Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these ready to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, get out and discover the city's blend of old and new, East and West. Be sure to sample a baguette or some of the excellent coffee on offer – both markers of the city's strong French influence. Equally essential are visits to Reunification Palace (the site of South Vietnam's surrender in April 1975) and the War Remnants Museum.
Notes: 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're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 6–7 hours). Cambodia's capital city is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. You may want to take a cyclo tour of the city's sights, including the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market) or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Travel by private bus (approximately 3 hours) into rural Cambodia to the region of Kampong Speu and village of Chambok. There's a lot of natural beauty to discover here, from waterfalls to swimming holes to bat caves nestled in the mountains. The Chambok community is renowned for its ecotourism. Tonight you'll join a local family in their home – a wonderful opportunity to participate in everyday Cambodian life. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Khmer dinner. You'll also be treated to a traditional dance performance while you're here.
Notes: Facilities on this homestay are basic and multi-share. Mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets are provided.
A private bus takes you to Sihanoukville today (approximately 4 hours). Named after the Cambodian royal family, this town has miles of lovely beaches and warm, welcoming people. It's also a jumping-off point to many beautiful islands. Settle in and perhaps take a refreshing swim.
Enjoy a day of free time. There are a variety of exciting optional activities on offer. You can take a boat to one of the nearby islands, enjoy a barbecue lunch or simply relax among swaying palms, white sands and blue waters. Perhaps make the trip out to Ream National Park, which boasts 21 hectares of coastal mangrove forest and a great variety of animal and bird species. You may like to take a Khmer cooking class, or perhaps partake in some windsurfing or kitesurfing.
Travel by private bus back to Phnom Penh (approximately 4 hours). Visiting the Choeung Ek Memorial is highly recommended. This is the site of the Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Alternatively, learn about a brighter period of Cambodian history by visiting the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum and its excellent Khmer collection. Perhaps indulge in a traditional massage at Seeing Hands massage parlours (a great social enterprise supporting the talents of visually impaired masseurs).
Travel by private bus to the riverside town of Kompong Cham (approximately 3 hours). This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great opportunity to experience life in small-town Cambodia. You might like to explore the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor. Alternatively, hire a bike to explore the rural island of Koh Paen which is linked to Kompong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge (it's passable only in the dry season; you'll have to take a ferry across in the wet). The locals here make their living fishing, growing tobacco and sesame, so it's a good place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia's cottage industries. A little further afield are the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.
Take a public bus to Siem Reap (approximately 5 hours). Experience rural Cambodia along the way and take the opportunity to sample the local cuisine of Skun – deep fried spiders! 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. The markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Today you will visit the world-famous Angkor complex with your guide. These temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day – seeing them at sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap. You'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Notes: A single-day Angkor Pass is included on this tour. If you'd like to return to Angkor outside of your included visit, you can buy a longer pass. Just ask your leader.
Today there may be a chance (depending on the season) to visit Tonle Sap Lake for a look at local life. If you feel like some adventure, another option is to do the Angkor zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful rainforest – and an adrenaline rush, of course. Another option is to visit the sobering Landmine Museum. It's located a little further field, but is well worth the journey.
It's a long drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok (approximately 8–9 hours including border crossing and lunch). You'll be travelling by private minivan. Embrace Thailand's bustling capital, a world of tuk tuks, khlong (canal) boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Head out with your new found friends for a last optional group dinner and find out why this city never sleeps.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you are wanting to stay longer in Bangkok check out one of our many Urban Adventure tours.