Welcome to Our Adventure in Vietnam & Cambodia!

There are so many amazing places to visit in Vietnam and Cambodia. We had a few difficult choices to make before we finally narrowed it down to this very special three-part trip. As you already know, our Pre-Trip is in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, our Main Trip is a luxury riverboat cruise up the Mekong River, and our “can’t miss” Post-Trip is in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat. The Vietnamese and Cambodians that I met absolutely loved Americans and are very passionate about showing us their respective countries. Over the following pages you will get a detailed overview of this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Important Dates

Pre-Trip in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
Saturday, October 12-14

Luxury Cruise on the Mekong River
Monday, October 14-21

Post-Trip in Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Monday, October 21-23

AmaDara Lounge
Angkor Thom
The Mekong Delta

Pre-Trip in Saigon — October 12-14

Feel free to join the Pre-Tour on any day. Please let us know once you have made your plane reservations and we’ll have your room ready for you.
On Saturday, October 12, we will meet you in Ho Chi Minh City, or, if you prefer, Saigon, as it is still commonly known. Saigon is a vibrant city that is the perfect spot to begin our Pre-Trip! As we walk through charming tree-lined streets and timeless alleys, we will see and feel the reminders of Saigon’s history in the Khmer, Chinese and French Empires, respectively. The early kingdom that eventually became Vietnam was founded roughly 5000 years ago by Hung Vuong, a King who ruled over the diverse mix of nomadic Mongols from China and migrants from Indonesia who had, by then, settled in the Mekong River Delta region. To give you some context, here are some other events that were happening around the world -- the founding of Troy; the first version of Stonehenge was being built; the Bronze Age was flourishing in Acient Greece; and the Methuselah Tree, the second-oldest organism on record (and only one currently still alive) was germinated in what is now Inyo County, California. As we fast forward to that first evening in Saigon, we will gather for dinner and a concert to re-acquaint ourselves with old friends, welcome new travelers to our group, and celebrate our first Castles & Concerts adventure in Southeast Asia.
Post office designed by Gustave Eiffel

Saigon — October 12-14

On Sunday, October 13, we will delve deeper into Saigon and see how it has successfully transitioned from a city in turmoil to one of the brightest lights in Southeast Asia. We will begin by visiting The Presidential/Reunification Palace (now a museum) in the heart of the city. Designed and re-built in the 1960s after being bombed during the Vietnamese Civil War, the Palace was the residence and office of the South Vietnamese President. The French, in the 1860s and 70s, built the previous Palace (on the same site) to be their governmental center after completing their invasion of Cambodia, South Vietnam and North Vietnam.

When the Japanese occupied Vietnam during WWII, they used the Palace as their seat of government -- only to return it to the French -- who then turned it over to the South Vietnamese government in the mid-1950s. Significantly and symbolically, a North Vietnamese Army tank burst through the gates of the Palace in April 1975 to tell the world that the Vietnamese Civil War was over. The capital of the newly-unified Vietnam was moved to Hanoi and the Palace has been kept largely intact as a museum ever since.
That evening, we will have another wonderful dinner and concert; and for those with the energy, a later evening visit to one (or more) of the famous roof-top bars once patronized by the large group of intrepid war correspondents that included Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, to name but a few.
Saigon at night

The Mekong River — Monday, October 14

Ben Thanh Market
On Monday, October 14, we will officially start our Main Trip and board the AmaDara, a beautiful luxury riverboat appointed with French Colonial decor and spacious staterooms. Before we leave Saigon, however, some of you may want to take a scooter tour on your own to explore more of the city; and some others may want to visit the world-renowned Ben Thanh Market to pick-up some souvenirs. After we board our ship that afternoon, we will have plenty of time to move into our rooms and get settled. We will gather that evening for our fist Main Trip Show and look forward to being on our floating home for the next seven nights
Our Mekong River Home, the AmaDara

