Classic Cambodia & Vietnam
20 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Phnom Penh
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. If you arrive early, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the Friends International restaurant, an organisation that provides training and employment in the hospitality industry to disadvantaged youth. It's a great restaurant to support and the food is delicious – the Western and Asian fusion tapas dishes have put this restaurant on the must visit list.
Day 2 Phnom Penh
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng is a former school that served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre, and it’s 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 8,000 human skulls, marking the site of the infamous location. 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. The visits are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please let your leader know. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. After today's activities, you may wish to spend this evening relaxing in a cafe by the riverfront.
Day 3 Siem Reap
Take a short flight to Siem Reap (approximately 1 hour). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor and 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. 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 – and there will be one for your stomach too if you try some of the cheap, delicious street food! 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, perhaps while you're eating the specialty cuisine of Cambodia – amok, the name given to curry steam-cooked in banana leaves.
Day 4 Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where disadvantaged local youth learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Afterward, you will head to Ta Prohm, a temple where nature has taken over, as large trees have become embedded in the stone foundations of the structure. End the day with a sunset view of the temples – an extraordinary way to see the sun go down.
Day 5 Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). Today you'll visit the temple of Banteay Srei – you'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. Later this afternoon, get an insight into the daily life of Cambodians on a village tour. See the rice fields and family allotment that surround the traditional stilt houses. Be welcomed into a local home as you join together for sunset drinks. This evening, enjoy a final farewell dinner with your fellow travellers and one last night of delicious Cambodian cuisine at a specially chosen restaurant.
Day 6 Ho Chi Minh City
You will be transferred back to the airport, where you will say goodbye to Cambodia and fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Please note that you will be unescorted on this flight. Upon arrival you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group will 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 and your Vietnamese tour leader. This meeting is followed by a group meal out at fantastic local restaurant.
Day 7 Mekong Delta
Travel south by private bus for about three hours to Cai Be. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. The delta is known as ‘Vietnam’s rice bowl’ for its abundance of rice paddies, fruit and flower orchards. During the boat trip, you’ll stop to sample some of the fresh tropical fruit and visit some cottage industries in the area. Around sunset, make your way to your local guesthouse to spend a night with the locals and enjoy a wonderful meal of regional specialties.
Day 8 Ho Chi Minh City
Return to Ho Chi Minh City and take a walking tour in town. Experience the hustle and bustle of former Saigon and explore some of the city's more interesting sights such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the grand post office and War Remnants Museum. In your free time, perhaps visit Reunification Palace or book in to see a cultural show at the Saigon Opera House. Otherwise, go in search for the best food with some of your fellow travellers – your group leader will know where to go for meals of any budget.
Day 9 Phan Rang
Make a day trip to the renowned Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, and offers a glimpse of what life was like during the war. Your group leader can recommend somewhere local if you'd like a final taste of southern Vietnamese cuisine, before you head for Phan Rang. First, take an afternoon flight to Cam Ranh, and from there, travel 1.5 hours by minibus to the historic city of Phan Rang – your base for the next two days.
Day 10 Phan Rang
Today, take a day trip to Vinh Hy Bay, a beautiful, crescent-shaped harbour between Phan Rang and Nha Trang. On your way to the bay, you’ll stop at the Bau Nai fish market for a glimpse of the bustle of activity as fish are unloaded and locals hurriedly shop for the best deal. Continue through the Vietnamese countryside to the sprawling salt flats – truly a sight to behold. Witness workers raking and collecting salt that has evaporated from the salty waters of Vietnam’s coast, which has been funnelled inland into shallow fields. Next, visit another place of great natural beauty – the moss-covered rock formations and fossilised coral reefs of Hang Rai. Finally, arrive at Vinh Hy Bay, where you’ll have plenty of time to swim and snorkel in its warm, coral-filled waters.
Day 11 Phan Rang/Overnight Train
Enjoy a free day at your own pace in Phan Rang. Perhaps use this time to see some of the grand remnants of the Cham dynasty – an ancient kingdom that had control of the central and southern coastal region of Vietnam from the second to the 17th-century scattered throughout the region. You may like to take an optional visit to the nearby Po Nagar Cham Towers – an archaeological site from the middle ages dedicated to the indigenous goddess, Yan Po Nagar. Alternatively, gain an insight into an ancient tradition with a visit to the oldest pottery village in South East Asia, Bau Truc. This evening, board an overnight train to Da Nang. Conditions are basic on these trains and hygiene standards may be lower than what you’re used to at home, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time.
