This best of Vietnam and Cambodia adventure begins on the streets of Hanoi. Shopping in one of the markets in the Old Quarter is a great way to spend an afternoon or perhaps sip a Vietnamese coffee by the lake.
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 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 town centre, 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 taste 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.
- Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi - VND20000.00
- Women's Museum, Hanoi - VND30000.00
- Army Museum, Hanoi - VND20000.00
- Temple of Literature, Hanoi - VND10000.00
- Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison, Hanoi - VND15000.00
- Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi - VND25000.00
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 to 3:
Enjoy a buffet breakfast at KOTO, a restaurant that employs and trains local street children. For the next two nights, experience an impressive Halong Bay tour aboard a traditional sailing junk. Cruise through the dramatic karst scenery and share delicious meals overlooking Halong Bay.
Enjoy a buffet breakfast at KOTO restaurant, one of Intrepid's Responsible Travel supported programs which aims to teach street children hospitality skills that will enable them to find employment.
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 we enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner.BOAT SHORTAGE:
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 we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. An Intrepid 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.
- Breakfast at KOTO restaurant
- Overnight boat cruise
Overnight boat (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 4 to 5:
Float down the beautiful Perfume River aboard a traditional dragon boat, passing pagodas and royal tombs. Reach Hue in Vietnam, a city bursting with history and culture which can be discovered in the fascinating Imperial Citadel. Head to Dong Ba Market to sample gourmet Hue delicacies such as delicious banh khoai (stuffed pancake).
The pace of life is slow and tranquillity prevails in Hue - the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Founded as a royal city in 1687, it is the gateway to the treasures of Vietnam's royal past.
Hop on to your cyclo for a tour of the city - a truly fun and Intrepid way to explore the town.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the American 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. The trip includes 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, and we may visit what many believe to be the most majestic of all the royal tombs, Minh Mang.
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.
- Cyclo tour
- Imperial Citadel
- Perfume River cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
- Royal tomb
- Bike hike (1 day), Hue - VND60000.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 6 to 7:
Travel south to the captivating city of Hoi An, now a World Heritage listed site. Walk along ancient alleyways and shop for artwork, wood carvings or have a new wardrobe tailor-made. Riverside Hoi An also boasts a number of cheap and cheerful local restaurants serving truly spectacular Vietnamese dishes.
Travelling by bus, leave Hue and head south through coastal rice paddies to the fishing village of Lang Co, 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.
Your leader will take you on a walk around the Ancient Town.
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.
- My Son Cham Ruins including car transport & guide, Hoi An - VND800000.00
- Thu Bon River boat trip, Hoi An - VND100000.00
- Bike hire (1 day), Hoi An - VND20000.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 8 to 10:
Ho Chi Minh City
Weave through chaotic streets on a cyclo tour of some famous Ho Chi Minh City tourist spots, like the sobering War Remnants Museum. Enjoy being a part of the enthralling, frenetic action of Ho Chi Minh City. Later, cruise up the Mekong Delta for a chance to experience the languid pace of Vietnamese village life.
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; 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 the city's life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors with their wares spread out on the footpath, selling everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon in cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum.
Head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. En route to My Tho, stop by a local brick making factory and learn more about the small cottage industry of salt making. Take the opportunity to wander this remote village and learn more about local rural life. Then visit a nearby garden 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 Ben Tre town. Here our minivan awaits to take us to visit a candy factory and sample the local candies for which this region is famous, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
- Cyclo tour
- War Remnants Museum
- Mekong Delta day trip
- Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City - VND30000.00
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 11 to 12:
Travel from Vietnam to Cambodia. Discover the country's dark past in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and at the notorious Killing Fields, a site marked by a memorial made of some 8,000 human skulls. In free time, discover the delights Phnom Penh city including the Russian Market or sip cocktails at Sisowath Quay.
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.
Consider taking 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.
- Guided tour of Choeung Ek
- Guided tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
- Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh - USD6.25
- Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh - USD2.00
- National Museum, Phnom Penh - USD3.00
- Cyclo tour, Phnom Penh - USD3.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Cambodia's hot and dusty capital has a reputation for being chaotic and noisy but it has actually become far more pleasant and relaxed in recent years. Wandering through the broad tree-lined boulevards dotted with old colonial villas you'll find that the city has managed to retain much of it's original charm, especially as it hasn't (yet) been overwhelmed by too many towering high-rise developments. Life in Phnom Penh centres around the lively riverfront area where in the evening the locals come to take in the air, snack on the street hawkers food and enjoy the impromtu waterside entertainment along the long grassy promenade. The capital is also a fantastic place for souvenir shopping and with it's great range of restaurants it's the perfect place to sample cambodian cuisine.
Day 13 to 15:
Temple-hop from sunrise to sunset to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Angkor Wat temples, including the Bayon and Ta Prohm. The heart and soul of the ancient Khmer Empire, these temples of Angkor still evoke strong feelings of absolute awe and the panoramas here are truly remarkable.
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.
- Tonle Sap Lake boat trip
- 3-Day Angkor Pass
- 2 days with a local guide
- Landmine Museum, Siem Reap - USD3.00
Hotel (3 nts)
The small town of Siem Reap makes a good base for visiting the famous temples at Angkor Wat. The town itself is a pleasant spot in it's own right and a good place for a bit of rest and relaxation. A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs; wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes. There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening.
Explore the floating village on Tonle Sap, water levels permitting, before heading to the charming rural city of Battambang. Here, uncover the architectural legacies of French colonialism, learn the intricacies of Khmer cuisine or amble along the scenic riverbanks soaking up the relaxed atmosphere.
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
- Countryside tour, Battambang - USD7.00
- Bamboo Train, Battambang - USD5.00
- Cooking Class, Battambang - USD8.00
Hotel (1 nt)
Laid-back Battambang is a characterful colonial gem, full of well-preserved villas and shophouses clustered around a lazy riverside. The city is famous for it's many statues of animals and divinities which decorate the streets and buildings. Close nearby is the hillside site of Phnom Sampeu, an interesting spot to explore, littered with pagodas and cave shrines with a fantastic view of the rice fields and surrounding countryside from the summit.
Day 17 to 18:
Travel across the border to Thailand where there's time to have a massage, eat a pad thai and a enjoy a cold beer before saying goodbye to this magical corner of Indochina.
It's a long drive from Siem Reap 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, or 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; 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.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
- Grand Palace, Bangkok - THB400.00
- Khlong (canal) tour, Bangkok - THB800.00
- Wat Pho, Bangkok - THB50.00
Hotel (1 nt)
The chaotic headlong pace of Bangkok doesn't match up with many people's idealised vision of the exotic capital of Siam. Scattered with high-rise buildings of concrete and glass, the city is a sprawling plain that's home to a population of at least nine million, and it often feels even bigger. But under the shadow of the skyscrapers you'll find a heady mix of frenetic markets, noisy traffic, hushed golden temples and early-morning alms-giving ceremonies. One way or another, the place will probably get under your skin - and if you don't enjoy the challenge of slogging through jams of buses and tuk-tuks, which fill the air with a chainsaw drone and clouds of pollution, you can spend time exploring the impressive temples and museums or shopping 'til you drop.