“Holy Halong Bay with Alluring Angkor Wat” II

Exploring Vietnam & Cambodia
Nov 17-26, 2024
Small Group of 18 participants



Who’s ready to explore 2 countries of unique cultures, architectural wonders, natural beauty and mind-blowing adventure? Our new AFS trip is an Asian affair that dreams are made of. Close your eyes and imagine yourself floating through thousands of magical islands aboard a luxury boat in Halong Bay or by ballooning over a thousand temples of Angkor Wat. Add tours by army jeeps, floating villages and a personal blessing by monks – now you have incomparable “bragging rights “ for a trip like no other. This exotic dual-destination vacation exceeds imagination. We know because our past groups loved it. 

 Discover the beauty of timeless villages and terraced rice paddies in places that blend the old with the new so well. Each country offers different splendors of culture and philosophies. It begins in Hanoi, capital city, so alluring with a bashful charm. Shrouded in mystery after years of isolation, Vietnam now makes Americans feel so welcome. It’s not just tours of famous historic sites but also some sincere chewing with our foodie tour, cooking class and produce markets by rickshaw bicycles. Hanoi is the new culinary superpower. 

 On to the magnificent UNESCO site Halong Bay, one of the “7 Wonders of Nature” with ethereal beauty and Vietnam’s premier postcard destination. We cruise the emerald waters in our luxuriously appointed “ junk,” a wooden vessel with the finest amenities, cuisines and cabins. It’s a unique adventure to kayak among hundreds of towering limestone islands, exploring the cool caves and remote lagoons while swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

 We then fly to the Kingdom of Cambodia, a land synonymous with tranquility and gateway to the world heritage site of Angkor Wat. With countless temples spread over 16 miles, it’s the largest religious structure on earth and a must for anyone’s bucket list! Everyone loves the city of Siem Reap.  Absolutely everything is so affordable, you should do your Christmas shopping at the famous Night Market. You’ll get massages at ridiculously low prices. We visit the gentle ellies at the famous sanctuary of Kulen Elephant Forest, ride tuk tuks and sampans to villages, and you will love our deluxe Sofitel Resort & Spa! 

 November is the best time to visit. We booked the best properties a year ahead to give you a 5-star experience at a 3-star price no one can beat. You’ve come so far to visit these once-in-a-lifetime gems and we want you to do it in style. Many of you begged us for this Indochina getaway. It’s finally real. Our small exclusive group is limited to 24 travel lovers. Come for the sensory overload as well as downtime for pampering yourself. Utterly compelling, the cultural and natural marvels in both Vietnam and Cambodia will leave you spellbound with forever memories! 



Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

Click here for the Trip Tips

Click for a printable PDF itinerary

Nov 17 –  Depart USA

Departure – Fly USA to Hanoi. (Air details coming and trip tips. In crossing the international date line, you lose a day but gain it back on return.)

Nov 18 – Welcome to Vietnam!

One could spend years visiting this exciting little country of adventure and mystery and not even scratch the surface. The capital of Hanoi is the best base for cultural experiences, museums of history, bustling markets and fresh local cuisines found nowhere else. The street food scene is wonderful.  

On arrival, transfer to Novotel Hotel in the heart of bustling Hanoi. (One common group airport pick-up based on flight times. Some may want to come in an extra day to explore on own. Hotel check-in begins at 2 PM. )  

Tonight we get to know our fellow AFS travelers with a Welcome Dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant with a variety of delicious cuisines.

 Novotel Hotel Hanoi    link      D 

The Novotel offers a range of amenities to enjoy. The hotel features a beautiful swimming pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens, free WiFi, state-of-the-art equipment fitness center. It boasts multiple dining options with a delicious buffet breakfast and an à la carte menu for lunch and dinner. There is a cozy bar where guests can enjoy a refreshing drink or socialize with fellow AFSers.  It’s conveniently located in the heart of the city, providing easy access to popular attractions, shopping centers, and cultural sites. Situated in the historic Old Quarter, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich culture and vibrant atmosphere of Hanoi. 


Nov 19- Hanoi City Tour & Bicycles 

 Picturesque lakes, French colonial buildings, blaring horns with the smell of incense in the air, this is Hanoi!   After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of the best sites. With over 1000 years of history and considered as the cultural capital of Vietnam, Hanoi still retains its charm in the alleyways of the Old Quater and its beautiful lakes. We begin at the university and Temple of Literature and then to Ba Dinh Square, the biggest place where all political and cultural events take place. Stop for photos at Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Free time to explore the endless produce stalls at fabulous Dong Market. 

AFSers love bicycle tours. In the afternoon, our rickshaw drivers will pedal us around the back streets of the old town for an overview of how locals live, the Flower Market and around Hoen Kiem Lake. Later we proceed to watch the famous Water Puppet Show. Dating back 900 years, water puppetry is a unique traditional art form to Vietnam. The puppets tell folktales and legends about historic heroes against the backdrop of a Vietnamese orchestra. 