Day 12 Hoi An
Arrive early into Da Nang, then travel by minibus for 1 hour to Hoi An. Upon arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the World Heritage-listed Old Town. The city was a major trading port with the west during the 16th and 17th-centuries, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Japan. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. You'll see Chinese temples, Japanese pagodas, French-colonial houses, wooden shop-houses and old canals during your walk. After lunch, enjoy free time to participate in optional activities or simply soak up the ambience of the place. You may like to wander Hoi An Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. The town is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within hours.
Day 13 Hoi An
Enjoy a free day to further explore Hoi An and its majestic surrounds. Perhaps rent a bicycle and take a trip out to the nearby Cua Dai Beach. Better yet, why not book into an Urban Adventure, like Hoi An Boat & Bike, which offers a guided tour of the area, including a countryside bike ride and a sunset cruise along the Thu Bon River. Vietnam is, of course, known for its delicious food, and Hoi An is no exception. Unlock the flavours of Hoi An's vibrant Old Town on Hoi An Food Adventure.
Day 14 Hoi An
Spend another day as you please in this historic haven. If you can muster an early rise this morning, head to the local produce market to watch animated shoppers haggling over fresh fish, spices and vegetables. Otherwise, if you’d like, your leader can help you arrange an optional Vietnamese cooking class, or a visit to the ruins of My Son – Vietnam's most important Cham site. Set in a verdant valley, surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Cat's Tooth Mountain, the elaborate World Heritage-listed temples here reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation that flourished in this region between the fourth and 12th-century.
Day 15 Hue
Continue on your journey north today and drive over the spectacular Hai Van Pass – an incredibly scenic and mountainous stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. Make a stop at beautiful Lang Co to buy yourself some lunch. Travel time is approximately 5-6 hours, including stops. In the afternoon, you’ll arrive in Hue – Vietnam’s former Imperial capital. Here you’ll visit the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City which was almost entirely destroyed by bomb blasts during the war.
Day 16 Hue
After a local breakfast of bun bo hue – a spiced beef noodle soup – take in all the historical highlights of Hue. You’ll stop off at the Thien Mu Pagoda and get the chance to see an active Buddhist monastery dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists. Break up your sightseeing with a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River. Lunch today will be a delicious vegetarian feast at a nunnery. You’ll also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its lake, frangipani and pine trees. There’s nothing like a culture and history lesson to get you hungry, so be sure to keep snacking on some of Hue’s favourites – it’s not known as Vietnam’s culinary capital for nothing.
Day 17 Hanoi
Fly from Hue to Vietnam’s charming capital of Hanoi. Upon arrival, enjoy a delicious lunch at KOTO restaurant – an Intrepid Foundation supported program that teaches disadvantaged youth hospitality skills. After lunch, take a half-day tour of Hanoi that captures the beauty and the history of the laidback, tree-lined capital. You’ll visit major sights including the Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda. You’ll also pass by Hoan Kiem Lake and enter the ’36 Streets’ of the historic Old Quarter – a series of interwoven lanes and roads that historically sell a certain product in each street. Silk, bamboo, ceramics, kitchen products – and upwards of 32 more! Today, the group will also enjoy a unique water-puppet performance hosted by a local family, who are experts in this art form.
Day 18 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus for approximately 4 hours to the spectacular World Heritage-listed site of Halong Bay. This is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful places – a bay of emerald waters flecked with sandstone islands and caves. Here you’ll 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. You’ll spend the night on a traditional cruising boat. The sailing junk has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where you’ll enjoy all of your meals, including fresh seafood for lunch and dinner.
Day 19 Hanoi
Take the 4-hour drive back to Hanoi. Along the way, you’ll stop at Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals creating ceramic art pieces. If you have some free time this afternoon, you may like to visit the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in the city. This museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnam’s ethnic communities. Tonight, gather together as a group with your leader and enjoy dinner together – a perfect time to reminisce on the highlights of your Vietnam adventure.
Day 20 Hanoi
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave any time after breakfast, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out times. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! If you would like to spend some more time in Hanoi, we’ll be happy to organise some additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
All This Included
From Vietnam to Cambodia, discover incredible diversity, delectable cuisines, dramatic histories and natural beauty. Travel to Cambodia and delve into the dramatic Khmer legacy in Phnom Penh and explore the intricate temples of Angkor Wat. Travel to Vietnam and view the country's colourful history on the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and explore the colonial-era architecture of Hanoi. This trip offers places of breathtaking beauty, from the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, to the temples of Cambodia and the wonder of Halong Bay. Add a mix of friendly locals and age-old traditions to ensure the ultimate South East Asian experience.
Guesthouse (1 night)
Hotel (16 nights)
Overnight boat (1 night)
Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.