Vietnam — Cai Be, Sa Dec & Tan Chau — October 15 & 16

On Tuesday, October 15, we visit the rural villages of Cai Be and Sa Dec, and on Wednesday, October 16, we visit Tan Chau. In these river communities, many of the traditions passed down through the years continue to inform how people live, work and worship today. While exploring the villages of Cai Be and Sa Dec, we will visit markets, traditional homes (including the setting of the so-called Vietnamese “Romeo and Juliet”) and a Cao Dai religious temple. This religion, founded in Vietnam, is a mix of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism with some pop culture mixed in. Interestingly enough, their patron saints are Nguyen Bien Khiem, the poet widely regarded as the Vietnamese “Nostradamus”; Sun Yat Sen, the revolutionary and founder of Taiwan; and Victor Hugo! An unlikely cast, but given the Vietnamese history of being conquered by both the Chinese and the French, this appears to be a very pragmatic approach, to say the least. Our day in Tan Chau begins by taking a tricycle taxi ride through town before visiting two small textile operations to learn about silk-weaving and basket making.
Our first three days on board find us cruising up the Vietnamese portion of the Mekong River, where we will get our first (but not only) glimpse into the communities that have flourished, for thousands of years, along this river. We will get off the boat to explore everyday
Sa Dec
Cao Dai Temple

Cambodia — Phnom Penh & Oudong — October 17 & 18

We will cross the border between Vietnam & Cambodia while on the Mekong River. Our first steps in Cambodia will be in the royal capital, Phnom Penh, followed by a trip to the former royal capital, Oudong.
On Thursday, October 17, we will cross the border into Cambodia and arrive in the capital city, Phnom Penh. Once considered the “Pearl” of French IndoChina, Phnom Penh, like Saigon, has used its near double-digit economic growth to move on from its mid-to-late 20th century troubles. Amongst the new, modern buildings starting to dot its skyline, this ancient river city maintains its charm with an elegant mix of tree-lined boulevards, French colonial mansions, Angkorian architecture and a decidedly Buddhist Royal Palace. We will visit the Silver Pagoda, as well as the soaring roof-lines and solid silver floors of that iconic Palace, where the King and his Mother still live. If you so choose, you can visit the fabulous National Museum with an impressive collection of Khmer artifacts, as well as delve into as much or as little of Cambodia’s 20th Century history as you would like. We will spend overnight docked and this will give you a chance to sample, that evening, some of the wonderful restaurants in Phnom Penh. The morning of Friday, October 18, we will visit the former royal capital of Cambodia, Oudong. We will visit an impressive Buddhist Monastery and receive a special, private blessing there. In the afternoon, we are back in Phnom Penh to explore some more.
Oudong Monastary
The Royal Palace of Cambodia

Mekong River -- Facts & Figures

The Mekong River Basin is one of the most biodiverse areas on earth, second only to the Amazon; there are over 20,000 plant, 430 mammal, 1,200 bird, 850 fish, as well as 800 reptile and amphibian species, respectively.

The Mekong has the largest variety of very large fish in the world, including the giant river carp, which grows as large as six feet long and 150 lbs.; and the giant freshwater stingray which can have a wingspan of over 12 feet

Starting in the Chinese Himalayan “Three-River Area” (along with the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers), the Mekong, at 2,718 miles, is generally considered the 12th-longest river in the World. The Upper Mekong Basin is in China and the Lower Mekong Basin runs through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar

The Mekong contains the world’s largest in-land fishery, with a yield of over 2,000,000 tons of fish per year. Over 40 million people work in this industry, roughly 2/3 of the entire rural population.

Cambodia — Oknhatey-Angkor Ban-Kampong Cham — October 19 & 20

On Saturday, October 19, we will visit, by smaller boat, Oknhatey, known as the “Silk Island”. Largely untouched by tourism, we will have a chance to visit an elementary school and observe the traditional silk-weaving of handicrafts and garments.

Weather & Clothing in Vietnam & Cambodia

We are travling at the very end of the “rainy” season, which means the air will be cleaner, the scenery will be lush and green and the moat at Angkor Wat will be full. The temperature will be hot & humid with the occasional afternoon shower. Bring light, breathable clothing and sturdy, comfortable sandals or walking shoes. Many of the temples and homes require that we remove our shoes before entering.
Silk Island
Phnom Srei
On Sunday, October 20, we will have a walking tour of Angkor Ban, one of the few villages in Cambodia that was not destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Hundreds of intact wooden homes on stilts stand next to the banana trees that provide shade to the villagers as they go about their daily business. That afternoon, we will tour the twin mountains, Phnom Srei and Phnom Pros, literally translated as Woman Hill and Man Hill, respectively. As the legend goes, at one time, the custom in this part of the Khmer Empire was for women to propose marriage to men. After encountering people from other regions, the women wanted the men to propose to them instead (as was the custom in other parts of the Empire). The men objected and to settle the matter, a contest was held to see which sex could build a taller mountian in one night. At sunset, work began feverishly and by midnight, the men were ahead. The women lit a fire around 3 am and the men, thinking it was morning light, went to sleep thinking that they were comfortably ahead. The women kept working and in the morning, their mountain was higher. So now you know.