 If time allows, consider a visit to Hoa Lo Prison, “ the Hanoi Hilton” museum. Or shop and slurp pho noodles bowls with locals at the market.  Nightlife here is pulsing hot with clubs, beer gardens, night market, live music pubs, the Central Circus for stage performances, Hanoi Opera House and the cool outdoor dining venues at West Lake Park. 

Overnight –   Novotel       B 

Nov 20 – Halong Bay 

Designated a world heritage site in 1994, Halong Bay is the most popular tourist attraction in Vietnam; it’s known for its towering limestone pillars or karsts, tiny islets, mountain forest, caves and grottoes with a unique ecosystem of coral reefs and mangrove forest.  

After check out, we board our private coach to head out for a 3.5 hr drive through the Red River delta to Halong with views of the lush valleys and farmers telling their vast rice paddy fields. Upon arrival to the cruise port, we transfer to our luxury Amanda Cruise! This ain’t no junk, it is the only 5-star luxury vessel here to pamper you silly. There’s a warm welcome by the staff with refreshing drink and cold towels for you. After check-in, time for a briefing on your exciting journey into the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay with its thousands of limestone islands. 

After a rest with an herbal foot bath in your deluxe cabin, enjoy a delicious lunch as we cruise along vertical
cliffs rising from pure emerald waters. We transfer by tender boats over to Trinh Nu. Then board our kayaks for an adventure of easy paddling in still waters around the towering cliffs. Disembark for a short walk and then board bamboo row boats or your own kayak into Trinh Cave. Monkeys and orchids abound here. We then walk to Tinh Island beach to swim in the warm waters with a white sandy bottom.  

At 5 PM, we tender back to our boat for an AFS Sunset Party while cruising along the shores. At 6 PM it’s cooking class time for all. Our chef will teach us the art of making traditional Vietnamese steamed rice balls, followed by our Gala Dinner with fresh fish and delectable cuisine. Weather permitting, will be served outside on the sun deck under a star-studded sky. After dinner, enjoy a massage at the spa or dancing to music at the Sky Bar. Our ship anchors in a quiet bay for your peaceful sleep tonight. 

Overnight –  5-star Amanda Cruise                 B, L, D 

Amanda Cruise is the first and only 5-star cruise ship in Ha Long to offer a 2-day-1-night itinerary exploring unspoiled spots such as Surprise Cave and Trinh Nu Beach with the longest and most beautiful route in Ha Long Bay. With a modern design fusing a bit of delicate classic styling inspired by European ships, Amanda Cruise is created as a true beauty of harmony, luxury and charm.

Nov 21- Halong, Hanoi By Night Jeep Tour

Join us at sunrise for Tai Chi exercise on the sundeck with a backdrop of incredible views, followed by a light breakfast. 7:30 AM. We set sail in small boats to Halong’s hidden coves unseen by many. (Exact locations will be determined by tide conditions and subject to change.) We dock at Sung Sot Cave or ‘ Surprise Cave ‘, the largest and most beautiful cave and all of Halong with unique rock formations found nowhere else. It’s worth the walk up 100 stone steps through the forest and mountain to enter. Inside is a beautiful grotto with two chambers of stalactites dropping
dramatically from high ceiling over a clear pond. The other chamber can hold a thousand people at one time. 

 Check out around 10 AM and we head back to Hanoi to best accommodate our internal flight schedules. Check into Novotel for a rest and get ready for some mouthwatering fun tonight!

We explore the vibrant streets of Hanoi with iconic Vietnam Army Jeeps. This unique adventure will introduce us to a variety of local places to taste delicious dishes. Sip egg coffee with pork buns to endless noodle creations. The street food scene is wonderful here, and even has Michelin-starred restaurants. Our chauffeur guides share insider tips about Hanoi’s special food scene, revealing hidden gems and hot spots along the way. 

Overnight –  Novotel                    B,D 

Nov 22 – Fly to Siem Reap 

Welcome to Cambodia! This beautiful country, rich in history, offers authentic culture, lush mountain landscapes and the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet.

Morning free to explore Hanoi. At noon, transfer to airport for our flight at 3:10 to 4:55 pm on Vietnam Airlines. Check into the glorious 5-star Sofitel Resort and Spa. Set on tropical grounds with lakes, this refined resort is a short walk to the Angkor National Museum and 3 miles to the Angkor temple complex. Our elegant rooms come with free Wi-Fi, coffee makers, most with balconies over garden views. The French restaurant overlooks the lake and the international restaurant has outdoor terraced seating. So many amenities here, including bars, bikes, a lagoon-style outdoor pool, fitness center and an award-winning spa. 

