On this exciting tour of two of the world's most exciting countries you will see all the highlights that have made Cambodia and Vietnam a magnet for tourists. Beginning in Cambodia you will be taken on a comprehensive tour of the capital city Phnom Penh before exploring the incredible temple complex of Angkor Wat. In Vietnam you will spend a memorable two days in Saigon before visiting the Mekong Delta, beautiful Halong Bay and the cities of Hanoi, Hoi An and Hue. Along the way you will discover the fascinating history of both of these south east Asia destinations and meet the friendly people.
On arrival in the capital city of Cambodia you will be met at the airport by one of our tour representatives and taken to your hotel in the city. There you will meet your tour leader and the rest of the group of fellow travellers for welcome drinks. Today you will find out all about what you will be seeing and doing over the next two weeks and hear about the wonderful historic sites you will be visiting. Perhaps some time in the evening to explore the city and sample the local cuisine.
In colonial times, Phnom Penh was pocketed with cinemas, grand catholic churches and smoky opium dens. After years of war and terror in the 1970s, Phnom Penh is now a city reinventing itself. Many parts of Phnom Penh are still a testament to its French colonial past while the recently developed riverfront area is proof of its future. Today begins with a cyclo ride, a traditional form of local transport where you sit and enjoy the backstreets and architecture of the city while the cyclo rider pedals you around. Our ride takes us to the Royal Palace and the famous Silver Pagoda, lined with a tiled floor of 5,000 silver tablets. The Silver Pagoda, originally built in 1892, was largely spared sacking by the Khmer Rouge and houses a revered ‘Emerald Buddha’ – akin to the Emerald Buddha held in Bangkok’s Grand Palace – as well as a ‘Golden Buddha’ encrusted with more than 9,000 diamonds. This afternoon we visit the chilling Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and The Killing Fields of Choeng Ek for an insight into the insanity of the Pol Pot era and the country’s sombre recent history. We finish our touring with a visit to Psah Thmei or Central Market as it is commonly known, built in 1937 this is a remarkable example of French Colonial Art Deco architecture. The evening there is a sunset river cruise before your free time to shop, explore the old colonial buildings near Wat Phnom or wander along the waterfront area.
Today you leave the capital city and fly the short distance to Siem Reap, gateway to the magnificent temples of Angkor. Siem Reap has a whole range of top quality hotels and makes a great place to relax before and after your trips to see the temples. We'll start your time there with a trip on the Tonle Sap (2017 onwards) the lake that forms the lifeblood of Cambodia and a fascinating introduction into lakeside living in Cambodia.
The temples of Angkor represent six hundred years (802-1432) of Khmer civilisation - one of Asia’s greatest kingdoms. You will dedicate the whole day to exploring the most magnificent of the Angkor temples. Insider Experience – Unique: The adventure begins with a pre dawn departure from the hotel (4:30 to 5:00am depending on the time of year) for sunrise outside Angkor Wat. You will board your tuk-tuks (this is a form of local transport with a small motorised cart, a roof and comfortable seating) for the short ride to Angkor Wat and the little visited Eastern side of the great temple. Creep through the forest in darkness (please bring a torch) past the longest stretch of bas-relief carvings in the world before soaking up the atmosphere of dawn at Angkor from the edge of one of the ancient library pools. Then you will venture deep into the central chambers of this truly great temple. Enjoy a freshly cooked local breakfast outside the temple and a short rest. Then move onto the West gate of the walled city of Angkor Thom and marvel at the eerie stone heads and evocative bas-reliefs of the Bayon temple and the Terraces of the Elephants and Leper King. After lunch and a rest break at your hotel, drive for one hour to the intricately carved and well-preserved Banteay Srei Temple. The detailed reliefs on this smaller sandstone structure are regarded as the finest, most skilfully crafted in Cambodia. Banteay Srei has only been accessible since the late 1990s, when the Khmer Rouge left the area, and is regarded by many as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Angkor temples. Departing from Banteay Srei we spend time at a small local village that is known for producing palm sugar before visiting the jungle-enveloped Ta Prohm, one of the most atmospheric of all temples in Angkor. Once home to 2,740 monks, Ta Prohm was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1850s by French explorer Henri Mouhot and is a photographer’s delight with its encroaching trees reclaiming the crumbling site... Return to Siem Reap.
