NEVER HEARD OF INDOCHINA? DON'T STRESS. YOU'LL COME FOR ANGKOR WAT, BUT YOU'LL STAY FOR THE PHO/AMOK/SPRING ROLLS (WE COULD GO ON).
DAY 1 - BANGKOK
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
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.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage?
Bangkok - Grand Palace - THB500
Bangkok - Wat Pho temple - THB200
Bangkok - Thai massage - THB250
Bangkok - Urban Adventures - Bangkok by Bike - THB1500
Bangkok - Urban Adventures - Bangkok Chinatown Food Discovery - THB1870
Bangkok - Jim Thompson's House - THB100
Bangkok - Urban Adventures - Temple & River of Kings - THB2200
Bangkok - Urban Adventures - Tuk Tuk city tour - THB1400
Nouvo City Hotel (Canal wing) or similiar
DAY 2-4 - SIEM REAP
A long travel day awaits us today. It's a long drive from Bangkok to Siem Reap (approx. 10 hours/450 km total by private bus, including border crossing and lunch). We exit Thailand at Aranyaprathet and enter Cambodia at Poipet. Your tour leader will help you with border crossing procedures. If you are getting your visa at the border you will need USD cash. From Poipet to Siem Reap is around another 150 km.
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. The markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Relax in town this evening in anticipation of visiting Angkor tomorrow.
We visit the world-famous Angkor complex with our guide. 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 you'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
If you feel like some adventure another option is to do the “Flight of the Gibbon” zip-line course, giving you a birds eye view of the rain forest with extra adrenalin rush thrown in!
Other options here include a visit to the sobering Landmine Museum or our Siem Reap Street Food by Night Urban Adventure.
A 1 Day Angkor Pass is included on this tour. If you would like to return to Angkor outside of our included tour, you can purchase a longer pass through your tour leader.
Siem Reap - 1 day Angkor Pass
Siem Reap - Guided Tour
Siem Reap - Tonle Sap boat trip - USD15
Siem Reap - Remork transport to Tonle Sap Lake - USD10
Siem Reap - Flight of the Gibbon ziplining - USD109
Siem Reap - Landmine Museum - USD5
Siem Reap - Three Day Angkor Pass - USD40
Victory Guesthouse or similar
DAY 5 - KAMPONG CHAM
Travel by public bus to Kompong Cham (approx 5 hours/300 km)
This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great opportunity to experience life in small-town Cambodia.
Options here include:
Explore the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor.
Hire a bike to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, linked to Kompong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge (passable only in the dry season, take a ferry in the wet). The locals here make their living fishing, growing tobacco and sesame so it's a good place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia's cottage industries.
A little further afield are the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.
Kompong Cham - Wat Nokor - USD1
Kompong Cham - Bicycle hire - USD2
Kompong Cham - Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei - USD10
Mekong Hotel or similar
DAY 6 - PHNOM PENH
Catch a public bus to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approx 3 hrs/175 km).
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.
There's lots of activities to chose from here including:
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.
If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art deco-designed Psar Thmei (Central Market) which is a great place for browsing, or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Urban Adventures on offer in Phnom Penh include Phnom Penh's Past, Phnom Penh Secrets & Mekong Sunset. Your leader can help you make bookings if you are interested.
Phnom Penh - Killing Fields of Choueng Ek - USD3
Phnom Penh - Transport to Choeung Ek - USD10
Phnom Penh - Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda - USD7
Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom - USD2
Phnom Penh - National Museum - USD5
Phnom Penh - Cyclo tour - USD4
Phnom Penh - Entrance to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and Choeung Ek - USD3
Nawin Guesthouse or similar
DAY 7 - HOMESTAY
Travel by private bus into rural Cambodia (approx 3 hrs/70 km) to the region of Kampong Speu and village of Chambok, the location of our homestay for the night.
Our homestay is a wonderful opportunity to witness everyday Cambodian life and in the evening we enjoy a traditional-style dinner. Facilities are basic and multishare with mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets all provided.
