Best of Cambodia & Vietnam
|Resort:||Best of Cambodia & Vietnam|
|Destination:||Asia, South East Asia, Vietnam|
Pique your interests and satisfy your appetite with a fast-paced and far-flung adventure through the heart of Vietnam and Cambodia. Spend 18 days traversing the diverse South East Asian countryside, through local villages, past stunning coastline and into bustling cities. Beginning in the manic capital of Thailand, Bangkok, youll focus your attention on memorable experiences, the local people, and, of course, the delicious cuisine, all the way to Hanoi in Vietnams north. An Angkor temple tour here, a Mekong Delta homestay there, and plenty of time to forge your own path whats not to love about this fascinating part of the world?
Day 1 Bangkok
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or two early and take a riverboat to Chinatown to wander the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, pay a visit to Wat Pho (home to the country’s largest reclining Buddha), wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage. After the meeting tonight perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some world-renowned street food.
Day 2 Siem Reap
It’s a long drive from Bangkok to Siem Reap by private minibus today (approximately 10 hours including border crossings and lunch). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. This is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. You’ll probably notice a change of pace here, so take a walk and enjoy the atmosphere. Perhaps start by hitting the local markets to try some delicious street food.
Day 3 Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Spend a full day temple-hopping with your local guide to make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex, built between the ninth and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South East Asia. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so you’ll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites. These include Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day watching a sunrise or sunset is a must.
Day 4 Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Continue your exploration of the Angkor Complex this morning on a half-day tour. The constructions youll see yesterday and today include the eponymous Angkor Wat, the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor’s temples that has its entrance facing west the others face east. Then there is Angkor Thom the ‘Great Royal City’ a temple that is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited, Bayon temple is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. Youll also visit Ta Prohm temple, where nature has taken over again and large trees are interwoven in the stone foundations of the structure. After the tour, you will then be free to do as you please in Siem Reap. There are a load of optional activities to choose from, or otherwise, go exploring the creative and cultural scene in the markets in town.
Day 5 Siem Reap
Today is free for you to choose your own adventure in Siem Reap. If youd like, you can head back into Angkor Wat, as your site pass covers you for another day of exploring. Instead, if you feel like some adventure, maybe do the Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful rainforest and an adrenaline rush, of course. Depending on the season there may be a chance to visit Tonle Sap Lake and its floating villages. Your group leader has all the right people in the right places, so be sure to ask them for their recommendations and whats possible to do today.
Day 6 Sambor Prei Kuk
Travel by private minibus to Sambor Prei Kuk and your homestay (approximately 3.5 hours). You will embark on a tour of the village with your local guide. The guide will introduce you to the way of life of the local people, your homestay facilities and your hosts for tonight. Facilities are simple at your homestay, but this is a fantastic opportunity to experience everyday life in rural Cambodia. The temple ruins at Sambor Prei Kuk just nearby are some of the oldest in the country (dating back to the sixth century) and are well worth a visit, if you choose to do so. In the evening, relax and unwind as you enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner with your host family.
Day 7 Phnom Penh
After breakfast, leave the village and travel to Phnom Penh in a private minibus (approximately 4 hours). The journey is a great opportunity to see the real Cambodia, with several stops at points of interest along the way. It may be possible to see the cottage industry at Santuk Silk Farm and sample the local cuisine of deep-fried spiders at Skuon. Cambodia’s capital is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-influenced architecture. This afternoon, enjoy some free time for optional activities. Perhaps explore Wat Phnom a peaceful temple situated on a local hill. A great way to see the city’s key landmarks is a cyclo tour, which generally covers the Psar Thmei (Central Market), US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong riverfront, Independence Monument and Royal Palace. If you’re in the mood for shopping, stop in at the Psar Thmei (Central Market), or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Day 8 Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the countrys past struggles and successes. Your day includes visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, which tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. S21 is a former school that served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre, and its estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are home to a stupa made up of some 8000 human skulls, marking the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. After visiting both sites, youll have free time for the rest of the day. Perhaps learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, while the National Museum, housed in a beautiful traditional building is a great place to see some excellent Khmer craftmanship. An ideal way to spend the late afternoon and evening is to stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many riverside cafes.
