Information from Intrepid
Prepare for an epic adventure loaded with ancient sights and natural beauty as you travel from the hustle of Bangkok to the bustle of Hanoi, with Lonely Planet and Intrepid. In Cambodia, call into the ancient temples at Angkor, take on beguiling Phnom Penh and get a taste of Khmer hospitality with a village homestay in Chambok. Then veer into Vietnam to trace its coastline from south to north, visiting the chaotic Ho Chi Minh City all the way up to old-world Hanoi, with historic Hoi An and Hue at its centre. Along the way, revel in the sheer beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the locals and the social organisations that are providing brighter futures for this region. Oh, and did we mention the food? To die for.
- 4 breakfasts
- 4 lunches
- 3 dinners
- Boat , Overnight sleeper train , Private minibus , Taxi
- Guesthouse (4 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (17 nights), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)
- Siem Reap - One day Angkor Pass
- Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
- Chambok - Traditional dancing
- Chambok - Homestay and activities
- Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)
- Phnom Penh - Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
- Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
- Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
- Hoi An - Countryside bicycle hire
- Hanoi - Old Quarter Walking Tour
- Da Bac - Homestay and activities
- Da Bac - Sung Cave hike
- Da Bac - Sung village to Da Bia hike
- Da Bac - Hoa Binh Reservoir cruise
- Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
- Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
- Enjoy the guidance of a local expert as you temple-hop around the dazzling Angkor complex – one of South East Asia's premier sites.
- Confront the sobering but important Khmer history in Phnom Penh, with included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.
- Experience local life during homestays in the Mekong Delta and Da Bac. Get to know local families, participate in their activities and enjoy a homestyle meal.
- Hoi An is another idyllic pocket of Vietnam that's best experienced from the seat of a bike. Take a guided bicycle tour through the rolling countryside and see local life pass you by.
- Kayak around the limestone karsts and shimmering waters of Lan Ha Bay and help out the locals’ environmental efforts along the way.
Day 1: Bangkok Sa-wat-dee! Welcome to Bangkok. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you will meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, you could 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 a Thai massage. There is plenty to keep you occupied in this exciting city. After your briefing, why not head out with the group to try some of Bangkok’s famed street food – pad thai anyone?
Day 2: Siem Reap Prepare for a long day of travel as you cross Thailand and enter Cambodia. You’ll want to load up on snacks and reading material for the 10-hour private minibus ride to Siem Reap. This travel time includes time spent at the border crossings and a stop for lunch, and don’t worry, your leader is on-hand to assist with the border procedures. Keep in mind, if you are planning on getting your visa at the border, you will need cash in US dollars and a passport photo. On arrival, enjoy a free evening to explore this small but bustling town. You may want to head to Pub Street to grab a bite to eat and sample the city’s nightlife, otherwise, rest up in preparation for tomorrow’s visit to Angkor Wat.
Day 3: Siem Reap / Angkor Wat Today you'll visit the incredible Angkor complex with your guide. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres – the biggest religious monument in the world. Thankfully, the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so you'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites like Angkor Wat – the astounding main temple, Bayon – a marvel of many sculpted decorations, and Ta Prohm – a series of smaller temples covered in tree roots and jungle. As visually stunning as these sites are, your guide will add to your experience by bringing the ancient history to life with their extensive knowledge of the site.
Day 4: Siem Reap Enjoy a free day to explore Siem Reap and its surrounds. If you feel like some adventure, you can take the optional Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a thrill-seeking, bird’s-eye view of the rainforest. Other options here include a visit to the sobering Landmine Museum – it's located a little further afield 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. If you decided to purchase a longer Angkor Pass, then you might opt to head back to visit more of the incredible temples within the complex, or get up early and experience an unforgettable sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Day 5: Kampong Cham This morning, travel by public bus to Kampong Cham (approximately 5 hours). This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great example of small-town Cambodia. Once arrived, you’ve got the afternoon at leisure, perhaps 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 Kampong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge – accessible only in the dry season, with ferry transfers when it’s wet. The locals here make their living fishing and growing tobacco and sesame, so it's also a good place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia's cottage industries. Further out of town are the twin mountain temples of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei too. So many choices!
Day 6: Chambok Travel by private vehicle (approximately 5 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. 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. You may like to trek to a stunning waterfall this afternoon, it’s a 60–90-minute hike and dependent on the weather, but it’s definitely worth it. In the evening, head to the community centre to enjoy a local Khmer dinner prepared by people from the community. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance.
