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From Saigon to Mandalay
(Countries visited: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar)

This journey through the span of Indochina has been artistically tailored to provide us with enough time to absorb the rich cultural experience of the four countries we visit and take in the many attractions. From the Hindu and Buddhist sites in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, to the isolated country of Myanmar (Burma), this is a journey from the medieval, to the modern.

Day 01, Wednesday: Arrive Phnom Penh
Sohm swaakohm! (Welcome in Khmer) We arrive in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, located at the confluence of the beautiful Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. The city is considered to be the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina and was founded as a small monastery in 1372 by a rich Khmer woman by the name of Penh after she found four Buddha statues in a tree trunk on the bank of the Mekong. She set up the monastery at a nearby hill or "Phnom".
Overnight: Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh (2 nights)

Day 02, Thursday: Phnom Penh
We start the day with a visit to the Wat Phnom temple, where the first pagoda was built. Later we explore Wat Ounalom, built in 1443 to house a single hair of Buddha and comprised of 44 structures facing the Silver Pagoda. Next we tour the National Museum containing a fine collection of Khmer art including a beautiful 6th century bronze statue of Vishnu. The Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide) became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation center and was known as Security Prison 21. We culminate the day with a visit to the Central Market, distinguished by its central dome and filled with shops selling jewelry, fabrics and all kinds of souvenirs making it a great place for shopping. (B)

Day 03, Friday: Phnom Penh / Siem Reap (Flight)
This morning we take a short flight to Siem Reap where we tour the majestic Angkor Wat. This temple was constructed over a period of 30 years and illustrates some of the most exquisite examples of Khmer and Hindu art. In 1992, the monuments and the city of Angkor were declared a World Heritage Site. Our next stop is at the Angkor Thom, a fortified Royal City (10 square kilometers / 4 square miles) encircled by a moat 100 metres / 109 yards wide with five monumental gates. In the center of the walled city are the most important monuments including the Baphuon, the Terrace of Elephants and the Bayon - Jayavarman VII's temple mount standing at the center of Angkor Thom. This is one of the most popular and interesting of Angkor's monuments with its narrow corridors, steep flights of stairs and an amazing collection of towers.
Overnight: Angkor Century Hotel, Siem Reap (2 nights) (B)

Day 04, Saturday: Siem Reap
We spend another day at Siem Reap and visit more interesting sites. Banteay Srei, built late in the 10th century, is a square Hindu temple with entrances on the east and west. We also visit the three central towers decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. Banteay Samre, Ta Keo and Ta Prohm. One of the most popular attractions of Angkor, Ta Prohm looks very much as most of the Angkor monuments would have appeared when European explorers first stumbled across the site. Pre Rup and Eastern Mebon wrap-up an extraordinary day of sightseeing. (B)

Day 05, Sunday: Siem Reap / Ho Chi Minh City (Flight)
Our morning tour includes Chau Say Tevoda, built during the 12th century, where we visit the Thommanon temple, Neak Pean Buddhist and Prasat Kravan. Here five brick towers were built for Hindu worship in 921 and are notable for the intricate bas-reliefs cut into the bricks on the interior walls. Later this afternoon we take our flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the largest of Vietnamese cities where we experience the hustle and bustle of city life; street markets, pavement cafes and sleek new coffee shops and pubs, the city churns and bubbles. Within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and culture.
Overnight: Majestic Hotel, Saigon (3 nights) (B)

Day 06, Monday: Saigon
We have a whole day to explore some of the most interesting sites, including the beautiful neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the Opera House also known as "Saigon Concert Hall", the Jade Emperor Pagoda with its colorful and mysterious ambiance, the Reunification Palace and Ben Thanh Market. We also visit the Giam Lam Pagoda built at the end of the 17th century and the oldest pagoda in Saigon, Binh Tay Market, and finally the Thien Hau Pagoda, one of the most active in Cholon. (B)

Day 07, Tuesday: Saigon
Today we take an interesting excursion to My Tho , the capital of Tien Giang Province (Note: This excursion may be substituted for one to Cu Chi and Tay Ninh.) The economy of My Tho is based on fishing and the cultivation of rice, coconuts, bananas, mangos, longans and citrus fruits. We have the opportunity to visit the centuries-old My Tho Church and experience the Central Market, filled with stalls selling everything from fresh food and bulk tobacco to boat propellers. Cao Dai Temple in the Long An Province, is a smaller temple than the one at Tay Ninh, but is well worth a visit. The Vinh Trang Pagoda is a beautiful and well-maintained sanctuary where charitable monks provide a home to needy children. Finally we visit Dragon Island with its many longan orchards and lush, palm-fringed shores lined with traditional wooden fishing boats. (B)

