Wander among the extravagantly decorated temples of Angkor and learn about the site’s rich interweaving of history and legend. You’ll have a 3 day pass so as well as our guided tours you can return on your own to further immerse yourself in the beauty and mystery. Discover a land of contrasts and turbulent history, nowhere more visible than in Phnom Penh. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) as well as the opulent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Dine at the Friends restaurant in Phomn Penh, and KOTO in Hanoi, to not only taste delicious local food but also supporting organisations promoting and protecting disadvantaged local children. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride down the Mekong River before stopping to experience a slice of local life with an overnight stay at a family guesthouse. The cultural exchange is often the highlight of many travellers trips
From Vietnam to Cambodia, discover incredible diversity, delectable cuisines, dramatic histories and natural beauty. Travel to Cambodia and delve into the dramatic Khmer legacy in Phnom Penh and explore the intricate temples of Angkor Wat. Travel to Vietnam and view the country’s colourful history on the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and explore the colonial-era architecture of Hanoi. This trip offers places of breathtaking beauty, from the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, to the temples of Cambodia and the wonder of Halong Bay. Add a mix of friendly locals and age-old traditions to ensure the ultimate South East Asian experience.
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. If you arrive early, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. The National Museum, with its collection of classic Khmer craftsmanship, is well worth a visit. Dinner tonight will be at the Friends International restaurant, an organisation that provides training and employment in the hospitality industry to disadvantaged youth. It's a great restaurant to support and the food is delicious – the Western and Asian fusion tapas dishes have put this restaurant on the must visit list.
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng is a former school that served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre, and it’s estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are home to a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls, marking the site of the infamous location. 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. The visits are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please let your leader know. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. After today's activities, you may wish to spend this evening relaxing in a cafe by the riverfront.
Take a short flight to Siem Reap (approximately 1 hour). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor and is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. You'll probably notice a change of pace here, so take a walk and enjoy the atmosphere. A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs, wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes – and there will be one for your stomach too if you try some of the cheap, delicious street food! There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening, perhaps while you're eating the specialty cuisine of Cambodia – amok, the name given to curry steam-cooked in banana leaves.
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where disadvantaged local youth learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Afterward, you will head to Ta Prohm, a temple where nature has taken over, as large trees have become embedded in the stone foundations of the structure. End the day with a sunset view of the temples – an extraordinary way to see the sun go down.
Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). Today you'll visit the temple of Banteay Srei – you'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. Later this afternoon, get an insight into the daily life of Cambodians on a village tour. See the rice fields and family allotment that surround the traditional stilt houses. Be welcomed into a local home as you join together for sunset drinks. This evening, enjoy a final farewell dinner with your fellow travellers and one last night of delicious Cambodian cuisine at a specially chosen restaurant.
Ho Chi Minh City
You will be transferred back to the airport, where you will say goodbye to Cambodia and fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Please note that you will be unescorted on this flight. Upon arrival you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group will 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 and your Vietnamese tour leader. This meeting is followed by a group meal out at fantastic local restaurant.
Travel south by private bus for about three hours to Ben Tre. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. The delta is known as ‘Vietnam’s rice bowl’ for its abundance of rice paddies, fruit and flower orchards. During the boat trip, you’ll stop to sample some of the fresh tropical fruit and visit some cottage industries in the area. Around sunset, make your way to your local guesthouse to spend a night with the locals and enjoy a wonderful meal of regional specialties.
Ho Chi Minh City
Return to Ho Chi Minh City and take a walking tour in town. Experience the hustle and bustle of former Saigon and explore some of the city's more interesting sights such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the grand post office and War Remnants Museum. In your free time, perhaps visit Reunification Palace or book in to see a cultural show at the Saigon Opera House. Otherwise, go in search for the best food with some of your fellow travellers – your group leader will know where to go for meals of any budget.
Make a day trip to the renowned Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, and offers a glimpse of what life was like during the war. Your group leader can recommend somewhere local if you'd like a final taste of southern Vietnamese cuisine, before you head for Phan Rang. First, take an afternoon flight to Cam Ranh, and from there, travel 1.5 hours by minibus to the historic city of Phan Rang – your base for the next two days.
Today, take a day trip to Vinh Hy Bay, a beautiful, crescent-shaped harbour between Phan Rang and Nha Trang. On your way to the bay, you’ll stop at the Bau Nai fish market for a glimpse of the bustle of activity as fish are unloaded and locals hurriedly shop for the best deal. Continue through the Vietnamese countryside to the sprawling salt flats – truly a sight to behold. Witness workers raking and collecting salt that has evaporated from the salty waters of Vietnam’s coast, which has been funnelled inland into shallow fields. Next, visit another place of great natural beauty – the moss-covered rock formations and fossilised coral reefs of Hang Rai. Finally, arrive at Vinh Hy Bay, where you’ll have plenty of time to swim and snorkel in its warm, coral-filled waters.
Phan Rang/Overnight Train
Enjoy a free day at your own pace in Phan Rang. Perhaps use this time to see some of the grand remnants of the Cham dynasty – an ancient kingdom that had control of the central and southern coastal region of Vietnam from the second to the 17th-century scattered throughout the region. You may like to take an optional visit to the nearby Po Nagar Cham Towers – an archaeological site from the middle ages dedicated to the indigenous goddess, Yan Po Nagar. Alternatively, gain an insight into an ancient tradition with a visit to the oldest pottery village in South East Asia, Bau Truc. This evening, board an overnight train to Da Nang. Conditions are basic on these trains and hygiene standards may be lower than what you’re used to at home, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time.
Arrive early into Da Nang, then travel by minibus for 1 hour to Hoi An. Upon arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the World Heritage-listed Old Town. The city was a major trading port with the west during the 16th and 17th-centuries, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Japan. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. You'll see Chinese temples, Japanese pagodas, French-colonial houses, wooden shop-houses and old canals during your walk. After lunch, enjoy free time to participate in optional activities or simply 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. The town is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within hours.