From the cool calm of rural villages to the steaming chaos of thriving cities, experience the diversity of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Along the way, revel in the sheer beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the locals and the intriguing ancient traditions that give each country its unique flavour.
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. With free time, 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?
Travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap by private bus today (approximately 10 hours, including the border crossing and lunch). You will exit Thailand at Aranyaprathet and enter Cambodia at Poipet. Your leader will help you with border procedures. If you are getting your visa at the border you will need cash in US dollars. From Poipet to Siem Reap is approximately another 150 km. When you arrive, perhaps spend the evening relaxing in preparation for tomorrow's visit to Angkor Wat.
Today you'll visit the world-famous Angkor complex with your guide. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres; this is the biggest religious monument in the world. However, 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 astounding main attraction), the Bayon (a marvel of many sculpted decorations) and Ta Prohm (the eerily beautiful temples covered in jungle).
Notes: A single-day Angkor Pass is included on this tour. If you'd like to return to Angkor outside of your included visit, you can buy a longer pass. Just ask your leader.
Enjoy free time in Siem Reap today. If you feel like some adventure, you can take the optional Flight of the Gibbon zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the rainforest, plus an adrenaline rush. Other options here include a visit to the sobering Landmine Museum – it's located a little further field but is well worth the journey. There is also the Siem Reap Street Food by Night Urban Adventure, a three-hour tour which allows you to taste the many flavours of the city and feel the buzz of the local markets.
Travel by public bus to Kompong Cham (approximately 5 hours). This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great opportunity to experience life in small-town Cambodia. A great option here is to visit the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor. You can also hire a bicycle to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, which is linked to Kompong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge (it's 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.
Travel by private bus to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approximately 3 hours). 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. A recommended option is to visit the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Or learn about a brighter period of Cambodian history by visiting the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. Keen shoppers can hit the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market).
Travel by private bus (approximately 3 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and village of Chambok. There's a lot of natural beauty to discover here, from waterfalls to swimming holes to bat caves nestled in the mountains. The Chambok community is renowned for its ecotourism. Tonight you'll join a local family in their home – a wonderful opportunity to participate in everyday Cambodian life. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance while you're here.
Notes: Facilities on this homestay are basic and multi-share. Mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets are provided.
A private bus takes you to Sihanoukville today (approximately 4 hours). Named after the Cambodian royal family, this town has miles of lovely beaches and warm, welcoming people. It's also a jumping-off point to many beautiful islands. Settle in and perhaps take a refreshing swim.
Enjoy a day of free time. There are a variety of exciting optional activities on offer. You can take a boat to one of the nearby islands, enjoy a barbecue lunch or simply relax among swaying palms, white sands and blue waters. Perhaps make the trip out to the Ream National Park, which boasts 21 hectares of coastal mangrove forest and a great variety of animal and bird species. You may like to take a Khmer cooking class, or perhaps partake in some windsurfing or kitesurfing.
Take a local bus back to Phnom Penh (approximately 4 hours). This will be your last night in Cambodia before moving on to Vietnam tomorrow. If you're looking to indulge in some proper rest and relaxation, the Seeing Hands massage parlours are some of the best in the city, and all patronage supports the visually impaired masseurs whose years of expertise may be just what you need today.
Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 7 hours). You will exit Cambodia at Bavet and enter Vietnam at Moc Bai. Your leader will again assist you with border crossing procedures. Get out and discover the city's blend of old and new, East and West, when you arrive. Be sure to sample a baguette or some of the excellent coffee on offer – both markers of the city's strong French influence. Equally essential are visits to Reunification Palace (the site of South Vietnam's surrender in April 1975) and the War Remnants Museum. Some of Intrepid's Urban Adventures available in in this city include Cyclos & Markets, Cu Chi Experience and Saigon Street Food by Night. If your staying longer in Ho Chi Minh City and you'd like to take one, your leader can help you book.
Enjoy a free day today. Some of Intrepid's Urban Adventures available in in this city include Cu Chi Experience, Cyclos & Markets, and Saigon Street Food by Night.
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 on the evening of Day 12 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.
