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. If you have free time, get out and discover the city's blend of old and new, East and West. Visiting Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum are recommended optional activities.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 6–7 hours). You will cross the border, exiting Vietnam at Moc Bai and entering Cambodia at Ba Vet. Your leader will assist you with border crossing procedures.
Confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. You will also head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. You can learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history from an optional visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. Keen shoppers can hit the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market).
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approximately 6 hours). Break up an otherwise long trip with a visit to Kampong Luang, a marvellously colourful village that floats on the water. Spend an hour traversing between houses and other boats alike before hitting the road once more. Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang (pronounced Battambong), is a pretty riverside town of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and beautifully preserved colonial architecture. There's also an optional cooking class to learn the secrets of local dishes such as amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
Spend a bit of time riding around the countryside by bike, travelling out to local cottage industries to meet with on-site producers. Get a better insight into rural life in Cambodia, share a few snacks, then continue by private bus to Siem Reap (approximately 3 hours). Arrive in Siem Reap in the evening and relax as you prepare for your much-anticipated visit to Angkor tomorrow. Perhaps hit the markets for some delicious street food.
Temple-hop with your local guide and make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. The temples, dating back as far as the 9th century, 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 photo opportunities at any time of day. Watching a 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, so there will be plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Continue your explorations of the Angkor complex. You may like to spend just the morning making further discoveries here, and save your afternoon for an optional activity elsewhere. Keen adventurers can take the Angkor zip-line adventure which gives an amazing birds-eye view of the rainforest, not to mention an adrenaline rush.
It's a long drive from Siem Reap to Bangkok (approximately 8–9 hours by private bus, including the border crossing and lunch). You will exit Cambodia at Poipet and enter Thailand at Aranyaprathet. Your leader will be on hand to assist with border crossing procedures. Arrive in Thailand's bustling capital and take in this exciting world of tuk tuks, khlong boats, and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Enjoy a free day of shopping or sightseeing. Your leader can give you ideas of what to do – places like Jim Thompson's House and the Grand Palace are all great to explore. There are also a number of Urban Adventures on offer – you can see the city in a different way by jumping on a bike, focusing on temples and the waterways, or getting underneath the skin of the Chinatown area. There's a fantastic array of transport options available for getting around this traffic-choked city and although it's most efficient to stick to the canals, river, and Skytrain, a trip in a tuk-tuk is certainly an experience! 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.
You’ll start today with a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. Wat Pho is one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, located practically next door to the Grand Palace, and inside lies a 46-metre long gold-plated Buddha. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. The complex is considered the first public university in the country, and is home to the world famous Wat Pho massage school, the centre of the traditional practice. The rest of the afternoon is free for optional activities, and this city has so much to offer – perhaps head next door to the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Tonight you will board an overnight train southbound for Langsuan (approximately 9 hours).
Notes: Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are multi-share compartments with bunk bed padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing compartments with locals of the same or opposite gender. Your baggage will travel in the carriage with you. There's also a food and drink service available on board. Some may find the air conditioning on the train quite cold overnight so best to pack a jumper and some long pants.
Arrive on your overnight train early in the morning, at around 6 am. Try a local style breakfast in Luangsuan market before heading to the pier (approximately 20 minutes) for Koh Pitak. Take a 10-minute boat to nearby Koh Pitak, a gorgeous little island, the location of tonight's homestay. Take an orientation walk around the village. While you're here, you'll see how the fisherman live and how they make their interesting fish traps. Your homestay tonight will include lunch, dinner and breakfast. Most meals will be be typical southern fare with fresh local seafood.
Say goodbye to your hosts and travel back to the mainland on a short boat trip. Then make the journey to Chumphon by private minivan (approximately 1.5 hours) and check into your resort. Your accommodation is beautifully located, right on the beachfront at Thung Wua Lan Beach (located about 16 kilometres away from the main town). You'll join the rest of the group to travel to a local lookout point, Khao Matsee, to take in some nice views and perhaps grab a cup of coffee. Back at the beach, spend free time stolling along the white sands of this pristine, uncrowded strip of coast.
Embark on a full-day snorkelling adventure. You will start at around 9 am and finish up at around 3 pm. The trip covers three different snorkelling spots, which gives you a nice variety of underwater scenery. See how many different kinds of tropical fish you can spot. The snorkelling will take place in the open water, so there will be no beach stops. Lunch is included, and you will arrive back at base at around 5 pm.
Hop from one beach paradise to another, travelling to Ko Tao. The ferrry takes around 2 hours, and you'll arrive on Ko Tao mid-afternoon. Famous for its spectacular coral reefs, the delightful little island of Ko Tao is popular not only among divers but also those looking for beautiful palm-fringed beaches such as Sairee. Here you can relax or perhaps take up some optional diving. Cooking classes, aromatherapy sessions or local spa visits are also great options. Ko Tao also has a small but lively nightlife for those interested in dancing and socialising on the beach or in bars.
Today you’ll experience the beautiful underwater world that surrounds Ko Tao with an exploratory snorkelling trip. With coral and fish a plenty and the remote chance of seeing timid reef sharks amongst mesmerising coral formations, Ko Tao is undeniably one of the jewels in southern Thailand's crown. Sail south from Mae Haad Pier, navigating around the southern tip of the island until you reach Shark Island. You might see the occasional leopard shark. Drop by Luek Bay for one of the best swimming beaches on the island with fish-filled reefs on either side, then stop at Hin Wong Bay for lunch aboard the boat – an idyllic spot where palm trees line the sheltered inlet. The shallow waters of Muang Bay are filled with colourful fish to swim by, and then stop at Nang Yuan Island. You can pay the small entrance fee to this privately owned island and take a short hike up to a viewpoint, relax on the beach, snorkel through schools of parrotfish, or chill out on the boat.
Jump on another boat today and cruise over to Ko Samui (approximately 2.5 hours). The island is certainly a brasher, more vibrant extrovert compared to its sister islands. If a little modern pizazz is what you’re after with your dose of sunshine exotica, look no further – this island offers a little something for everyone. Known simply as Samui by locals, Thailand's third largest island is rich with white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. There's also the Big Buddha, waterfalls, markets, temples, a mummified monk, great shopping opportunities, Michelin star restaurants, luxury spas, and a lively nightlife. Today you can take an optional sightseeing tour around the island or brush up on your cooking techniques with a Thai cooking class.
It’s up to you what you want to do today, but if you feel like being more active, take an optional day trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park, an idyllic archipelago of around 40 islands (many uninhabited). If you choose this option you’ll take a speedboat to the Marine Park, with the island of Ko Wao or Ko Tai Plow as your first stop – here you can snorkel in the turquoise waters filled with ever changing colours of coral and fish. Sail around the steep limestone cliff islands and stop near an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake (Talay Nai), which is fed by an underground cave. Take a short walk up pathways and a wooden staircase to reach a magnificent hilltop lake viewpoint. Enjoy lunch on the island that houses the park headquarters, then chill out on the beach, climb up for a panorama of the Marine Park, and get out on to the bay for some kayaking. You’ll head back to Ko Samui in mid-afternoon. Maybe join you the rest of your group for a drink to celebrate the end of this east coast Thailand beach adventure tonight.
This wonderful Thailand beach adventure comes to an end today, and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Perhaps continue your exploration of South East Asia with another Intrepid adventure.