There's a magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on many who visit this charming yet stunning kingdom. Ascend to the realm of the gods at Angkor Wat, a spectacular fusion of symbolism, symmetry and spirituality.
Spend 10 days travelling Indo-China from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, exploring magnificent Cambodia along the way.
Ho Chi Minh City marches to its own rhythm. Or rather, it roars by via motorbike. Consider arriving early to give this city some extra time as there’s much to explore. Get an alternative glimpse of the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace. Drive a hard bargain in Ben Thanh Market or sip cocktails at the Rex roof-top bar as the evening descends on old Saigon.
Crossing the border into Cambodia, Phnom Penh is the beating political and commercial heart of Cambodia. This relaxed, French-influenced city is home to some sobering reminders of Cambodia’s recent history. A visit to the infamous killing fields brings a chilling, but essential understanding of what the country once endured under Pol Pot. On a happier note, you’ll also have time to visit the Royal Palace, home to the famed Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum.
By far Cambodia’s biggest attraction, Angkor Archaeological Park has turned Siem Reap into a bona fide tourist hub. But don’t let that put you off. Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious complex, and arguably the most impressive ruin in Southeast Asia. It’s also surrounded by smaller Khmer ruins including the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, along with the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom.
Siem Reap itself still deserves your attention. Heavy tourist numbers have triggered a dramatic rise in infrastructure, but the town is still a small community at its heart, filled with charming markets, relaxing cafes and terrace bars. If it’s still too touristy for you, your next stop is Battambang, a major town within Cambodia that is still relatively small on the travel map. It’s a great place to see the everyday face of Cambodian life or just take time out to recharge from the excitement of Angkor. Take a cooking class or just relax in one of the many French-tinged cafes as you watch the world go by.
Cross into neighbouring Thailand for a very different look at Southeast Asia. Bangkok is one of the region’s power cities, relentlessly modern and always on the movie. Yet it also retains a staunch reverence for tradition and the past. An evening boat ride on the Chao Phraya offers a stunning perspective on the city, but you’ll also want a few days to explore. From the Grand Palace to evening markets, there is plenty in Bangkok to keep you stimulated. And if it all gets too much, a soothing Thai massage is never far away!
Day 01: Arrive Ho Chi Minh City Xin chao Vietnam! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. 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 all these details to provide to your leader. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterized by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics. Check out the Reunification Palace. Formerly known as the Presidential Palace, it was the site of South Vietnam's surrender in April 1975. Visit the War Remnants Museum. Originally opened in September 1975, it displays old military equipment and other related items from the Vietnam War. In the courtyard you'll find some larger exhibits including a F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Day 02: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels Begin your journey to the Cu Chi Tunnels by departing at around 8am from your hotel and travel through the countryside which was once a stronghold of the Viet Cong. Upon arrival, watch a short video about what life was like for soldiers who lived there during the war. The cramped tunnels were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations, including the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, and they didn’t escape damage. American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of missiles leaving huge tell-tale craters behind. The tunnels served not only as living quarters, but as supply routes and hospitals for thousands of guerilla fighters. Many died there from malaria and other diseases, and a few were also born or married. Today they are viewed by some as a testimony to the Vietnamese people’s resiliency. Return to Ho Chi Minh City around 2pm, just in time to enjoy a late lunch at your hotel. Free time at leisure or just wander around this bustling city.
Day 03: Phnom Penh Travel by private car through rural Cambodia and Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh (approx 6-7 hrs). Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture.
Day 04: Phnom Penh 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. 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. 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 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area. Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Explore Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. According to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill. Check out the National Museum. Housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship. Or you can take in the sites by cyclo! Tours generally take in the following: central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument, finishing at the Royal Palace. Stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic. Day 05: Siem Reap -Angkor Wat Travel by private bus to Siem Reap (approx 6 hrs). A great opportunity to look at the real Cambodia, we'll make several stops at points of interest along the way, including an opportunity to sample the local cuisine of deep fried spiders. We also see the cottage industry at Santuk Silk Farm, a fair trade organization, which provides a valueable source of employment in a poor rural community (Santuk is closed on some important Khmer holidays). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. It's markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food. Day 06: Siem Reap - Angkor Wat Temple-hop with our local guide to make the most of our visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. 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 - watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so we'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Day 07: Siem Reap - Angkor Wat Take a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake and visit one of its floating villages. If you feel like some adventure you could do the optional flight of the Gibbon which is a ziplining course which gives you a birds eye view of the rainforest with an adrenalin rush thrown in.
Day 08: Battambang Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approx 4 hours). Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, (pronounced Battambong) is an attractive riverside town with traces of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and well-preserved colonial architecture. Consider a guided tour of the countryside to discover the local rural way of life stopping off at small cottage industries producing sticky rice, noodles & fish paste making. Join the locals for a ride on their famous bamboo train transferring goods such as rice - a great local interaction opportunity! Consider a mouth-watering cooking class and learn the secrets of local dishes such as: amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
Day 09: Bangkok It's a long drive from Battambang to Bangkok (approx 8-9 hrs including border crossing and lunch). Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore – why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets; wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road; pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage; explore the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; 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. Day 10: Bangkok Departure There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
PRICE INCLUDES: Deluxe hotel accommodation, All breakfasts at hotel, Meals as indicated, Included activities, small group sightseeing as described
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