Travel across the heart of Indochina through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand

Vibrant Vietnam, charismatic Cambodia, beguiling Bangkok; this journey covers the very best of Indochina. From the graceful elegance of Hanoi, across the serene beauty of Halong Bay, to the quaint charms of Hoi An and the frenetic energy of Ho Chi Minh City, experience ancient customs and delicious cuisine while travelling through the heart of Vietnam. Embark on an exciting tour down the Mekong river to Phnom Penh, and spend several days exploring the enigmatic temples of Angkor Wat. The bright lights of Bangkok are the ideal way to cap off this Indochina Discovery adventure.

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Bangkok, Thailand
Countries
Cambodia,
Thailand,
Vietnam
Themes
Explorer
Code
TVSLC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
244kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Cruise the sea of the limestone karst studded Halong Bay
  • Spend a day in Hue, touring the city's sights on a motorbike, cruising down Perfume River and eating lunch at a serene nunnery
  • Confront the sobering but important Khmer history in Phnom Penh, with included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Memorial
  • Enjoy the guidance of a local expert as you temple-hop at the dazzling Angkor complex, one of Southeast Asia's premier sights
  • See Vietnam and Cambodia through an exciting mix of transport, including motorbike, basket boat, dragon boat, junk boat, bus and train

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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. In free time, step out onto the streets to explore the chaotic capital of Vietnam. Hanoi is an alluring city of contrasts, best discovered on foot. Tonight perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over a glass of fresh bia hoi. This is a foamy, light beer made fresh each day and served in basic, open-walled ‘brew halls’. Take up a brightly coloured plastic chair and sip your tasty brew.

Notes: 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 or your booking agent in advance.
This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex the resting place of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary. The Complex also includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

The afternoon will be free for you to maybe explore the ancient ‘36 streets’ and discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Otherwise the Vietnam Fine Arts museum is also well worth a visit. Walking or riding a bike is the best way to explore this town. The shopping is fun and the many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes from the city.

In the evening, you'll sit down to a unique water-puppet performance.

Notes: If your trip starts on a Wednesday, your included breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation will be this morning, before commencing the day's activities.
Enjoy breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, and learn about the work of this organisation, which supports over 1,500 of the most vulnerable children throughout Vietnam every year. You will then leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to the famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat.

Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops in Bac Bo Gulf are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island beach. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. There's also a dining room and bar where you’ll enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner & breakfast. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities.

Notes: There are restrictions on the number of boats that are permitted to stay in the bay overnight. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, we’re occasionally using a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) or splitting groups across different vessels. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.

Swimming in the bay from the boats is not permitted.
In the morning you will sail back to the port, disembark and drive back to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Stop on the way back at the Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics. There will be free time to explore the city when you arrive back in Hanoi. There will be shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage. In some free time perhaps do some shopping on Hang Gai Street or seek out some delicious Hanoi street food.

Tonight you’ll board an overnight train bound for Hue (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a rewarding experience. It's an efficient way to travel long distances and a great way to get a sense of the country.

Notes: There are shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage.

Sleeper trains typically have four-berth compartments (occasionally six berths depending on the season), 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). Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but you may like to stock up on some food supplies before departure.
Arrive in Hue just after sunrise and proceed to the hotel to refresh. Hue is the hub of Vietnam’s historic past. This former imperial capital is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. The rest of the morning is free for you to relax; perhaps pick up a classic Hue breakfast of bun bo Hue, a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo). After lunch you will visit the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, gates, and walls. The Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace and the Ancestral Altars are still impressive, and the complex must have been awe-inspiring during its heyday in the 19th century. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, but its humble, foliage-covered ruins remain a testament to its proud history. Here you'll gain some insight into the horrific damage endured during the war. Then it's on to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery. After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. This evening, perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties.

Notes: For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, please ask your leader to request car transportation between destinations.

Boats along Perfume River may not be available during festival season. During these times, you’ll be transported by land to reach the activities.
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. After a brief visit to My Khe Beach (China Beach), famous for its role in the Vietnam War and its spectacular backdrop of the Marble Mountains, arrive at Hoi An (approximately 4 hours). 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 from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of times past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. On arrival, a walking tour will take you around the major sites of Hoi An’s charming Old Town, including an historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. You will notice a distinctly Chinese appearance to the pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour for you to visit a selection of the major sights as you wish.
If you feel like getting active on your free day today, why not hire a bicycle and tour the surrounding countryside. This is one of the best ways to get an insight into rural Vietnam. Other optional activities include a day trip to My Son Cham (elaborate World Heritage-listed temples that reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation), a cruise along the Thu Bon River, and a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach. Your leader will be able to help with suggestions on activities in Hoi An.
Enjoy another free day in the world heritage listed Hoi An. You may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours. Bring your favourite piece of clothing, or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. You might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper, while a Vietnamese cooking class too is a great way to familiarise yourself with some age-old culinary techniques, not to mention being able to feast on the fruits of your own labour.
Transfer to Danang (approximately 30 minutes) and board the SE1 day train to Nha Trang (approximately 10 hours). Although long, it's an interesting journey, as well as a chance to check out the stunning countryside and befriend local travellers. Arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang this evening and check into your hotel for the night. If you have the energy, after the sun sets experience Nha Trang’s vibrant restaurant and bar culture - home to all manner of weird and wonderful cuisine options and an extremely high standard of food.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang’s sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make a pretty idyllic picture. This morning you’ll hop on a boat as you head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers, as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and feast on a fresh seafood buffet for lunch. You can then enjoy this rest day by lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim.
You have a full free day to spend on the sweeping beaches of this tropical bayside playground. Perhaps treat yourself and soak in a natural mud bath at one of the nearby spas or, for a dose of culture, climb the steps up to the temples of Po Nagar or Long Song and appreciate views of the coastline from above. Po Nagar Cham Tower dates from AD 817 and is still an active place of worship. Tonight you’ll depart by the overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City, which leaves late in the evening (approximately 9 hours).
Upon our early arrival into Ho Chi Minh, shared day rooms will be available for the group until check-in time.