Day 08, Wednesday: Saigon / Hue (Flight)
A short flight takes us to Hue, the 19th Century Imperial City which was for a long time the cultural and intellectual center of Vietnam. Our Hue tour includes the Citadel that was built in the early 19th century and modeled after the Forbidden City in Peking. Ngo Mon Gate is the principal entrance to the Imperial Enclosure and faces the Flag Tower. The Forbidden Purple City was reserved for the personal use of the emperor and the only servants allowed into the compound were eunuchs. We enjoy free time in the evening - an ideal time to mingle with the local Hue people.
Overnight: Saigon Morin Hotel, Hue (2 nights) (B)

Day 09, Thursday: Hue
A jaunt to Tu Duc Tomb, once the Royal Palace of Tu Duc, begins our day's tour. Constructed between 1864 and 1867, its pavilions are framed in a tranquil setting of forested hills and lakes. The Khai Dinh Tomb, the last monument of the Nguyen dynasty, sits magnificently on the slopes of Chau E Mountain in Chau Chau Village and houses a long staircase flanked by dragons and decorated with stunning ceiling murals and ceramic frescoes. Located just outside of Hue on the bank of the Perfume River, Thien Mu Pagoda was a hotbed of anti-government protests during the early 1960s. The Emperor Minh Mang Tomb complex built in 1840 is known for its magnificent architecture, military statuaries and elaborate decorations. It is perhaps the most beautiful of Hue's pagodas and tombs, a fitting end to a spectacular day. (B)

Day 10, Friday: Hue / Danang / Hoi An (Drive 136 kms / 85 miles)
We travel to Danang through the Hai Van Pass, crossing the Truong Son Mountain Range that juts dramatically into the South China Sea. This mountainous highway offers spectacular views. Our tour of Danang includes the Cham Museum, founded in 1915 by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, it has the finest open-air collection of Cham sculptures in the world. China Beach, made famous in the American TV series of the same name, stretches north and south of the Marble Mountains. The Marble Mountains consist of 5 stone hillocks made of marble and each is said to represent one of the five elements of the universe. The largest and most famous, Thuy Son, has a number of natural caves, in which Buddhist sanctuaries have been built over the centuries. We continue to Hoi An, a picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Overnight: Hoi An Beach Resort, Hoi An (2 nights) (B)

Day 11, Saturday: Hoi An
A full day visiting the many interesting sites of Hoi An, including Quan Cong Temple, founded in 1653. The Phuoc Kien Pagoda was built around 1690 and is a typical example of the Chinese 'clans' that were established in the Hoi An area. The Japanese Covered Bridge, constructed in 1593 was built by the Japanese community of Hoi An, to link them with the Chinese quarters across the river. The Sa Huynh Museum contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history. Finally we visit the Phung Hung House, a structure that combines Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese architectural styles and has been the home to one family for eight generations. (B)

Day 12, Sunday: Hoi An / Danang / Hanoi (Drive / Flight)
This morning we return to Danang for our flight to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We spend the day visiting this beautiful city including the One Pillar Pagoda built by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam's great leader. Time permitting we visit the local market to take advantage of the bargains.
Overnight: Sunway Hotel, Hanoi (2 nights) (B)

Day 13, Monday: Ha Long Bay
A trip to Ha Long Bay includes a boat ride to Hang Dau Go, a huge cave consisting of three chambers that are reached climbing 90 steps. The cave derives its Vietnamese name from the third of the chambers, which is said to have been used by Tran Hung Dao during the 13th century to store bamboo stakes that were used against Mongol invaders. Bo Nau is the 'Pelican' cave of interest. Thien Cung is "Heaven Palace". (B)

Day 14, Tuesday: Hanoi / Vientiane (Flight)
A short flight gets us to Vientiane, the Laotian capita located on a bend of the Mekong River, amidst fertile alluvial plains. Vientiane is a laid-back city with interesting wats and lively markets. We visit Pha That Luang (Great Sacred Reliquary or Great Stupa) built between the 11th and 13th centuries AD, a symbol of both Buddhism and Lao sovereignty. Patuxai is a large monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; the huge arch at the end of Thanon Lan Xang also gives an excellent view of the city. Haw Pha Kaew is the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy built in 1565, now converted into a museum containing some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures. Wat Si Saket was constructed in 1818 in the early Bangkok style; the interior walls of the cloister are punctured with small niches that contain more than 2000 silver and ceramic Buddha images. We end the day with a visit to the Talaat Sao Market to examine the fabrics, jewels and electronic goods available here.
Overnight: Lao Plaza Hotel, Vientiane (1 night) (B)

