Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You'll be met on arrival at Phnom Penh airport and transferred to your hotel. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight - check with hotel reception for more information and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. If you have free time in the afternoon, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city, 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 restaurant run by the Friends organisation, a group which offers food, shelter, medical care, training and educational facilities for homeless, vulnerable or abandoned children. It's a great restaurant to support and the food is delicious – the Western and Asian fusion tapas dishes has put this restaurant on the must visit list.
Notes: Please provide us with your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to departure in order to arrange the transfer. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you plan to arrive earlier, the arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
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 Prison Museum 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 Choeung Ek Memorial is home to stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls, marking the site of the infamous Killing Fields. 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 9,000 corpses have been exhumed from the area. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. An ideal way to spend your second evening here is to relax in a cafe by the riverfront.
Notes: The Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please inform your tour leader.
Take a short flight to Siem Reap (approximately 1 hour). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. This 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 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.
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. Then there is Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', a temple that is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon temple 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 underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. After lunch you will head to the Ta Prohm temple, where nature has taken over again, with large trees 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.
Notes: The Sala Bai Hotel School is closed on public and school holidays, so on these days an alternative restaurant will be used.
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). Later in the morning, venture to the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), a organisation that rehabilitates animals that have fallen victim to wildlife trafficking and provides a breeding facility for highly endangered animal species. From here, continue onto 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’. At this point you can either head back to your hotel or carry on exploring more temples, such as Preah Khan. This temple contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. Your ticket for the Angkor ruins also lets you spend more time exploring this site. Otherwise you might like to take a free afternoon to explore the town or visit Tonle Sap Lake and its floating villages. If you have time, perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage or a Khmer cooking class.
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 may 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 an a group meal out at fantastic local restaurant.
Start the day with a buffet breakfast at KOTO Restaurant, which is one of our Intrepid Foundation supported programs that teaches street children hospitality skills.
Next, drive for about three hours to Cai Be. Here you’ll board a boat to explore the canals 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 you’ll make your way to your local guesthouse to spend a night with the locals and enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialties.
Wake up early and see daily life begin on the delta at dawn. You’ll visit the nearby market, where locals from around the delta sell their produce.
In the afternoon, 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 War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Make a day trip to the famous 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 like was like during the war.
This evening, board an overnight train to Nha Trang. Conditions are basic on these trains and they may be a little dirtier than what you’re used to, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers like to take some food for the journey.
Arrive in Nha Trang and transfer to your hotel. Nha Trang has been referred to as the ‘Cannes of the Orient’ because of its beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan vibe. Enjoy a free day in Nha Trang. Perhaps you’d like to soak up more sun on the beaches, or make an optional visit to the nearby Po Nagar Cham Towers. This archaeological site dates back to the middle ages and is dedicated to the indigenous goddess Yan Po Nagar.
Today you’ll go on a boat trip to some of the nearby islands and visit a fishing village. You’ll also have plenty of free time to go swimming and snorkelling, and you’ll be treated to a seafood buffet on the cruise.
Take a short flight to Danang and then travel by minibus for one hour to Hoi An.
The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or 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. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours.
Your leader will take you on a walk around the Old Town. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has a various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago.
The afternoon is free. You can rent a bicycle and take a trip out to the nearby beach. There’s also an optional Urban Adventure including a countryside bike ride and finishing up with a cruise along the Thu Bon River.
Enjoy a free day in Hoi An.
If you can muster an early rise this morning, head to the local produce market to watch animated shoppers haggling over fresh fish, spices and vegetables. Your leader can help you arrange an optional Vietnamese cooking course. Perhaps visit the ruins of My Son, Vietnam's most important Cham site. Set in a verdant valley, surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Cat's Tooth Mountain, the elaborate World Heritage-listed temples here reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation that flourished in this region between the 4th and 12th century.
Make the most of your last day in Hoi An by doing any activities you couldn’t fit into your schedule yesterday.
Continue on your journey today and drive over the spectacular Hai Van Pass, an incredibly scenic and mountainous stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. Make a stop at beautiful Lang Co for an optional lunch.
Arrive in Hue, Vietnam’s former Imperial capital. Here you’ll visit the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City which was almost entirely destroyed by bomb blasts during the war.
After a local breakfast of bun bo hue take a cruise along the Perfume River. You’ll stop off at the Thien Mu Pagoda, and see an active Buddhist monastery dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists. You’ll also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its lake, frangipani and pine trees.
Fly from Hue to Vietnam’s charming capital of Hanoi. This afternoon, take a half-day tour of Hanoi that captures the beauty and the history of the laid-back, tree-lined capital. You’ll visit major sights including the Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda. You’ll also pass by the Hoan Kiem Lake and enter the ’36 Streets’ of the historic Old Quarter.
If you have some free time this afternoon, you may like to visit the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. This Museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnam’s ethnic communities.
Travel by private minibus for about four hours to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay. This is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful places, a secluded bay of emerald waters flecked with sandstone islands and caves. Go on a cruise to explore the rock formations and caves and in the warmer months, go for a swim or perhaps go kayaking out on the bay.
You’ll spend the night on the boat. The sailing junk has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where you’ll enjoy all of your meals, including a lavish seafood buffet for lunch.
Drive for about four hours back to Hanoi. Along the way, you’ll stop at Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals creating ceramic art pieces.
On return to Hanoi this afternoon enjoy a unique water-puppet performance hosted by a family, who are experts in this art form.
Enjoy a final dinner with your fellow travellers.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.