Day 7: Kampot Jump on a private bus bound for Kampot (approximately 3 hours) – one of Cambodia's most attractive old towns. Renowned for its pepper, Kampot supplied most French restaurants with this vital spice for many years during colonial rule. Today, the region is well-known for its plantations of durian – a spiky, pungent fruit that has its lovers, and haters! In your free time this afternoon, you might choose to stroll along the riverside and observe the French colonial architecture, or have a cup of coffee on the veranda of one of the riverside restaurants and admire the view of Bokor Mountain Range. Today’s an ideal time to pull out your Lonely Planet app for some more travel inspiration around Kampot.
Day 8: Kampot Enjoy a free day in this chilled-out town. For a unique photo opportunity, head to the roundabout in the centre of the town, where a giant durian statue sits smack in the middle and perhaps browse for goodies at the covered market. The nearby countryside is also a delight to explore – among fields of Kampot pepper and rice, there’s also a salt field and a limestone cave with a small seventh-century brick temple inside called Phnom Chhnork. Otherwise, why not have a relaxing day and enjoy one of the highly recommended traditional massages.
Day 9: Phnom Penh Leave Kampot in your dust and travel by private vehicle to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approximately 4 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. Perhaps spend your free afternoon 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 art deco Psar Thmei (Central Market), US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong riverfront, Independence Monument and Royal Palace.
Day 10: Phnom Penh Today you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek – two sites that tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. After this, the afternoon is free for you to explore further. If you're looking to relax, the Seeing Hands massage parlours are some of the best in the city, and all visits support the staff who have visual impairments. Their years of expertise may be just what you need today after a busy couple of days.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 10 hours including border crossings and lunch). Your leader will again assist you with border crossing procedures. Get out and discover Ho Chi Minh 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.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City Good morning from Ho Chi Minh City! The day is yours to do as you please, so feel free to wander around the bustling Ben Thanh markets, or book yourself in to head out to the historic Cu Chi Tunnels – a series of tiny underground walkways used by the Viet Cong. Better yet, why not book into an Urban Adventure, like Cyclos & Markets, where you’ll check out some food and flower markets and pass by the city’s highlights from the seat of a cyclo. Urban Adventures also offers a Cu Chi Experience too, so visit urbanadventures.com/destination/ho-chi-minh-city-tours for more info. Keep in mind that there’s another group meeting scheduled for tonight, usually around 6 pm, where you’ll meet you a new and improved travel crew for the next stage of your South East Asian adventure.
Day 13: Mekong Delta This morning, head away from the city and 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 cottage industries along the river before heading to your guesthouse. Staying in simple local accommodation close to the delta, hosted by a Vietnamese family, will be one of the highlights of your trip, giving you a taste of community life as well as the chance to enjoy a traditional home-cooked meal.
Day 14: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City – Overnight Train Rising early to the sounds of the river coming alive, enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding the boat back down the delta and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy some free time in Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon, perhaps with a visit to the War Remnants Museum or Reunification Palace. If you haven’t already, head to Ben Thanh Market for some delicious street food, colourful shopping and even more colourful characters. This evening, board an overnight train bound for Danang. Trains are a common form of transport for the Vietnamese, so sit back and relax into this local experience.
Day 15: Hoi An Arrive in Danang by train and travel by minibus for approximately 1 hour to Hoi An. Hoi An was recently declared a World Heritage town and is being beautifully restored. It was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century. 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 so you can visit a selection of the major sights. Hoi An is also a shopping mecca, so head down to the markets and street stalls to browse paintings, woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. It’s also famous for its tailors who can make beautiful items to order, and with almost three full days here you have the chance to have some unique pieces whipped up.
Day 16: Hoi An Wake up for a free morning to do as you please. It’s a great opportunity to take a trip out to the My Son temples – a World Heritage-listed site constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries that reflects the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation. In the afternoon, swap walking for cycling with 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 the green rice paddies and small creeks, which will give you a true insight into rural life in Vietnam.
Day 17: Hoi An You’ve got another day to explore this historic haven. Perhaps book in your final tailoring fitting this morning to make sure the threads you’re getting made fit like a glove, or hire a bike for a lazy ride out to the South China Sea to laze on An Bang or Cua Dai beach. Hoi An is also known for its great food, so you could book yourself in to a cooking class to take some culinary secrets away with you. Most tours include a trip to the local food markets, and some take you on a short boat journey along the Thu Bon River. Best of all, it’s up to you, so just relax and let your mind do the wandering.