Day 15, Wednesday: Vientiane / Luang Prabang (Flight)
A short flight gets us to Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city of the Lan Xang Kingdom. The city is famous for its historic temples and an ethereal mountain setting. Wat Xieng Thong, built in 1560 is situated on the banks of the Mekong River, is considered the most beautiful monastery in Luang Prabang with ancient masterpieces of Lao art. Wat Wisunalat, the oldest operating temple in the city, boasts a collection of exquisite gilded wooden Buddha statues dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Wat Mai, constructed in 1821, was once the residence of the Phra Sangkharaj (the Patriarch of the Buddhist clergy). We complete this incredible day with a visit to Phousi Hill to take in the sunset.
Overnight: Villa Santi Hotel, Luang Prabang (2 nights) (B)

Day 16, Thursday: Luang Prabang
Today we embark on a day excursion to visit the Pak Ou Caves, located on a steep rock cliff at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou Rivers.The two caves are filled with Buddha images of varying styles, ages and sizes. Ban Xang Hai, located near the Pak Ou Caves, was once a 'Jar-Maker Village' where the community fills jars with lao-lao, the local rice whisky. Ban Thing Hong is located opposite of Ban Xang Hai and close to Pak Ou. Recently an excavated cave has yielded artifacts dating back 8000 years, including stone, bronze and metal tools, pottery, skeletons and fabrics. (B)

Day 17, Friday: Luang Prabang / Vientiane (Flight)
Our day starts with a visit to the magnificent Royal Palace. Wat That Luang contains the ashes of King Sisavang Vong, interred inside the large central stupa. The inside of the huge temple contains a few Luang Prabang Buddhas and other artifacts. Abbot Ajannn Khamjan was ordained here in 1940 and is one of the most revered monks in Luang Prabang. Wat Tham Xieng Maen, located in a 100m / 109 yards deep limestone cave, also contains many Buddha images.Late afternoon, we take our flight to Vientiane. The evening is free to stroll the local markets in search of exotic bargains.
Overnight: Lao Plaza Hotel, Vientiane (1 night) (B)

Day 18, Saturday: Vientiane / Bangkok / Yangon (Flight)
Mingalaba! (Welcome) Yangon lies in the fertile delta of the Yangon River and gives the impression of being full of trees, shade and shimmering stupas floating above the treetops. Our afternoon tour includes the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda which dates back about 2500 years and was built to house eight sacred hairs of the Buddha. Its bell-shaped superstructure is covered in about 60 tons of gold leaf. The National Museum holds several interesting exhibits, including the mammoth Sihasana Lion Throne as well as many treasures of Burmese royalty. The Sule Pagoda has a 48 meter / 52 yard high golden dome used, when it was rebuilt in the 1880s, by the British as the nucleus of their grid pattern for the city.
Overnight: Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon (2 nights) (B)

Day 19, Sunday: Yangon
An interesting experience today includes mingling in the Bogyoke Aung San Market, also known as Scott Market, and its 2000 little shops. The Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda contains a gaudy, modern, 70m / 76 yard-long reclining Buddha built in 1966 and housed in a formidable iron pavilion. The temple doubles as a monastery, as well as a center for the study of Buddhist manuscripts. Mailamu Pagoda has a series of interesting images of the Buddha in his previous incarnations as well as a lovely reclining Buddha image. (B)

Day 20, Monday: Yangon / Bagan (Flight)
A short flight gets us to Bagan with its spectacular plain dotted with thousands of ancient temple ruins. Although human habitation in Bagan dates back almost to the beginning of the Christian era, Bagan only entered its golden period with the conquest of Thaton in 1057 AD. Our tour includes Ananda Pahto, one of the finest, best preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples thought to have been built around 1105, and the Shwegugyi temple, built in 1311. We also visit Thatbyinnyu Pahto, Nathlaung Kyaung, Bagan's only Hindu Vaishnavite temple, and the Pahtothamya. Gawdawpalin Pahto, one of the largest and most imposing of the Bagan temples. Bupaya is a cylindrical Pyu-style stupa said to be the oldest in Bagan; local residents claim it dates to the 3rd century.
Overnight: Bagan Hotel, Bagan (2 nights) (B)