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to Cambodia and hello (or xin chao) to Ho Chi Minh City in vibrant Vietnam. Please note that you will be unescorted on this flight. On arrival, you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel. Tonight, another group meeting is planned, where youll meet your Vietnam group leader and new travel pals who will join you for the next stage of your South East Asian adventure. This briefing is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Ho Chi Minh City’s many fantastic eating spots your group leader will have some delicious options up their sleeve.
Day 10 Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City
Today you’ll travel south by private minibus (approximately 3 hours) for a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. When you arrive, youll board a private boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as the rice bowl of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away. Disembark at Ben Tre and visit the coconut gardens, stopping at a local home to sample tropical fruits & coconut jams. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past water coconut trees along the Mekong. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages, learning about local rural life and how they make their living making coconut products like brooms and coconut fibre mats. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous elephant ear fish. Then its back to the boat to cruise the deltas major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier. After the cruise return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11 Hoi An
This morning, say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City and fly north to Danang (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes). From here youll take a forty-five minute bus ride to Hoi An with the five spectacular peaks of the Marble Mountains as a backdrop. Once in Hoi An, your leader will take you on a walking tour of this unique town, influenced over the years by Europe, China and Vietnam. The town was a major trading port from the 17th century onwards, and the outside influences can be seen all over its architecture, with pagodas and assembly halls found across the town. For a small place it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets that are being restored and look much like they did over a century ago. Past low tiled buildings, you’ll take in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum.
Day 12 Hoi An
Enjoy a free day in the world heritage listed Hoi An. You may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours. For those still feeling adventurous, why not hire a bicycle and tour the surrounding countryside? This is one of the best ways to get an insight into rural Vietnam. Other optional activities include a day trip to My Son Cham (elaborate World Heritage-listed temples that reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation), a cruise along the Thu Bon River and a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach.
Day 13 Hue
Leave Hoi An today and on your journey youll cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. Make a quick photo stop en route, then continue to your final destination of Hue (approximately 5 hours including stops). Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue contains the treasures of Vietnams royal history, and has an interesting blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your excursion here will be to the Imperial Citadel. This fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam/American War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction caused by the war. In your free time you might like to visit Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Day 14 Hue – Overnight Train
Todays adventure will be on the back of a motorbike. Youll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, then to the Thien Mu Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here youll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery for a delicious vegetarian feast. After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. In the evening, board an overnight train to Hanoi (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Shared day use hotel rooms are available today after check out if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage. There is one room provided between up to 6 members of the group. Single supplements exclude day rooms.
Day 15 Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnams capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and beautiful Old Quarter. As an emerging city in South East Asia, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets. Later in the day you’ll take a walking tour through the city. Youll see Ho Chi Minhs former stilt house and other icons such as the Temple of Literature. In your free time, perhaps stop by the 36 Streets of the historic Old Quarter, head to the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, or visit the Fine Arts Museum. This museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnams ethnic communities.
Day 16 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). This is one of Vietnams most beautiful places, a secluded bay of emerald waters flecked with limestone islands and caves. Here youll go on a cruise to explore Surprise Cave and surrounding rock formations, and in the warmer months perhaps go kayaking or opt for a swim from Ti Top Island. Access to Surprise Cave is via staircases. Once inside the cave the pathways are a little uneven and slippery. On board your ship, therell be a dining room and bar on board where youll enjoy your meals, including fresh seafood for lunch and dinner. Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. Therell be a dining room and bar on board where youll enjoy your meals, including fresh seafood for lunch and dinner. Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities.
Day 17 Hanoi
Leaving the memorable scenery of Halong Bay behind, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Arrive in Hanoi late this afternoon, and enjoy a couple of free hours to explore Hanoi’s sights or do some last minute shopping. Otherwise, why not relax at a cafe or stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter? Tonight there will be a farewell dinner to enjoy with the group at KOTO restaurant, an organisation that supports disadvantaged youth with careers in the hospitality industry.
Day 18 Hanoi
Today your exploration of Vietnam comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Maybe consider continuing your adventure with a short tour such as Hanoi Street Food by Night or Village Discovery by Bike with our partners Urban Adventures (see urbanadventures.com for more information). Or perhaps visit the Hoa Lo Prison aka the Hanoi Hilton which was used for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Theres also the Museum of Ethnology with its fascinating indoor and outdoor exhibits. Well be happy to book some additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).