Vietnam and Cambodia

Vietnam & Cambodia

We explore the history, natural beauty, and rich culture of South East Asia

A program in this region may begin with an in-depth exploration of Vietnam, looking at the both the dynamic megacities pushed by by a booming manufacturing and trade economy, as well as the blend of Chinese, Khmer, and French influences on the uniquely Vietnamese culture. We experience the natural beauty and traditional lifestyle found throughout the Mekong Delta, continuing on to view the mystical treasures of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Potential Project Themes

Exploring culture through food

With an incredible diversity of flavors to explore, the range of Vietnamese cuisine presents one glimpse into the complexity of the country.

History, ancient and recent

By visiting sites like the Cu Chi Tunnels & the Angkor Wat, we explore the long, complex, and rich history of the region.

The 21st century’s chaotic beauty

Ho Chi Minh City is a high-energy metropolis represents the pulsating energy of Vietnam, with a chaotic whirl of commercial and cultural sites to take in.

Environmental wonders

We visit places like Tonle Sap, one of the most unique ecological water wonders in the world and the largest lake in South East Asia.

Sample Itinerary

We depart for our epic journey international flight into Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, we transfer to our local accommodations and sit down together to discuss our individual and group ‘hopes and fears’ for the days ahead

We spend the initial period of our travel time engaging in a series of ‘walkabouts’ through Ho Chi Minh, testing the limits of our comfort zones and building our mastery of navigating the capital city.

We begin with a trip up to the top of Bitexco Financial Tower, otherwise known as the Saigon Skydeck to take in a 360-degree view of the city. We continue on to complicate our narrative of Vietnam through visits to the Taoist Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most spectacularly atmospheric temples in the city, Notre Dame Cathedral, a brick, neo-Romanesque church built in the end of the 19th century, and the impressive Neo-Baroque Saigon Central Post Office, which has operated largely uninterrupted for more than 120 years.

During these movements, students break into teams, using a variety of transportation to move through the city and develop their capacity to ‘live like a local’. As a close for the exploration phase, each team is tasked with creating an ‘insiders highlight’ presentation about their time in the city, detailing what they have learned about Ho Chi Mihn City and providing advice for future travelers.

We begin our day with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, where the Vietnamese memories of the Vietnam war are stored. Students consider the lasting legacy of American involvement in the region, and discuss the relevancy for modern events. During the afternoon, we explore the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. For thousands of Viet Cong soldiers, this sprawling network of cramped passageways was an entire world unto itself, complete with living quarters, communications centers and hospitals. American bombing raids destroyed large sections of the tunnel network near the end of the war, but much of the system remains intact and open to visitors, providing a stark illustration of the reality of the war for the Vietnamese soldiers.

During the afternoon, we switch our focal points with a Vietnamese cooking class, learning the delicate blend of spices and flavors that constitute one of the world’s most flavorful cuisines.

We spend a day exploring the heart of the Mekong Delta! As the terminus of the Mekong River, which winds through six countries from Tibet to Vietnam, this incredibly fertile region produces approximately half of Vietnam’s total agricultural output, and life revolves around the the delta. Traveling first on private buses and then on private longtail boats along the gentle Mekong waterways, we delve into the traditional lifestyles, culture, and customs of the people who call the Delta their home.

We board a domestic flight to Da Nang, continuing on by bus to the exceptionally well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port of Hoi An. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site. As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, we walk through Hoi An Old Town, examining the Japanese Covered Bridge, Fujian Assembly Hall, and Chuc Thanh Pagoda.

We spend the morning exploring Hoi An Central Market, catching a glimpse of authentic Vietnamese life. Set along the banks of the Thu Bon River, the market stays busy throughout the day, with locals and tourists bargaining for fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and handicrafts. During the afternoon, we head out of the city to Cua Dai Beach, often claimed as Vietnam’s most stunning coastal area. Our final night in Hoi An is spent at the bustling Riverside, which comes to life with hundreds of colourful handmade lanterns, local vendors and street performances along the narrow streets.

We bid farewell (for now) to Vietnam, and fly into Cambodia and Siem Reap, the primary access point for the Angkor Archaeological Park. After arrival, we transfer to our local accommodations and begin to orient ourselves to our new country and arena. Angkor City was once the largest city in the world and the temple complex exemplifies the heights of Khmer civilization from 802 – 1432.

We spend the next two days touring the 400 square kilometers of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Students work with local guides to plot out the best routes for each day. This process builds competency in planning foreign travel, and also removes the barriers of the tourist/guide dynamic. While touring the park, students work to develop a detailed “story for home,” combining interviews with locals, video and photo footage, and their own knowledge and impressions.

During the afternoon on one day, we pay a visit to Apopo’s Hero Rats visitor center. Proven to be the most effective method to-date for clearing landmines, these rats are Cambodia’s best bet towards the ultimate goal of being mine-free by 2025. We take in a live demonstration of the landmine clearing process before meeting the rats and their handlers in their housing area.

We spend the day at Phare Ponleu Selpak (’The Brightness of The Arts’’), an artistic and social center that has been running as a non-profit association since 1994. Founded by a group of young ex-refugees, we interact with artists from the circus and learn some of the performance techniques used during the show. After the workshop, we enjoy an multi-course dinner before heading over to the big top to experience the magic of Phare’s uniquely Cambodian performances. Infused with history and culture and set to live music, this daringly modern production moves beyond a traditional circus; blending contortion, juggling, acrobatics, balancing and aerial arts with theatre and modern dance forms.

We travel southwest, enjoying the scenery and moving through villages and green rice fields before arriving at the dock to board our boat to the magnificent Tonle Sap lake. The source of economic livelihood for well over a million people, the lake is both an economic and ecological marvel. As we explore the myriad “floating communities”, we take the opportunity to discuss the different ways of life that we have seen throughout our experience in Southeast Asia.

We fly back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we close off the program in the evening and then transfer to our international flights home.

Envoys Testominals