Day 21, Tuesday: Bagan
Our excursion to Mount Popa, gives us an interesting picture of life in the countryside. We also visit Salay famous as the historic home of Salay U Ponya, a Bagan Era writer / poet. We go to many interesting sites including Payathonzu, an interconnected complex of three brick shrines; Thadanayaunggyi Kyaung, an ancient monastery in continuous use for several centuries, and Mogok Vipassan Yeiktha, a meditation center. We will also have the opportunity to see Nan Paya, home to a large lacquer Buddha dating back to the 13th century, and an old brick and stucco Buddhist scripture library. We finish the day with a visit to Youqson Kyaung, the oldest surviving wooden monastery hall in the Bagan area. (B)

Day 22, Wednesday: Bagan / Mandalay (Drive 200 kms / 124 miles)
This morning we depart by road to Mandalay, the last capital of Myanmar before the British took over. Mandalay is of great cultural and historical importance and is the most "Burmese" of Myanmar's large cities. Mandalay's Buddhist monasteries are the most important in the country - about 60% of all the monks in Myanmar reside in the Mandalay area.
Overnight: Novotel Hotel, Mandalay (3 nights) (B)

Day 23, Thursday: Mandalay
Constructed in 1857, Mandalay Fort (Fort Dufferin) is an imposing walled palace compound encircled by an impressive moat. We get a glimpse of history at the Mandalay Museum and Library, known for their large collection of Mandalay regalia, royally commissioned art and palm-leaf manuscripts that were formerly housed in the palace. Next we visit the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, home to a huge seated marble-image of the Buddha; the Sandamani Paya, a cluster of slender whitewashed stupas and the Shwenandaw Kyaung, fine example of a traditional Burmese wooden monastery. (B)

Day 24, Friday: Mandalay
Today we visit the one time capital of Inwa followed by Sagaing and Amarapura where we visit Nanmyin, Maha Aungmye Bonzan, and Bagaya Kyaung, a monastery built of teakwood and supported by 267 teak posts. Sagaing is widely regarded as the religious center of Myanmar and is popularly known as 'Little Pagan' as the Sagaing ridge is littered with around 600 pagodas and living monasteries. We also visit Thabyedan Fort, Kaunghmudaw Paya, Sagaing's most important temple, Tupayon Paya with its unique architecture and Hsinmyashin Paya, known as the Pagoda of Many Elephants. Amarapura means City of Immortality, however its period as capital was brief. We visit Pahtodawgyi, and Bagaya Kyaung - a museum and library known for its collection of palm-leaf manuscripts. (B)

Day 25, Saturday: Mandalay / Kalaw (Drive 200 kms / 124 miles)
Our destination today is Kalaw, a popular hill station in the British days. Kalaw sits high on the western edge of the Shan Plateau and is still a peaceful and quiet place with an atmosphere reminiscent of the colonial era. The small population is a mix of Shan, Indian Muslims, Bamar and Nepalis making for an interesting cultural experience. Our afternoon tour includes Aung Chang Tha Zedi, a glittering stupa covered in gold-colored mosaics, Dhamma Yon, a two-story temple provides a fair view of the town, Dhamma Yanthi Paya and the ruins of the Hsu Taung Pye Paya. Nee Paya, and Christ The King Church, wrap up our days sightseeing.
Overnight: Pine Hill Resort, Kalaw (1 night) (B)

Day 26, Sunday: Kalaw / Inle Lake (Drive 100 kms / 62 miles)
We drive to Inle Lake, located in Shan State. The lake is beautiful, with its serene waters dotted with patches of floating vegetation and fishing canoes. High hills rim the lake on both sides creating a cozy and tranquil setting. The lakeshore and lake islands bear 17 villages on stilts, mostly inhabited by the unique Intha people.
Overnight: Inle Princess Resort, Inle Lake (1 night) (B)

Day 27, Monday: Inle Lake / Heho / Yangon (Drive / Flight)
This morning, we enjoy a boat trip on the serene Inle Lake followed by a scenic and countryside drive to Heho where we catch our flight back to Yangon.
Overnight: Summit Parkview Hotel, Yangon (1 night) (B)

Day 28, Tuesday: Depart Yangon
We bid farewell to Myanmar, Burma to many. As we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight we are filled with exotic and unforgettable memories of the extraordinary cultures and regions we have experienced. (B)

2003 Departure Dates

English Speaking Departures
Jan 01, 15, 29, Feb 12, 26, Mar 12, 26, Apr 09, 23, May 07, 21, Jun 04, 18, Jul 02, 16, 30, Aug 13, 27, Sep 10, 24, Oct 08, 22, Nov 05, 19, Dec 03, 17.

Per person cost $ 3,885 including all local air-transportation

(not including transoceanic air)

You may e-mail us at rexclass@aol.com.

(Code: FSM)
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