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 where daily life plays out on the streets. 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. Take a guided tour to get a feel for the city to going past the GPO, Reunification Palace, and the Opera house. Stop in at the War Remnants Museum.

With free time these evening perhaps drop by one of Vietnam’s most pulsing markets, Ben Thanh. This is the perfect place to pick up any last-minute snacks, cooking utensils, ingredients, or presents for friends and family before you return home. Perhaps enjoy some of the market fare for dinner as you shop.
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 take a tuk-tuk around this remote village with a stop to sample tropical fruits, and to see a honey farm, 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 specialties 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.

Today you may be required to move to a different hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, for the next section of your trip. Your leader will let you know if this is the case, and will help with the transfer to the next hotel.

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.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 6–7 hours). You will cross the border, exiting Vietnam at Moc Bai and entering Cambodia at Ba Vet. Your leader will assist you with border crossing procedures.
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. You will also 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, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. You can learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history from an optional visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda (optional). 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 to Siem Reap (approximately 7 hours). Along the way you'll make several stops which are great opportunities to see the real Cambodia. You'll visit the cottage industry of Santuk Silk Farm, a fair-trade organisation that provides a valuable source of employment in a poor rural community. You'll even have a the rare chance to sample a deep-fried spider. Arrive in Siem Reap in the evening and relax as you prepare for your much-anticipated visit to Angkor tomorrow. Perhaps hit the markets for some delicious street food.

Notes: Santuk Silk Farm is closed on some important Khmer holidays.
Temple-hop with your local guide and make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. The temples, dating back as far as the 9th century, 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 photo opportunities at any time of day. Watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so there will be plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Continue your explorations of the Angkor complex. You may like to spend just the morning making further discoveries here, and save your afternoon for an optional activity elsewhere. Perhaps enjoy a boat trip along the Tonle Sap (freshwater lake), visiting one of its floating villages. Keen adventurers can take the 'Flight of the Gibbon' zip-line adventure which gives an amazing birds-eye view of the rainforest, not to mention an adrenaline rush.
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approximately 3 hours). Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang (pronounced Battambong), is a pretty riverside town of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and beautifully preserved colonial architecture. Consider a guided tour of the countryside to discover the local rural way of life – it stops off at small cottage industries that produce sticky rice, noodles & fish paste. Or perhaps take a ride on the famous bamboo train, a great chance to interact with locals. There's also an optional cooking class to learn the secrets of local dishes such as amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
It's a long drive from Battambang to Bangkok (approximately 8–9 hours by private bus, including the border crossing and lunch). You will exit Cambodia at Poipet and enter Thailand at Aranyaprathet. Your leader will be on hand to assist with border crossing procedures. Arrive in Thailand's bustling capital and take in this exciting world of tuk tuks, khlong boats, and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast, with no further activities planned.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
18 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 1 dinner
Transport
Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi, Train, Van
Accommodation
Hotel (18 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
  • Hanoi - Water puppet show
  • Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
  • Hanoi - Blue Dragon breakfast
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume River boat ride
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
  • Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
  • Nha Trang - Basket boat ride
  • Nha Trang - Full day boat trip to Hon Mun Island
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
  • Phnom Penh - Choeung Ek (Killing Fields)
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Prison Museum (S21)
  • Siem Reap - Tonle Sap Lake boat trip
  • Santuk Silk Farm
  • Siem Reap - Three Day Angkor Pass
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. Please provide full passport details 45 days prior to departure in order to secure Vietnam train tickets.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip. Please see 'Your Fellow Travellers' section for excluded nights.
3. 2017 Departures: Based upon scheduling and traveller feedback this trip will be one day longer in 2017, 23 days in total. There will be a free day in Ho Chi Minh City on Day 15.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Indochina Discovery trips score an average of 4.9 out of 5 based on 10 reviews in the last year.

Indochina Discovery , July 2016

Indochina Discovery , June 2016