Familiarization Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia by Lucy Alderson
Posted on 23rd July 2019 at 11:16
Our journey started in Cambodia. We flew from London Heathrow to Bangkok and then caught a connecting flight to Siem Reap. On arrival in Cambodia our visas were already organised for us by our representatives so that we didn’t have to queue and wait for a long time- this makes it a lot easier, especially when you are in an airport you have never been before.
Our guide and driver met us at the airport which was a great introduction to Cambodia, and they took us straight to the hotel for some rest after a long flight. Jaya House was a beautiful hotel- one of my favourites. We had a beautiful spacious room and the service was exceptional. It was hot in Siem Reap and the staff always made sure we had plenty of water. The hotel offered complimentary tuk tuk rides, a mobile phone to take out with you when you left the hotel and a complimentary water bottle which was part of the ‘Refill not Landfill’ scheme in Cambodia to cut down on plastic. We were extremely impressed and had an awesome stay.
We visited beautiful temples in Cambodia, including Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and some other smaller ones with less tourists. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, and we learnt a lot about Cambodia and the people when we visited some of the local houses and were taught about the rice field farming and how to make rice noodles.
Our next stop was Hanoi, it was a very easy flight on day 4 to Hanoi. We were met on arrival again by our representatives who took us through customs and to our new driver and guide who stayed with us for the next four days. Our guide was fantastic and told us about the city as we were driving to our central hotel in the old quarter which could not have been in a better location. The Sofitel in Hanoi is one of the best hotels in Hanoi and we had the chance to stay in the older colonial part and the new part of the hotel. Our guide took us around the markets the next day and took us to some beautiful Pagodas. We also visited the Mausoleum where we saw the body of Ho Chi Minh, we visited his old house and learnt all about the history and how important he was for the country. I learnt a lot and the having a guide and driver made it incredibly easy to get around the city.
Mai Chau was one of my favourite places that we visited. It took around 3 and a half hours from Hanoi and was a scenic drive through the hills and countryside and we were able to stop off at local markets to look at what the local people were selling. We stayed at the Mai Chau Ecolodge and our room was absolutely stunning with our own private pool which looked over the rice paddy fields. We were there during the harvest so there was always lots to see that was going on in the fields. We did a beautiful cycling tour of the villages on the first day on the local bicycles which are extremely comfortable-like sitting in an armchair! The next day we did a two-hour walking tour which was beautiful and walked around some of the other villages. It was eye opening and beautiful, and the people were all so incredibly kind and welcoming when we went to a local homestay for lunch.
Hanoi and Halong Bay
On day 8 we went back to Hanoi after our trip to Mai Chau where we stayed one night before Halong Bay the next day. We were picked up in the morning from our hotel and driven straight to board our boat in Halong Bay which was a traditional Junk Boat called Indochina Sails. The boat was stunning, and we sailed around the areas of Halong Bay where there were a lot of less boats, so we got even better views and pictures (which don’t do this area justice). The food was delicious, the staff could not have been better plus our fantastic captain called Tran. The boat stopped at beaches and caves where you were taken to the shore and shown around. We also had plenty of time to relax on the deck and look at the beautiful scenery as we slowly sailed along.
We left the boat at 11 and then caught our flight from Hanoi airport to Hue. We met our brilliant guide Andy on arrival in Hue who was a lot of fun and I spent the next few days having a laugh with him. Hue was very beautiful and a was lot less crowded then some of the other cities we had visited.
Hoi An was my favourite place during our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. This was the beach stay part of our tour and the hotel Palmstone Garden Resort which was located on a beautiful sandy beach and the sea was perfect for cooling down in the hot weather .Hoi An was fabulous and I loved our walk around the Old Town on our first full day in Hoi An. We went for lunch at a local farmers house who taught us how to make Vietnamese pancakes and served us delicious fresh food. The cycling tour was great fun too around the local villages!
One of the highlights of Hoi An was on the second day where we had dinner on a bamboo floating raft and the chefs cooked in front of us while we floated around on the water. We even got a ride on a bamboo coconut boat down the river before our meal! It was a fantastic experience and it would be perfect for a romantic evening or honeymoon.
On day 12, we flew from Danang to our final destination Saigon which another really easy internal flight. On arrival we drove straight to the Chi Chi Tunnels where we learnt all about the history of Chi Chi and how the Viet Cong created this immense network of tunnels underground. It was quite shocking seeing how people lived and how tiny the tunnels were but an absolute must if you are visiting Vietnam. We drove back through Saigon which is manic but exciting because of the amount of motorbikes! Our hotel was perfect to relax at the end of the trip and was in a great location with easy access to shops to buy souvenirs for family and friends. On the second day in Saigon we went to the Mekong Delta where we took a boat along and visited a coconut factory and a brick factory.
We flew back the next day in the morning on an early flight from Saigon to Bangkok and then on to London Heathrow. I cannot recommend Vietnam and Cambodia more- it was my first time visiting this part of the world and it was fantastic! Thank you, Tailored Journeys, for an incredible and smooth trip from start to finish- it was my first time travelling with a guide and driver throughout and it meant I was able to learn so much. A trip full of memories and experiences that I will never forget.
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