South East Asia's shining gems are on full display

Experience the very best of South East Asia on this awesome Lonely Planet Experience through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, powered by Intrepid. Enjoy a steaming bowl of pho from a street stall in Ho Chi Minh City, relax on a beach in Phan Rang, admire the temples of Angkor and get some insight into everyday Khmer life at a rural homestay. With faded colonial elegance in Hanoi, the rustic charm of Kampong Chhnang and the urban buzz of Bangkok, there's a lot to dazzle your senses on this exploration through South East Asia.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Bangkok, Thailand
Destinations
Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
TVRKC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • This trip gives you plenty of free time – perfect for the traveller who appreciates a bit of independence. Food crawl in Hue? Beach hopping in Phan Rang? An extra day exploring the acclaimed Angkor complex? You decide!

  • Confront the sobering but important Khmer history, with a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh.

  • A homestay in Chambok puts you right in the heart of everyday life in Cambodia. Enjoy a village walk and waterfall visit and join in for a local dinner and cultural performance at night.

  • Lan Ha Bay is a beautiful enclave of green waters and strange rock formations. Explore them by boat and kayak, then spend the night on nearby Cat Ba Island.

Is this trip right for you?

  • We cover a lot of distance on this trip, including on overnight trains. Accommodation and amenities are shared and basic, but the experience of rubbing shoulders with the locals makes it all worthwhile. For more about what this experience is like, see our blog post here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/what-to-expect-on-an-overnight.

  • Other accommodation is basic – a combination of simple hotels, guesthouses and a homestay

  • This trip involves a lot of public transport and some long days of driving, so some patience will go a long way towards your enjoyment here. Sit back, relax, watch the scenery go by, and embrace travelling like a local

  • This trip gives you plenty of free time in each location, perfect for the traveller who appreciates a bit of independence

  • There is a limited amount of time included in Hanoi and Bangkok on this itinerary. Please consider booking some extra time before and after your trip if you would like more time to explore each of these cities

  • You'll be spending a night with a local family on this trip. While the accommodation is shared and basic, this is a great opportunity to connect with the local people (and enjoy delicious home-cooked meals!). Read more about the experience here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/cambodia-homestay-experience

