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Best of Vietnam & Cambodia
Transport - Private minibus, Bus, in country flight, Overnight sleeper train, Boat
Accommodation - Hotels (15 nts), overnight sailing junk (1 nt), overnight train (1 nt)
Meals - 10 Breakfasts, 1 Lunches, 1 Dinner
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of around four million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
If you arrive early, why not get your first tastes of Vietnam exploring the lovely, laidback capital? You can stroll the tree-lined boulevards to get a sense of the old days, wander the Old Quarter to uncover ancient temples and a rich, religious culture or head to the Temple of Literature, an oasis of calm right at the heart of Hanoi.
- Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND20000
- Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
- Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
- Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
- Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
- Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND25000
Hotel (1 nt)
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs).
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea, as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where you enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner.
Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight, thus resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure you can accommodate all travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. A group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approx 3.5 hrs).
Board an overnight train to Hue. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
- Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Overnight boat (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. You also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees, and you may visit what many believe to be the most majestic of all the royal tombs, Minh Mang.
Please note, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you are travelling during festival periods. During these times you will instead travel by land to reach the activities.
The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai, a royal rice cake.
- Hue - Imperial citadel
- Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
- Hue - Royal tomb
- Hue - Bicycle hire - VND40000
Hotel (2 nts)
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacularly mountainous Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach, arrive at Hoi An (approx. 4 hours).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
You have time here to explore the beautifully restored and preserved Chinese shop houses, enjoy the vibrant and busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields and browse the array of art galleries.
- Hoi An - Ancient town
- Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
- Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
- Hoi An - Bicycle hire - VND30000
Hotel (2 nts)
Ho Chi Minh City
Take a short flight to the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (approx 1 hr).
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board the boat to Ben Tre to see coconut candy factory and sample the local candies for which this region is famous. Take the opportunity to Tuk Tuk around this remote village with a tropical fruit stop, and learn more about local rural life. Then visit a nearby restaurant in the heart of the delta, where you can sample some of the regional specialities such as the famous elephant ear fish.
After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle past the many water coconut trees that populate the Mekong Delta. Boarding our main private boat, cruise through more major waterways, arriving in My Tho town. Here our bus awaits to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Enjoy a group dinner with our long time friends at KOTO restaurant - a organisation that is supporting street kids with a career in the hospitality industry.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
- HCMC - War Remnants Museum
- HCMC - City tour
- HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip
- HCMC - KOTO dinner
- HCMC - Reunification Palace - VND30000
- HCMC - War Remnants Museum - VND15000
Hotel (3 nts)
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approx 6-7 hrs).
Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture.
Confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here.
Head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields. This was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng and standing in this peaceful setting it's almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area.
Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
Explore Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. According to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill.
Check out the National Museum. Housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship.
Take in the sites by cyclo! Tours generally take in the following: central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument, finishing at the Royal Palace.
Stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic.
- Phnom Penh - Guided tour Choeung Ek (Killing fields)
- Phnom Penh - Guided tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
- Phnom Penh - Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda - USD7
- Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom - USD2
- Phnom Penh - National Museum - USD5
- Cyclo tour - Phnom Penh - USD3
Hotel (2 nts)
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Travel by private bus to Siem Reap (approx 6 hrs). A great opportunity to look at the real Cambodia, we'll make several stops at points of interest along the way, including an opportunity to sample the local cuisine of deep fried spiders.
The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. It's markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Temple-hop with our local guide to make the most of our visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. These temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. 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. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so we'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Take a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake and visit one of its floating villages.
- Siem Reap - Tonle Sap Lake boat trip
- Siem Reap - 3 day Angkor pass
- Angkor Wat - Guided tour
- Siem Reap - Landmine Museum - USD3
Hotel (3 nts)
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approx 4 hours).
Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, (pronounced Battambong) is an attractive riverside town with traces of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and well-preserved colonial architecture.
Consider a guided tour of the countryside to discover the local rural way of life stopping off at small cottage industries producing sticky rice, noodles & fish paste making.
Join the locals for a ride on their famous bamboo train transferring goods such as rice - a great local interaction opportunity!
Consider a mouth-watering cooking class and learn the secrets of local dishes such as: amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken
- Battambang - Countryside tour - USD10
- Battambang - Bamboo Train - USD10
- Battambang - Cooking class - USD10
Hotel (1 nt)
It's a long drive from Battambang to Bangkok (approx 8-9 hrs including border crossing and lunch)
Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore – why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets; wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road; pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage; explore the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital.
- Bangkok - Grand Palace - THB500
- Bangkok - Khlong boat (canal) tour - THB800
- Bangkok - Wat Pho temple - THB100
Hotel (1 nt)
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
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There was loads of pace on the trip, we saw so much and wow what great countries Cambodia and Vietnam are. The people and hotels were exceptional. My highlight was Angkor Watt, it is awesome, stunning, beautiful, memorable..