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

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
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. 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.

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, which includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

This afternoon is free to explore on your own before witnessing the marvel of the Water Puppets this evening.

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 the work of this organisation supporting over 1,500 of the most vulnerable children throughout Vietnam every year.
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 (known locally as the East 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, dinner & breakfast.

Notes: Local authorities only permit a limited number of boats to stay overnight in Halong Bay. To ensure we can accommodate all travellers on board available boats, at times we will use larger boats (approx. 12 cabins). In rare cases the group may need to be split across different boats. If this occurs a group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.

Your leader will discuss the option for swimming from Ti Tip Island beach during the warmer months. Swimming in the bay from the boats is not permitted.
Return to Hanoi by bus (approx 3.5 hrs), stopping at Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics.

Enjoy a couple of hours of free time back in Hanoi late this afternoon, until taking the overnight train to Hue.

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

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 and group configuration), 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.
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.
After an early morning arrival we transfer to our hotel. The rest of the morning is free. After lunch we will pay a visit to the Hue Imperial Citadel.

During your free time perhaps visit 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.
Our second day in Hue is filled with sightseeing.

As passengers on the back of motorbikes we visit all the key sights, including:

The Forbidden Purple City which 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.

Next is 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 then enjoy a boat cruise on the Perfume River for about 40 minutes before getting back on our motorbikes and riding to our special lunch stop in a nunnery.

After lunch we visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees, before heading back to Hue.

Notes: For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, a car between destinations can be provided upon request with your leader.

Boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you’re travelling during festival periods. During these times you’ll travel by land to reach the activities instead.
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacularly mountainous Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach), arrive at Hoi An (135 km/approx. 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 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.

On arrival 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.
Today is a free day for optional activities. Perhaps take a boat cruise down the Thu Bon River, or take a bicycle tour around the countryside. There’s also a day trip to the stunning ruins of My Son, the centuries-old Hindu temples.
Today is a free day for optional activities. You’ll have time to see the beautiful Chinese shophouses, enjoy the busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, browse the array of art galleries or to pick up any items from the tailor.
Transfer to Danang and board the SE1 day train to Nha Trang (approx 10 hrs). Although long, it's an interesting journey - a chance to check out the stunning countryside, as well as befriend local travellers.
Arrive in Nha Trang this evening and check into our hotel for the night.
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.

A highlight for many travellers is our boat trip amongst the islands. From the main boat, we take basket boats to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters, enjoy a seafood buffet lunch, and pass the afternoon lazing in deck chairs or swimming.
A full free day to spend in Nha Trang. Perhaps treat yourself and soak in natural mud bath, at one of the nearby spas. Or venture to the Po Nagar Cham Tower, dating from 817 AD, which is still an active place of worship.

Tonight we depart by the overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City departing late in the evening.
Upon our early arrival into Ho Chi Minh, we check into our day rooms; these will be shared with your fellow passengers until our own rooms are available at check-in time.
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.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum. Our walking tour will also take us past the Reunification Palace, Post Office and Opera House.
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
19 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 - 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
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • Phnom Penh - Choeung Ek (Killing Fields)
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Prison Museum (S21)
  • Siem Reap - Tonle Sap Lake boat trip
  • 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.

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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Indochina Discovery trips score an average of 4.88 out of 5 based on 8 reviews in the last year.

Indochina Discovery , February 2016

Indochina Discovery , February 2016

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