Today you fly to Saigon and prepare to enjoy all that one of south east Asia's most fascinating cities has to offer. Saigon, which is also known as Ho Chi Minh City, bristles with colour and life and you will have time to explore it in detail. Tonight you may want to go out and sample the nightlife and try one of the many good restaurants or dine at your hotel
This morning travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Established as a means of waging guerrilla war against superior French and later American fire power; the tunnel network stretches over 250km (155 miles) and extends to three levels underground, providing a remarkable insight into the method and determination of Communist forces during the Vietnam Wars. Transfer back to Saigon for lunch where you may like to try ‘Pho’ (pronounced ‘fur’) the delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. In the afternoon, spend some time at the comprehensive and emotive War Remnants Museum. Finish the tour with a walk through the heart of the city seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral and Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), walk past the Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh Square, and Municipal Theatre.
An early start today as you leave the city behind and travel out to the Mekong Delta area, known as the bread basket of Vietnam. On the way you pass farms and see how the locals still use old fashioned methods to harvest their rice and fruit crops. Visit a floating market on the delta before returning to Saigon where you stay for another night.
Saigon to Hue
This morning you are taken to the airport for the flight to Hue. Located on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was once Vietnam’s capital and more recently the setting for some of the Vietnam War’s most bloody fighting. Hue provides a unique window into Vietnam and its complex past. Visit the tomb of the former emperor Tu Duc, the Citadel and the much revered and tranquil Thien Mu Pagoda. Finish with a visit to the Spiral Foundation to meet the deaf and mute workers who will help you make a souvenir from recycled materials.
Hue to Hoi An
This morning you drive south to Hoi An via the spectacular Hai Van Pass. This drive is considered one of the most beautiful in Vietnam and takes you through a combination of both rural and coastal settings. Arrive at the World Heritage Listed old town of Hoi An for lunch before taking a local market and backstreets tour and join some of the students from Streets cafe and enjoy a small tasting menu of some of the products. In the afternoon you will see an old merchant house, a Chinese assembly hall and the Japanese Covered Bridge.
Today is free for you to explore this beautiful town with its many clothing shops, colourful fish market and fascinating river life. Check out some of the sights you missed on the first day or, alternatively, you may wish to head to the nearby beach for a swim or just relax by the pool at your luxurious resort and reflect on all that you have seen and done so far on the tour.
Hoi An to Halong Bay
This morning rise early for your transfer to the airport for the flight north to Haiphong or Hanoi (arrival airport is subject to flight schedules). Upon arrival, your journey will take you north-east to Halong City, the gateway to Halong Bay. En route watch as the first karst mountains appear in the distance as Halong Bay draws nearer. Halong Bay achieved international fame as a key location in the French film ‘Indochine’ starring Catherine Deneuve. The bay has assumed an important position in Vietnamese legend and continues to capture the imagination of visitors. On arrival transfer to the port and board your boat for the cruise out to the bay. Insider Experience - Taste: Enjoy a scrumptious seafood lunch as you cruise through the turquoise waters. Considered Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder, Halong Bay boasts over 3,000 islands that rise out of the sea to provide a spectacular natural environment. You will visit some of the beautiful islets around the bay, and then enjoy dinner on board before retiring to bed.
Halong Bay to Hanoi
Today, rise early to make the most of Halong Bay’s stunning scenery. After breakfast, continue your exploration and discover what makes this area so unique. On the cruise back to Halong City, enjoy a tasty seafood lunch. This afternoon travel to Hanoi. The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi has been the major political and historical centre of Vietnam for over 1000 years and has a wealth of sights to explore. Heavily influenced by French colonial architecture, the city is both historically beautiful and vibrant and is sure to entice you with its charms. This evening you will have the opportunity to enjoy a performance of Hanoi’s famed water puppets.
Begin your discovery of the city with a walking tour through the Old Quarter - 36 ancient streets where you can see the daily bustle of life around the markets. Continue to the Ho Chi Minh Quarter, starting at Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh first declared independence from French rule in 1945. Visit the humble house on stilts from which ‘Uncle Ho’, ruled Vietnam until his death in 1969. You can also view the nearby Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Finally stop at the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ - the former prison where US Air force pilots shot down over North Vietnam were kept. Tonight join the rest of the group for a farewell dinner.
Today your wonderful tour of Cambodia and Vietnam comes to an end. Maybe time for some more sightseeing or last minute shopping for souvenirs in the city before you are collected from your hotel and driven to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey back home.