Itinerary

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you happen to arrive early, take the day at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter admiring the city’s French-colonial architecture and manicured parks, or simply enjoy some street food. Better yet, consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city and its sites, including the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison museum and Hoan Kiem Lake. Head to urbanadventures.com/destination/hanoi-tours for more information.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure - USD79
  • Hanoi - Village Discovery by Bike Urban Adventure - USD36
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD39
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
An early start is necessary to get the most out of your day. Take a 7.30 am bus ride and ferry transfer to the steep karsts and tiny beaches of Cat Ba Island, arriving before midday – you’ll have a quick stop to stretch your legs en route. The largest of all the islands in World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, charming Cat Ba will be your base for exploring the limestone cliffs and turquoise water that define this area. Get acquainted with this stunning spot with an afternoon cruise around the bay, enjoying lunch on the boat while floating past the karsts covered in emerald-green foliage. Later, get closer to the water and explore on a kayak, perhaps stopping at one of Cat Ba’s many beaches for a swim. Stay overnight on Cat Ba Island and enjoy the sunset with a cold beer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Wake up in paradise and enjoy some free time lazing on the beach. Maybe go for a swim, kick back with a book or take a stroll along the sand. In the afternoon, head back to Hanoi. Hopefully you’ll have some time to grab dinner with the group before boarding an overnight train for a 12-hour journey to Hue later on. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are the best way to travel long distances and brush shoulders with the locals. Most trains have a dining carriage which serves simple food, but some travellers like to take some fresh bread, cheese, fruit and other snacks for the journey.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Sleeper trains typically have four or six berth compartments with bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Depending on the configuration of the group, you may have to share with people of different genders or passengers who aren’t part of the group. Your leader will coordinate and give further information on the trip. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but we recommend that you stock up on snacks and drinks before 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. Packed with historic monuments, Hue is also perfectly located to explore the surrounding countryside, which features stunning scenery, quaint villages and the peaceful Tam Giang Lagoon. 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. You have a free day to explore, which you could easily spend exploring Hue’s massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. Perhaps jump on board a dragon boat and enjoy a cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda, or cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. Otherwise, set off on an optional motorcycle tour of the sights in Hue and some surrounding villages.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
  • Hue - Royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc - VND136000
  • Hue - Imperial City Full Day Tour Urban Adventure - USD69
  • Hue - Highlights & back streets by motorbike (lunch included) - VND540000
  • Hue - Hue Royal City Street Eats Urban Adventure - USD39
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Your hotel rooms will be available from the standard check-in time this afternoon. You can store your luggage at the hotel while you explore Hue.
Continue on your journey and travel to the World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An, where on arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around town. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or 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. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within 24 hours, so be sure to check that out!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to further explore Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets of cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Visit some of the main art galleries or simply wander around the beautifully restored Chinese shop houses. There’s also the option of cycling around the surrounding countryside – a truly relaxing way to get off the beaten track and see rural Vietnam up close. Your leader will be able to suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike with Sunset BBQ Urban Adventure - USD54
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD55
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Make the most out of another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps do some of the activities you couldn’t fit into your schedule over the past couple of days, or go pick up your fresh threads from the tailors. There’s also Cua Dai Beach nearby – the perfect place to rest up before continuing on your way. This evening, board another overnight train bound for Phan Rang. Remember, it’s always a good idea to have some snacks and a book on hand.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham tour (entrance fee, guide and transport included) - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Phan Rang early this morning for two days of beachside bliss and relaxation. With arguably the best weather in Vietnam, Phan Rang is a low-key coastal city where swimming, snorkelling and seafood take priority. While you’re here, look out for banh can and banh xeo – egg, squid, shrimp and vegetables cooked into a pancake. Delicious!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a break with another day in Phan-tastic Phan Rang. You could squeeze the sand between your toes and grab some rays on the beach, or take a quick ride out to Dinh Cape – one of the most picturesque bays and stretches of sand in the area. Otherwise, perhaps ask your leader where you can get a massage to really get your zen on. Keep in mind that there’s your overnight train journey waiting for you this evening, so get outside and enjoy all that Phang Rang has to see, and eat! Tonight’s overnight train journey will take approximately 7 hours and drop you right into bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City very early this morning and transfer to your hotel. Today you’ll have plenty of free time to explore Vietnam’s largest city. Ho Chi Minh City has a busy atmosphere and many French influences. In your free time, it’s recommended to visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. There’s also the historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Ho Chi Minh City has a different style of cuisine to its northern counterpart Hanoi, so be sure get out for restaurant meals and street food with your travel crew. Your group leader has all the best people in the right places, so they’ll know of some delectable places to eat, for any budget.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that there are shared hotel rooms available this morning if you would like to freshen up before check-in time this afternoon.
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. 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 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum - VND40000
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND40000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a welcome meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and to meet new travellers joining you. It’s important that you attend the meeting as your new leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 10 hours including two border crossings and lunch). Cambodia's capital city is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. You may want to take a cyclo tour of the city's sights, including the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art deco Psar Thmei (Central Market) or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Phnom Penh - Cyclo tour - USD4
  • Phnom Penh - Khmer massage - USD8
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a day to explore the swirl and bustle of Phnom Penh. Included today is a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. These serve as sobering reminders of the violent rule of the Khmer Rouge. Here you can learn more about this confronting but important chapter in history – if you'd rather not visit these sites, simply let your leader know. Otherwise, the rest of the day is free for you to explore. You could visit Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple shrouded in myth, or the National Museum and its excellent Khmer collection. Perhaps indulge in a traditional massage at Seeing Hands – a great social enterprise supporting visually impaired masseurs. A traditional Cambodian massage may be a little different than you are used to – it’s generally an oil-free, fully-clothed affair. In the evening, perhaps head up to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club bar with your group for a drink overlooking the Tonle Sap River.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)
  • Phnom Penh - The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
Optional Activities
  • Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom - USD2
  • Phnom Penh - National Museum - USD10
  • Phnom Penh - Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda - USD10
  • Phnom Penh - Urban Adventure Mekong Sunset - USD65
  • Phnom Penh - Urban Adventure Phnom Penh Street Food by Night - USD47
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by private vehicle (approximately 3.5 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. There's a lot of natural beauty to discover here, and the Chambok community is renowned for its ecotourism. A member of the Chambok community will take you on a village walk and be happy to chat about their community’s history, lifestyle and local ecotourism projects. Meet the families your group will spend the night with and settle into your homestay accommodation. In the afternoon, take a walk around the village and head to a nearby waterfall. If it's warm enough, you may even opt for a swim! In the evening, head to the community centre to enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner prepared by women from the community. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance – tonight is an experience that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chambok - Traditional dancing
  • Chambok - Homestay and activities
  • Chambok - Khmer Dinner
Optional Activities
  • Chambok - Waterfall hike - USD3
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
We stay in one room in multishare homestay accommodation. Depending on the group size, we may use two homes that are located close to each other. There will be a thin mattress on the floor, pillow, mosquito net and towel for each traveller. Bathroom facilities will be shared and will often consist of a squat toilet and cold water washing area.
Say goodbye to your homestay hosts and head in a private vehicle to Kampong Chhnang (approximately 4–5 hours). Kampong Chhnang is a central province of Cambodia and borders South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap. After you’ve arrived, head to a pottery workshop demonstration where you’ll see how the locals use this craft, plus try it out, if you want! Otherwise, you could book on a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake, passing by the floating villages and fishing boats. This evening, there is also an optional (but highly recommended) experience to have dinner in a local home – you’ll never get over that traditional Cambodian hospitality.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kampong Chhnang - Pottery Demonstration
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Onwards to Battambang. Take a private vehicle for about 4 hours towards the Thai border, and you’ll hit this town on the Sangkae River. This afternoon is free for you to do as you please. Perhaps head to Wat Banan – an Angkor-era temple perched high about the river overlooking the surrounding region. With around 300 stairs to climb to the temples, it’s worth the exercise, as the largely untouched temples are a sight to behold, and the 360-degree panoramic views over the province are stunning, especially on a sunny day. Otherwise, Battambang’s Killing Fields of Phnom Sampeau are also a sobering reminder of how the Khmer Rouge affected this area. At sunset, an extraordinary sight occurs with thousands of bats emerging and streaming out from the nearby caves, sometimes for over half an hour. If you do decide to go to Phnom Sampeau, be sure to time your visit for this.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Battambang - Phnom Sampov bat caves - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
With another free day in Battambang, consider one of the optional activities. If you’re feeling active, there’s a cycling tour which takes you around to visit local producers of traditional foods, plus you get a different look at the countryside, with the fresh air cooling you as you ride. Instead, there may be a chance to book into a cooking class in a local home, or head out in the evening for a street food tour – best to ask your group leader, as they know all the best people in the right places.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Battambang - Countryside tour of local producers - USD25
  • Battambang - Cooking class in a local home - AUD18
  • Battambang - Phare Ponleu Selpak Centre - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a public bus to Siem Reap (approximately 3.5 hours). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor archaeological site. This is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. The markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you will visit the world-famous Angkor complex with your guide. These temples were built between the ninth 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 – seeing them at sunrise or sunset is highly recommended. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap. You'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm, among others.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
  • Siem Reap - One day Angkor Pass
Optional Activities
  • Siem Reap - Three day Angkor Pass - USD62
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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. Ask your group leader for further information.
Today there may be a chance (depending on the season) to visit Tonle Sap Lake for a look at local life. If you feel like some adventure, another option is to do the Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful rainforest and an adrenaline rush, of course. Otherwise you could visit the sobering Landmine Museum. It's located a little further field but is well worth the journey. You may also take the opportunity to spend a second day at the Angkor complex to explore parts of the site you may have missed yesterday. Please note that if you choose to return to Angkor, an extra day pass will be at your expense.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Siem Reap - Full day remork transport to Angkor complex - USD20
  • Siem Reap - Khmer Cooking Class - USD25
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Zipline Silver Tour - USD129
  • Siem Reap - Urban Adventure Street Food by Night - USD48
  • Siem Reap - Urban Adventures Tonle Sap Secrets - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
It's a long drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok (approximately 10 hours in a private minibus including two border crossings and lunch), so strap in and have some car games at the ready. Once arrived, embrace Thailand's bustling capital by getting out amongst it – a world of tuk tuks, khlong (canal) boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Head out with your new crew for an optional group dinner and find out why this city never sleeps.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you prefer not to travel by bus for the day, you are welcome to book a flight between the two cities instead. This flight will be at your own expense, however Intrepid can assist with Airport transfers where required.