Chambok - Traditional Dancing
DAY 8-9 - SIHANOUKVILLE
A private bus takes us to Sihanoukville (approx 4 hrs/250 km).
Named for the Cambodian royal family, Sihanoukville has miles of beaches and warm, welcoming people.
Some of the things you might like to try here are:
Take a boat to one of the nearby islands, where you're free to enjoy a barbecue lunch and relax among swaying palms, white sands and blue waters.
Make a trip out to the Ream National Park - 21 hectares of coastal mangrove forest, which hosts a great variety of animal and bird species.
Sihanoukville - Ream National Park entry fee - USD5
Sihanoukville - Island boat trip - USD15
Sunday Guesthouse or similar
DAY 10 - PHNOM PENH
Take a local bus back to Phnom Penh (approx 4 hrs/250 km).
We have our last night in Cambodia here before moving on to Vietnam tomorrow.
Why not indulge in a traditional massage at the Seeing Hands Massage parlours - they are some of the best in the city and your patronage supports the visually impaired masseurs, whose years of training are sure to work wonders on muscle aches and pains.
Phnom Penh - Traditional Khmer massage - USD5
Nawin Guesthouse or similar
DAY 11-12 - HO CHI MINH CITY
Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approx 7 hours/280 km). We exit Cambodia at Bavet and enter Vietnam at Moc Bai. Your leader will assist you with border crossing procedures.
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.
If you have extra time in Ho Chi Minh City ensure you make a visit to the Reunification Palace - formerly known as the Presidential Palace, it was the site of South Vietnam's surrender in April 1975, and the War Remnants Museum - originally opened in September 1975, it displays old military equipment and other related items from the Vietnam War. In the courtyard you'll find some larger exhibits including a F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter
Some of the Urban Adventures available in HCMC include Mekong Discovery, Cyclos & Markets, Cu Chi Experience and Saigon Street Food by Night. Your leader can help you book on the tour of your choice.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum - VND15000
HCMC - Cu Chi Tunnels - VND90000
Saigon Royal Hotel or similar
DAY 13-14 - MEKONG DELTA - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. Then head to our overnight homestay along the water. We'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). 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.
Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
DAY 15-16 - NHA TRANG - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Arrive in Nha Trang at approx. 5am and transfer to your hotel.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
Spend your days here soaking up the sun on a lovely beach, exploring the local markets or checking out the ancient Cham Towers nearby. Make sure you try some of the excellent seafood restaurants.
Board an overnight train bound for Danang (approx. 8 hours) late evening on Day 5.
Nha Trang - Boat trip - VND1316000
Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
Cuong Long hotel Nha Trang or similar
DAY 17-19 - HOI AN
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
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.
There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. Your leader will take you to places few tourists get the chance to see, past green rice paddies and small creeks, this is a true insight into country living in Vietnam.
Hoi An - Ancient town
Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
Hai Yen hotel or similar
DAY 20-22 - HUE - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).
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.
You have a free day to explore. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time.
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. We 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.
Board an overnight train bound for Hanoi (approx. 12 hours).
Hue - Imperial citadel - VND105000
Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
Hue - Royal tomb - VND80000
Victory Hotel Hue or similar
DAY 23 - HANOI
Arrive in Hanoi very early (approx. 4am) and transfer to the hotel.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six 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.
Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake.
Hanoi - Walking tour
Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND50000
Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Van Mieu Hotel or similar
DAY 24 - HALONG BAY
Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stopping en route for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people.
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 boat and cruise the breathtaking bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters. We enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months.
Stay overnight in a hotel in Halong City (Bai Chay).
Halong Bay - Boat cruise
Entity Hotel or similar
DAY 25-26 - HANOI
Take the ferry, followed by a bus back to Hanoi (approx. 3 hours) for some free time and a optional final group dinner.
The trip ends in the morning on Day 26
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Van Mieu Hotel or similar
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