccination against yellow fever for entry into the country unless coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic. There is little risk of yellow fever in Vietnam and Cambodia so a yellow fever vaccination is unnecessary for this trip. There are, however, several immunizations that would be prudent to consider prior to traveling in Southeast Asia. These include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Japanese Encephalitis. One should also check to make sure that vaccines against Tetanus/Diphtheria and Polio are up to date. Malaria is present in Vietnam and Cambodia and anti-malarial medications should be considered mandatory for this trip. Please be aware that not all anti-malarial drugs are effective in Southeast Asia so be sure to consult with your physician to insure effective protection. Information on travel related diseases and vaccines to prevent them can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website at: www.cdc.gov/travel

We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date (at least 6 months prior to departure).

Payments and Reservations:

A deposit of $1,000.00 per person is required along with your reservation form in order to reserve space on the trip. This ensures airline seating space and necessary early deposits. We encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of the date the first payment is due, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Vietnam/Cambodia Trip 2013. If paying by credit card you can include your credit card number and expiration date on your reservation form. This form is available on our website: www.ecoquesttravel.net and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, you can phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard, and most bank debit cards.

  • A payment of at least $2,394.00 is required no later than November 16, 2012
  • The remainder of the trip expense ($2,394.00) will be due on or before March 1, 2013

Cancellation:

The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in Vietnam and Cambodia. Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you; however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.

  • Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. cancels this trip, due to circumstances beyond our control or low trip participant numbers, a refund of the initial deposit and any payments made will be issued.

Travel Insurance:

EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Allianz Global Assistance (formerly – Access America) to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients.  They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits.  You can find more information on EcoQuest Travel’s website (www.ecoquesttravel.net) including how to get quotes and sign up. You do not have to use Allianz Global Assistance and may choose to use another company. In either case, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance. If you do decide to purchase travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance please give them the following EcoQuest Travel vendor (or ACCAM) number: F031120. This number identifies that you are working with an Allianz Global Assistance partner.

Note:  Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Allianz Global Assistance if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit.  For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.

General Information:

Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate will be hot and humid. More information on trip conditions will be provided in the final packet. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.

Trip Leaders:

Dave Davenport: Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.