Due to strict immigration laws your Cambodian trip leader will escort you to the Cambodian side of the border where you will say farewell before going through immigration unaccompanied. Once exiting immigration you will be met by one of our Thai trip leaders who will escort you to Bangkok. All of our trip leaders have been briefed to ensure this is a simple and smooth process.
With no activities planned for the final day, you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! Bangkok is a bustling hub of food, culture and chaos, so we recommend you spend at least another day here to explore. Better yet, book into one of the many Urban Adventure tours on offer – they take you around the best places with a knowledgeable local guide. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/bangkok-tours. If you would like to spend more time in Bangkok, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Bangkok - Bangkok Chinatown Food Discovery Urban Adventure - THB2149
  • Bangkok - Bangkok by Bike Urban Adventure - THB1980
  • Bangkok - Bangkok Tuk Tuk Experience Urban Adventure - THB2175
  • Bangkok - Bangkok Temple & River of Kings Urban Adventure - THB2465
  • Bangkok - Jim Thompson's House - THB150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

Overnight sleeper train, local bus, Private minibus

Accommodation

Guesthouse (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (15 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)
  • Phnom Penh - The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
  • Chambok - Traditional dancing
  • Chambok - Homestay and activities
  • Chambok - Khmer Dinner
  • Kampong Chhnang - Pottery Demonstration
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
  • Siem Reap - One day Angkor Pass

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Vietnam & Cambodia Explorer trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport) for train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip, subject to availability. Please contact your sales agent if you would like to book this. Please note the single supplement excludes days 3, 7 & 9 (overnight trains) and day 14 (homestay) where you will be in shared accommodation. Day use rooms are also excluded.

Essential trip information

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