Enjoy a day out in the countryside near the French colonial town of Kampot, walking through rice fields, discovering a hidden cave temple, and relaxing on a sunset river cruise.. Marvel at the spectacle of the ancient Angkor complex with two full days dedicated to this wonder. See the site in depth, and take your own time to discover the beauty and mystery of each temple.. Learn about local cottage industries in and around historic Battambang, visiting local businesses from pottery and silversmithing to sticky rice and fish paste production.. Discover why Halong Bay is just so popular as you spend the night on a boat among the evocative karst landscape, indulging in a feast of fresh seafood at twilight.
Be charmed by Cambodia and Vietnam on this 17-day adventure from picturesque Phnom Penh to the alluring Hanoi. From the temples of Angkor to the colonial-era architecture of Battambang and the devastating history of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is a country that emanates history at every turn. Jump over the border to Vietnam’s fast-paced Ho Chi Minh City, wander the ancient Vietnamese streets of Hoi An and bask in the natural charm of Halong Bay. This South East Asian adventure abounds in insightful history, enchanting culture, charismatic cities and delectable cuisine, so why not try it out yourself.
Breakfast Included: 16 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 2
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh. An airport arrival transfer to the hotel is included today. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm. After this, enjoy dinner with your fellow travellers in the excellent Friends restaurant, a Phnom Penh institution (and noble social enterprise). If you arrive early today and have some free time, why not stop in at the art deco-designed Psar Thmei (Central Market) – a great place for browsing. Or stroll along the atmospheric Sisowath Quay and grab a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while watching the busy river traffic.
Head south this morning along National Road 2. You'll pass through the town of Takeo and continue towards Kampot, one of Cambodia's most attractive old towns. Arrive in Kampot and enjoy an afternoon of free time. You might choose to stroll by the river and observe the French colonial architecture or relax on the veranda of one of the riverside restaurants and admire the view of the Bokor mountains. A massage at Seeing Hands is also highly recommended – surely one of the most enjoyable ways to support a great local cause.
Enjoy a day out in the countryside. Visit the Kampot Pepper Project and learn why Kampot pepper has been acknowledged by international chefs as the world’s best. Also visit the Kampot salt field, the only salt field in Cambodia. Take a short walk through the rice fields and climb to where some lovely views of the surrounding countryside are found. A few steps later you will enter the mouth of Phnom Chhnork limestone cave, which has a small 7th-century brick temple inside. Enjoy a walk along the beach at Kep, passing the old buildings near the ocean front. The town was Cambodia's most popular and prestigious beach town from the early 1900s until the 1960s. Sadly many of the mansions and villas didn't survive the reign of the Khmer Rouge, and their ghostly remains mark a dark history.
Say goodbye to the beach and take a different route back to Phnom Penh (approximately 4 hours). In the afternoon you will visit 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. This evening, with free time, you might opt for a relaxing sunset drink at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club – a great way to spend the night, overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.
Travel by private minibus through the countryside to Battambang (approximately 5 hours, not including stops). Along the way you will stop to see some local pottery and silversmithing at work. This gives a fascinating insight into small cottage industries in a lesser-visited spot in Cambodia. Arrive in Battambang (pronounced Battambong) and put your feet up after the journey. Perhaps take a stroll along the riverfront to soak up the elegant French vibes of the town. Some of the colonial architecture has been beautifully preserved, and there are friendly Khmer people abound.
Jump in a remork (Cambodian tuk-tuk) and travel through the beautiful surrounding countryside of Battambang. You will visit some small cottage industries that produce rice paper, dried banana, sticky rice cooked in bamboo, and aromatic fish paste (Cambodia’s equivalent of Vegemite or Marmite). In the afternoon, head to a heritage Khmer house, where you will be met by the owner and taken on a journey through Cambodian history. The village of Wat Kor is known for its historic stilted wooden houses, some of which pre-date French colonial times. The house’s large wooden floorboards are shiny from generations of feet walking across them. The owner’s small collection of antiques and agricultural tools paint a picture of Cambodia in the early 1900s. Later in the evening, head to Phnom Sampov and witness the strange phenomenon of the Battambang Bat Caves. For around half an hour each night, the caves come alive with a dense swarm of bats flying out for their night of hunting. Watch the bats fly off into the sunset with a drink in hand.
Enjoy some breakfast, check out of the hotel, then take a private boat to Siem Reap (approximately 6-7 hours). This classic journey follows the Sangker River downstream to the Tonle Sap – the largest lake in South East Asia. Along the way you'll see fishing villages, a scattering of fishermen and no doubt some local people living atop floating and stilted houses. The roof of the boat provides shade while open sides make for nice viewing as you float along (there's also a toilet on board). Arrive in Siem Reap, the gateway to the famous Angkor complex, which is roughly 7 kilometres out of town. Relax before your temple-hopping begins tomorrow. You might like to hit the night markets for some cheap and delicious street food, or maybe indulge in a traditional massage.
Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided tour. Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. The impressive Bayon temple is the centrepiece. The famous Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure. It is the only one of Angkor's temples with its entrance facing to the west (the others face east), the reason being that it was constructed as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II and a westerly countenance was seen to represent a sunset. Ta Prohm temple is an incredible sight, with large trees embedding themselves in the stone foundations of the structure. Today for lunch you will visit the Sala Bai Hotel School, where disadvantaged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry.
Siem Reap/Angkor Wat
An early morning start for those looking to catch the sunrise over the temples. On a clear morning this is a truly spectacular sight. After breakfast, travel out to Banteay Srei, famous for its detailed and intricate stone carvings. It is not a big temple but has been sometimes referred to as the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art. Back at the main temple complex, Preah Khan contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. Tonight, after dinner, you will visit Phare the Cambodian Circus. Coming from vulnerable households, the performers have gained international recognition through their art practice. Think a Cambodian Cirque Du Soleil, with modern Khmer tales mixing theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, aerial acts, and contortion.
Ho Chi Minh City
Leave Cambodia behind today with a transfer to the airport and a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Please note that you will be unescorted on this flight, but you will be met in the arrivals hall of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport by a local representative and transferred to your hotel. This evening you will gather together for another briefing with your Vietnamese tour leader, usually around 6 pm. This meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Ho Chi Minh City's many fantastic eating spots. Tonight’s again all about introductions, so why not get to know your new travel crew over some delicious food and a beer.
Ho Chi Minh City
Start your tour of Ho Chi Minh City with a visit to the Reunification Palace. Formerly known as the Presidential Palace, it was the site of South Vietnam's surrender at the end of the war. Next, head over to the War Remnants Museum where you’ll see old military equipment including an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter. Finally, you’ll tour 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 underground life during the Vietnam War.
Say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City and fly to Danang (1 hour 30 minutes). From here you’ll make your way to My Khe Beach, a beautiful spot which lies against a backdrop of the Marble Mountains. This location was significant for both the Americans and the Vietnamese during the war. Enjoy a visit to the Marble Mountains to explore its caves and pagodas. Access is via rock hewn staircases or for a fee of VND40,000 you can use the elevator. After your visit continue to Hoi An where you’ll stay for the night (approximately 30 minutes by private minibus).