Journey through the culture-rich centre of South East Asia

The best of Cambodia and Vietnam is unveiled on this journey from Bangkok to Hanoi. Discover the region's culture and beauty as we visit the stunning ancient temples of Angkor, and be immersed in Vietnam's markets and vibrant streets. Add to the adventure an overnight boat stay on Halong Bay, friendly locals and lots of scrumptious food - the only thing left to do is choose when to go.

Start
Bangkok, Thailand
Finish
Hanoi, Vietnam
Countries
Cambodia,
Thailand,
Vietnam
Themes
Explorer
Code
TKSKC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
405kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • This trip involves a day on the winding waterways of the Mekong Delta, the lifeblood and “rice bowl” of South-East Asia.
  • There’s no view of Vietnam quite like from the back of a motorbike; take a Hue motorbike tour and boat trip down the Perfume River
  • Spend the night on one of the iconic junk-style boats that cruise between the limestone peaks of Halong Bay
  • Be mystified by the temples of Angkor Wat
  • Sample local Cambodian life on a rural village homestay

Itinerary

Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand.
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. 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. 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.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - 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?
Pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage.
Explore the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
A long travel day awaits us today. It's a long drive from Bangkok to Siem Reap (approx. 10 hours/450 km total by private bus, including border crossing and lunch).

We exit Thailand at Aranyaprathet and enter Cambodia at Poipet. Your tour leader will help you with border crossing procedures. If you are getting your visa at the border you will need USD cash.

From Poipet to Siem Reap is around another 150 km.


The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. 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.
Temple-hop with our local guide to make the most of our visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. These temples were built between the 9th 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 - watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so we'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Depending on the season there may be a chance to visit Tonle Sap Lake for a look at local life.
If you feel like some adventure another option is to do the "Flight of the Gibbon" zip-line course, giving you a birds eye view of the rain forest with extra adrenalin rush thrown in!
Get a taste of real Cambodian life on a homestay with a local family in one of the traditional villages near the impressive Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex.
Jump on a private bus heading towards Sambor Prei Kuk and our Homestay (approx. 3.5hours). We reach our homestay, drop our bags and meet the local family with who we'll be staying with tonight.
Tour the village with your local guide. The guide will introduce you to the way of life of the local people, your homestay facilities and your hosts for tonight.
Facilities are very basic at our homestay, but this is an opportunity to experience the everyday life of rural Cambodians.
Sambor Prei Kuk is Cambodia's oldest temple site dating back to the 6th century. You have free time to visit this fascinating temple complex.
In the evening, we enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner with our host family.
Travel by private bus to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh (approx 4 hrs). A great opportunity to look at the real Cambodia, we'll make several stops at points of interest along the way. It may be possible to see the cottage industry at Santuk Silk Farm and sample the local cuisine of deep-fried spiders at Skun.
Phnom Penh, 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.
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.
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. 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.
Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
Explore Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. According to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill.
Check out the National Museum. Housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship.
Take in the sites by cyclo. Tours generally take in the following: central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument, finishing at the Royal Palace.
Stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic.
Travel by public bus through Cambodia and rural Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City (approx 6-7 hrs).
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.
We have a few hours in the afternoon to explore the frenetic heart of the city or to bargain for final purchases at the historic Ben Thanh Market before an optional final dinner.
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.
Enjoy a free day on day 9. Perhaps take a half day trip to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, as well as a unique sense of what underground life was like during the American War.
Back in Ho Chi Minh City the War Remnants Museum is worth a visit, offering further insight into the Vietnam-American war.
Today you'll travel south by private bus (approximately 3 hours) for a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away. Disembark at Ben Tre and visit a local cottage industry - coconut candy - and sample the candy which the region is famous for. You’ll have the opportunity to take a tuk-tuk around this remote village and make a stop to sample tropical fruit and learn more about rural life. For lunch, go to a restaurant in the heart of the delta and try regional specialities such as the famous elephant-ear fish. After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle along the canals under the shade of lush water coconut trees. Get back on the main boat and cruise though more major waterways on your way to the town of My Tho. After a scenic cruise, take the bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
This morning, say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City and fly north to Danang (approximately 1 hour). From here you’ll take a forty-five minute bus ride to Hoi An with the five spectacular peaks of the Marble Mountains as a backdrop. Once in Hoi An, your leader will take you on a walking of this unique town, influenced over the years by Europe, China and Vietnam. The town was a major trading port from the 17th century onwards, and the outside influences can be seen all over its architecture, with pagodas and assembly halls found across the town. For a small place it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets that are being restored and look much like they did over a century ago. Past low tiled buildings, you'll take in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum.
Enjoy a 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. For those still feeling adventurous, 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.
Leave Hoi An today and head towards My Khe Beach (China Beach). This area is famous for its role in the Vietnam War and its spectacular backdrop of the Marble Mountains. Continuing on your journey you’ll cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. Make a quick stop at the fishing village of Lang Co, then continue to your final destination of Hue (approximately 5 hours including stops). Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue contains the treasures of Vietnam’s royal history, and has a interesting blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your excursion here will be to the Imperial Citadel. This fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction caused by the war. 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, then 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. In the evening, board an overnight train to Hanoi (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals.

Notes: For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, a car can be arranged upon request for transport 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.
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.
Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnam’s capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and Frenchy Old Quarter. As an emerging city in Southeast Asian, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets. Later in the day you'll take a walking tour through the city. You’ll see Ho Chi Minh’s former stilt house and other icons such as the Temple of Literature. In your free time, perhaps stop by the ’36 Streets’ of the historic Old Quarter, head to the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, or visit the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. This Museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnam’s ethnic communities.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). This is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful places, a secluded bay of emerald waters flecked with sandstone islands and caves. Here you’ll go on a cruise to explore the rock formations and caves and in the warmer months perhaps go for a swim. There’ll be a dining room and bar on board where you’ll enjoy your meals, including fresh seafood for lunch and dinner. Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities.

Notes: Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay, a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight. To ensure we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers on overnight boats we occasionally use a larger boat (approximately 12 cabins) and split our groups across different boats. The route and inclusions will remain the same, and an Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat.

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.
Leaving the memorable scenery of Halong Bay behind, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Return to Hanoi late this afternoon, and enjoy a couple of free hours to explore Hanoi's sights or do some last minute shopping. Otherwise, why not just relax at a cafe or stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter? Tonight there will be a farewell dinner to enjoy with the group at KOTO restaurant, an organisation that supports street kids with a career in the hospitality industry.
Today you're exploration of Vietnam comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Maybe consider continuing your adventure with a short tour such as ‘Hanoi Street Food by Night’ or ‘Village Discovery by Bike’ with our partners Urban Adventures (see urbanadventures.com for more information). Or perhaps visit the Hoa Lo Prison aka the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ which was used for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. There’s also the Museum of Ethnology with its fascinating indoor and outdoor exhibits. Consider booking some extra nights in Hanoi to further explore this delightful city.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
15 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners
Transport
Overnight boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Public bus, Taxi
Accommodation
Homestay (1 night), Hotel (14 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Siem Reap - Three Day Angkor Pass
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
  • Homestay - Village Tour with local guide
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Prison Museum (S21)
  • Phnom Penh - Choeung Ek (Killing Fields)
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume River boat ride
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature
  • Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda & HCM stilt house
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hanoi - KOTO dinner

Dates

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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 internal flights and 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. Please see 'Your Fellow Travellers' section for more information.

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 Best of Cambodia & Vietnam trips score an average of 4.71 out of 5 based on 35 reviews in the last year.

Best of Cambodia & Vietnam , April 2016

Best of Cambodia & Vietnam , April 2016

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