Vietnam & Cambodia By Emily Marshall
Posted on 12th July 2019 at 11:49
There is something special about South East Asia.
It wasn’t my first time to Cambodia and Vietnam, however this trip was definitely a special and memorable one, the chance to see and do so much of these countries was a once in a life time opportunity. Reading through the itinerary before I went, I was very excited but I have to say also a little apprehensive- we had a jam packed itinerary ahead of us, it was going to be a big trip.
Landing in Siem Reap, Cambodia having changed at Bangkok on the way from London was a very easy flight and I would not think twice about doing it again (always make sure you have enough transfer time between flight changes, Bangkok is a large airport to navigate!) We were met on arrival at Siem Reap by the guide we were going to be spending the next four days with. He welcomed us and we were transferred to our hotel for our time in Siem Reap. Jaya House River Park, a gorgeous boutique hotel situated opposite the river that flows through Siem Reap and a 10 minute drive from Angkor Wat, was a perfect location. The hotel really was great, there were two pools, a spa and great restaurant, with only 36 rooms the hotel was not too big. The staff there were amazing so friendly and helpful, I cannot fault the hotel.
Having had a good nights sleep that evening after the long flight into Cambodia, we got up early the following morning as it was time to visit the Angkor Wat complex – one of the parts of the trip I was personally very much looking forward too. You cannot go to Cambodia and not visit the temples, they really are amazing and were a definite highlight of my trip. Its fair to say that our guide knew absolutely everything about the temples and was there to answer any possible questions that we had. With every Tailored Journeys holiday, you have your own local guide and driver who will travel around the country with you, will show you around all the sites and give you all the information. This really is a huge bonus and I cannot recommend this enough. Whilst in Siem Reap we had the chance to visit local families who work and farm off the land making rice noodles and pretty palm tree boxes.
It was time to leave Cambodia and commence the second part of the adventure, to Vietnam. We began by flying into Hanoi and stayed at the charming Sofitel Legend Metropole. Again, this hotel was perfectly located, in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and was personally my favourite hotel of the trip. Whilst in Hanoi we visited the main sights that the capital city has to offer, this included Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and home, Tran Quoc pagoda, One-Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. We of course could not have gone to Vietnam and not have tried the famous street food, we had the chance to experience some Pho for lunch.
We were never in one place for more than 2 nights so it was time to leave Hanoi and head for the picturesque village of Mai Chau, located 3 hours south west of Hanoi. Mai Chau is a peaceful village located in the mountains set amongst rice fields and here we stayed at a very pretty Eco Lodge, with our own private pool and spent the afternoon on a scenic bike ride exploring the stunning countryside even more. There are plenty of activities one can do in Mai Chau from walks, bike rides and mountain treks. We only spent one night in Mai Chau which I think is the right amount of time. We left Mai Chau in the early evening and headed back to Hanoi to spend the night before the second highlight of my trip…
Ha Long Bay really is stunning. With any trip we tailor for Vietnam we always recommend one night on board a junk boat at the world-famous bay. It really does not disappoint and is perfect for families. One point to note that I was not aware of, is that you cannot swim or jump off the boats! So be prepared to look at the water and take pictures of the water but you cannot freely jump in! Whilst on board the boat we had all meals included which was great, were offered the chance to do some activities which included a visit to some famous caves, night fishing and a trip the following morning to Titop island where you can have a swim. The scenery in Ha Long Bay is breath taking, the boat sails and weaves between the limestone karsts and I couldn’t stop taking pictures! The following morning we disembarked the boat, were met by our driver and transferred to Hanoi Airport to catch our internal flight south, to Hue.
Hue is a pretty town located on the banks of the charmingly named perfume river and was a lovely place to visit, here we stayed at the Azerai La Residence, again another amazing hotel. Although it was very hot when we visited we spent the day exploring the Imperial Citadel, in the centre of the town and the Tu Duc Mausoleum. Here in Hue we had a new guide for this part of the journey who was extremely knowledgeable and told us all about the history of the sites and places we were visiting. I thought that Hue was going to be my favourite place that we visited on the trip, however I was wrong and it was going to be the next place we were visiting…
Hoi An is the sweetest most delightful town situated by the coast, it has streets filled with trees, flowers and lanterns, buildings that are also museums you can wander in and out of, dating back to the 17th Century. You could spend hours walking the streets and getting lost. We had a walking tour of the town in the morning, which is always one of the best ways to visit a new place before heading out on a bicycle through the rice fields and vegetable patches and having lunch with a local family. As Hoi An is situated so near the coast, it meant we were able to enjoy the long stunning white sandy beach at our hotel. That evening we were treated to a ride down a river in a bamboo basket boat which was great fun and if you get the chance to do this on a trip to Vietnam you should.
Our time in central Vietnam was unfortunately over and it was time for the last of our internal flights down to Saigon for the final part of the trip. We flew from Da Nang south to Saigon and arrived at lunchtime, which meant we had just enough time to visit the Cu Chi tunnels that afternoon. We always recommend a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels if time allows when one is visiting Saigon, they were very interesting – you even get the chance to experience, crawl through 20m of the tunnel itself! Travelling anywhere in Saigon at rush hour takes a long time as there are so many cars and motorcycles, over 7 million motorcycles to be precise!
Our last day was spent visiting the Mekong Delta which was a 2 hour car journey from our hotel, once there we were shown around by our guide and made our way on to a boat to travel down the river. Along the river we stopped at a local brick making factory to see the process of how bricks are made by hand. This area is home to the coconut! Naturally we stopped at the “coconut candy house” where the family who run the business make all the products they sell from the coconut, this ranged from coconut sweets to lip balms and oils! From here we got back on the boat and ventured further along the branches of the river before getting off to begin our bike ride. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the boat exploring the river before we headed back to Saigon.
There is really so much to see and do in Vietnam, the people are friendly and I definitely want to go back and explore more. On this trip we were fortunate enough to experience so much in a relatively short amount of time. If you are planning your trip to Vietnam I would recommend travelling around and seeing as much as you can, commencing say in Hanoi and working your way south to Saigon, maybe having some relaxation time at the beach too. Combining Vietnam with Cambodia is also a great idea, it is only a short flight between the two countries so is very doable. This trip really was an amazing experience and one which I will never forget!
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