Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh. An airport arrival transfer is included. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. 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.
Notes: Your arrival transfer is only valid if arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum of 15 days prior to travel. We may not be able to confirm requests made within 15 days of travel. Once you have provided your details, a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel.
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 it. Also enjoy a walk along the beach at Kep and explore 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 Prison Museum 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 your evening.
Travel by private bus 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 industry 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 friendly Khmer people abound.
Jump on a remork (Cambodian tuk-tuk) and travel through the beautiful surrounding countryside of Battambang. Stop along the way to visit the village of Wat Kor. This village is known for its historic stilted wooden houses, some of which pre-date French colonial times. Visit a house whose 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. Afterwards 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). Afterwards, visit Prasat Phnom Banan Winery (Cambodia's first winery) for an optional tasting. Wat Bai Dom Ram, a modern temple nearby, is worth a look – note the big fruit bats hanging from the tree at the entrance.
Note: The Bamboo Train rail is currently under construction until further notice, and no longer a possible optional activity. The project to repair and relocate the rail is forecast for completion by 2020.
Enjoy some breakfast, check out of the hotel, then take a private boat to Siem Reap (approximately 5–6 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 the famous Angkor complex, which 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.
Notes: In April and August, when water levels are typically at their lowest, we are unable to travel by boat. Instead make today's journey by minibus. In this case, a boat trip to a riverside village is included, so that travellers don't miss out on the Tonle Sap experience.
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 underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry.
Notes: The hotel school is closed on public holidays and school holidays. An alternative restaurant will be visited on these days.
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. Like a Cambodian Cirque Du Soleil, modern Khmer tales mix theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, aerial acts, and contortion.
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. This meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Ho Chi Minh City's many fantastic eating spots.
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. 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. After a visit to the Marble Mountains, continue to Hoi An where you’ll stay for the night.
Your leader will take you on a walk around Hoi An’s Old Town. The city was a major trading port from the 17th century onwards, and has 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 tour will take you to a historic house, the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. 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 Dong Ba Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours.
This morning, transfer to the airport and fly to Vietnam’s charming capital of Hanoi. You’ll be taken on a guided half-day tour of Hanoi, visiting major sites such as the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. The tour will also include lunch at the KOTO cafe, an amazing project which provides vocational training for underprivileged young people. You’ll have some free time this afternoon. Hanoi is a strangely quiet city compared to its southern counterpart. Escape from the noise by visiting the various parks and lakes, or hire a bike and cycle around town for the best view of the city.
Drive for four and a half hours to the famous Halong Bay, one of Vietnam's most spectacular natural wonders. We recommend leaving your luggage at the hotel in Hanoi and packing a small overnight bag for the trip to Halong Bay. Once you arrive at the bay, you’ll take a long and luxurious cruise through the area, exploring the beautiful green waters and amazing limestone caves. You may also have the opportunity to go swimming from Ti Top Island beach. You’ll spend the night on the boat. The traditional junk-style boat 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.
Take a three-and-a-half bus ride back to Hanoi. This afternoon take in a unique water-puppet performance. This evening is free for you to explore this delightful city. Why not relax at a cafe or stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter?
Your trip comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the ‘Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.