Make your way to the province of Ben Tre, where you’ll get on a boat to tour the canals of the Mekong Delta. This fertile area is famous for its abundance of fruit, flower and rice crops, and is known as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam. During your boat ride you’ll visit some local cottage industries and then head to your overnight homestay. Your stay with a Vietnamese family will be one of the highlights of your trip as you get a taste of the life of a local and enjoy a home cooked meal.
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.
This evening, board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Conditions are basic on these trains and they may be a little dirtier than what you’re used to, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers like to take some fresh bread, cheese and fruit for the journey.
Arrive in Nha Trang at about 5am and transfer to your hotel. You’ll have today free to spend as you wish. Perhaps enjoy your time on the sunny beaches or explore the local markets. Be sure to try some of the excellent seafood in town. Also nearby are the Cham Towers, where you can go for a day trip to see the fascinating archaeological site.
Today is another free day to take in the coastal delights of Nha Trang. In the evening, board another overnight train for Danang (approximately 8 hours).
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus for one hour to Hoi An. Hoi An was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is being beautifully restored. It was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago. Your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit some of the city's major attractions. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour for you to visit a selection of the major sights as you wish. Hoi An is also a shopping mecca, so head down to the markets and street stalls to browse paintings, woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. Hoi An is famous for its tailors who can make beautiful items to order.
Go on a bike ride through the countryside near Hoi An. There's no better way to explore the peaceful area than by bike. You’ll see places few tourists get the chance to see among green rice paddies and small creeks. You’ll get a true insight into rural life in Vietnam.
Enjoy another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets to cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Your leader can suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
Say goodbye to Hoi An this morning and make your way to Hue. The drive in our minibus will take about five hours, but along the way you’ll stop at My Khe Beach (China Beach) and the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. You’ll be travelling on the incredible Hai Van Pass, through lush mountains. Once in Hue, you’ll have a free afternoon to explore. Hue was once Vietnam’s Imperial capital and has a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil enclaves. Perhaps visit the Dong Ba Market, which sells everything imaginable and is a great place to spend some time.
Another free day in Hue. Perhaps visit the Imperial Citadel which includes the Forbidden Purple City that was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam war. The gaping holes left by bombs give you an idea of how much destruction occurred in this country. Another optional activity is a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River and then a visit to Mu Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. Here you’ll see an active Buddhist monastery dating back to 1601, and a car belonging to a monk who set himself alight in protest against the treatment of Buddhists. You may also like to visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
This morning, catch up on any optional activities you couldn’t fit in yesterday – perhaps an Urban Adventure to bike around the countryside – before taking another overnight train bound for Hanoi. The journey will take approximately 12 hours.
Arrive in Hanoi at about 4am and transfer to your hotel. Today you’ll take a walking tour of Vietnam’s charming capital. Explore the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, including the Dong Xuan Market, Hoan Kiem Lake and the unique architecture nearby. Hanoi has a French provincial feel remaining from its colonial times, but it also has a Buddhist influence and striking modern buildings. The rest of the day is yours to explore Hanoi as you please.
Drive through the Red River Delta for about four hours and arrive at Halong Bay. Along the way, you’ll stop at the Hong Ngoc Humanity Centre, which provides vocational training and employment to Vietnamese people who experience a disability. Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most scenic places, a secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands and caves rising from the emerald waters. You’ll board our boat and spend the rest of the day cruising the breathtaking bay. Enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, stop for a visit to Sung Sot Cave, and take a swim at Titop Beach. Spend a night onboard your boat, with gentle waves rocking you to sleep.
Disembark from your boat in Halong Bay at around midday and take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride back to Vietnam’s charming capital, Hanoi. On the way back stop at the stop for refreshments at a handicraft village.
Return to Hanoi at around 4pm. Enjoy your last few hours of free time then join the group for an optional farewell dinner.
There are no activities planned for today and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.
-English speaking guides
-Ground transport with air-conditioned vehicle as required
-All entrance fees to tour sites
-Meal as indicated
-Visa and visa fees
-Personal expenses, such as laundry, camera, telephone, etc….
-Tips and gratuities
-Compulsory dinner for Christmas and New Years Eve
-All other expenses Not mentioned in the above inclusions
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