Cambodia — Post-Trip in Siem Reap - Angkor Wat — October 21-23

On Monday, October 21, we will conclude the Main Trip and bid farewell to the lovely crew of the AmaDara. All of us will make our way to Siem Reap, the location of our Post-Trip and the modern-day home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat.

In the 12th Century AD, Suryavarman II, one of the Khmerian Empire’s greatest Kings, ascended to power by fi rst outwitting a rival prince and then violently overthrowing the elderly monarch (who also happened to be Suryavarman’s uncle). During Suryavarman II’s reign, the Khmer Empire was known for internal peace, military campaigns against the Dai Viet (a precursor state to Vietnam), diplomacy with China and, perhaps most importantly, the building of Angkor Wat, the ultimate masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat was completed in just 30 years and remains the single-largest religious monument in the world.
Bayon Temple
Angkor Wat
The five central towers of Angkor Wat evoke the peaks of Mount Heru, the home of the Hindu gods; and the walls and moat symbolise the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean. Because it is one of the only Khmer temples oriented towards the west, many scholars believe that Suryavarman II intended it to serve as his funerary temple. If true, it would rival the Pyramids as the greatest expenditure of energy and resources on the disposal of a corpse. The temple uses sandstone as its main building material and has universally drawn praise, for centuries, for its beauty and harmony of design.

After Suryavarman II died, a succession of weak and feuding rulers followed and the Khmer empire was eventually sacked by the Chams (another traditional foreign enemy of the Khmer). During this time, Angkor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu temple to a Buddhist center of worship, which continues to the present day.

Cambodia — Siem Reap-Angkor Wat — October 21-23

Our Post-Trip home in Siem Reap is the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Resort. This resort is located very near the main entrance to Angkor Wat and is a true oasis with beautiful, immaculately-kept grounds and well-appointed, spacious and serene rooms.

Over the next few days, we will explore Angkor Wat and other nearby religious structures and temples. The afternoon of our arrival, Monday, October 21, we will visit the Ta Prohm Temple (featured in the Tomb Raider movie series), where we get to see, first-hand, nature reclaiming this man-made structure, one branch at a time.
Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Resort
Ta Prohm Temple
The morning of Tuesday, October 22, we will visit Angkor Wat and explore the temple that was described by the 19th Century French naturalist and explorer, Henri Mouhot, as a temple “rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo...it is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome....” After lunch, we will visit the nearby Banteay Srei. This temple is considered the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art and got its name, Banteay Srei (or “Citadel of Women”), because the beautiful carvings are said to be too fine to have been done by the hand of a man. Wednesday, October 23, is our last day of the trip. After breakfast, we will visit Angkor Thom (or “The Great City”). Here, we will visit Bayon Temple, the home of the gigantic smiling stone faces, as well as the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. After lunch, most of us will make our way to Siem Reap airport to fly to our next stop, whether it be all the way home, or another destination in Southeast Asia.


We are so excited that another amazing group of entertainers will join us on our adventure to Vietnam and Cambodia. Livingston Taylor will enthrall us with his guitar, voice and compelling story-telling; Patrick Martin will dumbfound us with his mysterious magic; Carlos Reyes will wow us with his soulful musical stylings and virtuosity; Barnaby Finch will amaze us on the keyboards with his beautiful song interpretations; Vince Littleton comes back to keep us all in time with his drum/percussion artistry; and we will have some other wonderful singers on-board in the way of Vince’s wife, Carol Bozzio-Littleton; Castles & Concert’s regular, Angie Byrd; and, joining us for the first time, Tony-Award winning vocalist, Michael Maguire. Of course, Tom, Matt and Chip will do their part to join in and add to the musical fun!

An Adventure in Vietnam & Cambodia

Pre-Trip in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
Saturday, October 12-14

Luxury Cruise on the Mekong River
Monday, October 14-21

Post-Trip in Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Monday, October 21-23


Please feel free to email or call us with any questions you may have. Thank you.


(650) 444-3934
(661) 803-2098
(415) 492-1059