Day 18: Hue Bid farewell to Hoi An this morning and make your way to Hue. The drive in a private vehicle will take around 5 hours. You’ll be travelling on the incredible Hai Van Pass, through lush mountains and past scenic lookouts, and there’ll be some good places for a photo stop. 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. It’s important to know that Hue is renowned for its cuisine, with some delicious dishes originating from this region, including bun bo hue (Hue’s delicious take on pho), and banh khoai (a filled turmeric crepe). Time to give your tastebuds a workout.
Day 19: Hue – Overnight Train Enjoy a 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 Thien 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 evening, take another overnight train bound for Hanoi. The journey will take approximately 12 hours.
Day 20: Hanoi Arrive in Hanoi at about 5 am and transfer to your hotel. Once you’ve dropped off your bags and freshened up, embark on a walking tour of Vietnam’s charming capital. Explore the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter – locally known as this because of each street originally selling a specific type of product. Continue on to the Dong Xuan Market and Hoan Kiem Lake, making sure you check out the unique architecture along the way. 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. In the evening, why not get your group together and head out to a bustling night market for some local fare. Sitting on plastic stools and eating on the roadside is a rite of passage in Vietnam.
Day 21: Da Bac Leave Hanoi after breakfast around 8 am and make the drive to Sung Village (approximately 4 hours). There are around 70 families living at Sung Village and the majority are Dzao ‘Tien’ people. Farming and forest plantations are their main source of income. Enjoy lunch at your homestay then take an introductory walk around the village. After getting to know the village better, take a short trek (approximately two kilometres) to the alluring Sung Cave and visit a 100-year-old tea plantation. The trek has some steep and slippery sections so make sure you’ve packed suitable footwear for this activity. After a local handicraft workshop, return to your homestay accommodation for a nice hot shower and a delicious dinner.
Day 22: Hanoi This morning, take the opportunity to encounter more of the Vietnamese highlands on a ten-kilometre (6.2 mi) trek from Sung Village to Da Bia. The first eight kilometres of the trek is on mostly flat ground along well-worn buffalo tracks. The final two kilometres gradually incline and for a period of approximately 300 metres there are some steps to climb, but the walk will be at a steady and relaxed pace. Keep an eye out for the monumental stone at the peak of Da Bia Mountain during the hike while you walk through local villages, meeting people from the ethnic Muong tribe. Stop for lunch at Da Bia before enjoying a scenic 1.5-hour boat cruise on Hoa Binh hydropower reservoir. Arrive at Thung Nai then board a bus transfer to Hanoi (approximately 2 hours), arriving at around 6 pm. This evening is free for you to explore this delightful city. Why not relax with a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter?
Day 23: Cat Ba Island Get up early for the 7.30 am bus, stop for a quick break, then jump on the ferry. This morning of travel will deliver you to beautiful Cat Ba Island before midday. There's no time to waste, so begin exploring the stunning waters of Lan Ha Bay around Cat Ba. Located in the greater Halong Bay area, Lan Ha Bay is one of Vietnam’s most scenic places, where limestone islands and caves rise from the emerald waters. You’ll have a free afternoon to explore at your own pace, so perhaps get active on a hike, or just enjoy a dip at one of the beaches. Have a relaxing evening on Cat Ba Island.
Day 24: Cat Ba Island This morning, head out on the water from Cat Ba and continue exploring the limestone karst scenery. Take a boat around Lan Ha Bay with an included lunch while you cruise, then get up close and personal with this striking landscape by kayak. There’s the option to have a net on the side of your kayak and help out the locals’ clean-up efforts. This initiative hopes to eliminate the rising amounts of plastic waste in the bay. Lan Ha and Halong Bay are on the bucket list of many travellers, and with two days to discover, you’ll get to tick it off yours.
Day 25: Hanoi Rise and shine! Perhaps start your morning with a refreshing swim or a Vietnamese coffee (or both). Make sure you soak up as much sun and sand as possible, because this afternoon it's back to Hanoi by ferry and bus. Tonight you may want head out for an optional dinner with your fellow travellers, sharing some memories and laughs over a local meal and beer.
Day 26: Hanoi There are no activities planned for today and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time after check-out. With so much to see and do in Hanoi, we recommend that you spend an extra day or two here, and we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability). Urban Adventures has some great experiences in and around Hanoi, including Citadels, Karsts & Cycle, which is a great activity to visit the ancient citadel of Hoa Lu and take a rowboat through the magnificent caves of Trang An. Head to urbanadventures.com/destination/hanoi-tours for more information.