 This evening enjoy the Aspera Cultural Show with a Welcome Dinner. The show captivates the elegance of traditional Cambodian dance with performers in vibrant costumes. Set to mesmerizing music, they tell stories from Cambodian mythology. Visitors love this unique cultural experience with delicious Cambodian cuisines.  

Overnight –   Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort              B,D 

Nov 23 – Full Day Angkor Wat Tour 

 After buffet breakfast, we embark into the ancient wonders of Angkor, the crown jewel of the 12th century Khmer empire and World Heritage Site, called one of the seven wonders of the world. Here is the largest religious monument in the world.  Over  100 temples spread over 16 miles represent Buddhism and Hinduism with illustrious examples of Khmer art and architecture. You’ll be astonished by its sheer scale and proportioned layout, including 1700 Asperas or gods sculpted in the walls.

 Our first stop is the south gate of Angkor Thom by the impressive Bayon temple of stone faces. Continue on to the Royal Enclosure, Elephant Terrace, Leper King, Ta Keo and Phimeanka temples.  Next is the enchanting Ta Prohm or “jungle temple“. Great group photos here of the huge Banyan tree roots intertwined with ancient ruins, a truly mystical atmosphere.

After more iconic sites, we break for lunch to refuel.  Now think “Tomb Raiders.”   On to the main Angkor Wat temple complex itself to be mesmerized by the grand tour and intricate details with the largest bas-relief in the world. We end at Bakneng Hill for extraordinary panoramic sunset views.  

Your evening is free. Our guide will give us plenty of suggestions. Siem comes alive at night. AFSers love Pub Street in the old French Quarter with dozens of venues so affordable and music with street performers, it’s mind-boggling. The Night Market is famous here for bargains of unique handicrafts to fine gems and jewelry. Get a ‘fish massage ‘here and shop till you drop.    

Overnight –   Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort        B 

Nov 24 – Morning with Elephants, Monks and Villages

We start our day with a special meditation session and blessing at a local pagoda. The Buddhist Blessing Ceremony is a traditional Cambodian practice dating back to ancient times. You’ll gain a deep and humbling understanding of the Kingdom and its people.

We transfer one hour by scenic drive into the mountains to fabulous Kulen Elephant Forest, a sanctuary for rescued ellies pampered with loving care by their mahouts. You’ll get a briefing about elephant behavior and the conservation efforts here in a natural habitat. Then we walk with the gentle giants to watch them bathe and play in the ponds. It’s an enriching interactive experience for both the elephants and visitors alike. Enjoy a Khmer-style lunch to fuel up for the rest of the day.

Afternoon we head to the dock and board our our wooden sampan boat to the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake. Photograph the stilt houses and enormous fish traps as you learn how people live on the water and rely on fishing for their livelihood. There are even floating schools and stores. The people are impoverished here and our past groups love to bring goodies for the children who come to greet us.  It’s fascinating to witness the unique human occupations here in twined with nature and the cycles of rising and falling water levels! 

Overnight –   Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort  B,L 

Flaot Village pix

Nov 25 – Free at Last! 

 This is your day to chill and play in fabulous Siem. Everyone wants to linger here for the countless options, especially at our deluxe Resort.  Ride the tuk-tuks for a few dollars to the old market or go zip lining at Flight of the Gibbon Park. Ride a bicycle back to Angkor for more temple viewing or book a jungle tour to the world renowned Reclining Buddha. 

To add an extra thrill, we offer an optional Hot Air Balloon safari at dawn, floating over the temples of Angkor, an experience loved by all.  ( $160, including transfers. Headcount later by email. ) 

Overnight –   Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort         B  

Nov 26- Departure 

 After breakfast, it’s time to bid farewell to Cambodia. Will arrange a common airport transfer based on flight times for your international flight back to USA.  



Deposit:  $500

Land price $2595 plus $246 air

This trip sold out so fast when presented on October 1, and we are grateful for each of you.  The waitlist is long, so we added a second trip for you. Group 2 is a smaller group of 18 participants, whereas group one has 26 participants.   Please understand that the smaller the group, the higher the per-person cost. All global suppliers present trip quotes in brackets; thus, this trip cost is slightly higher. We have wonderful AFSers in both groups. Carol and Deanna will be leading these. Details will come soon in trip tips.

Payment schedule: 2nd deposit of 50% is due July 7, and the final due Aug 7. Pre-paid gratuities will be added to your final invoice later for guides, drivers and local staff for your convenience.  Limit 3 single rooms plus $975.  For ease of distribution will pre-collect gratuities for professional guides, drivers etc. to be determined later.

Included-  all daily tours with national entrance fees included by private coach with national licensed guides, meals as stated daily, 7 nights first class hotels with one night deluxe cruise.

Not Included –  Air from USA, Visas $35 at this time for both countries

Itineraries are prepared up to a year ahead and things can change.  Air costs can change until ticketed.  Modifications may be made.   All rooms are run of house.

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