Cambodia & Vietnam on a Shoestring
Day 1 Bangkok
Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frenetic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please arrive at our start point hotel before 6pm for an important group meeting where you will meet you Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting you CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance, check that you have a visas for Vietnam and complete some other paper work. Please note that you MUST arrive on tour with your Vietnam visa. Please refer to the visa information section of these trip notes for more information on obtaining your Vietnamese visa. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. We spend this evening in Bangkok. Our hotel is located in China Town, next to the central train station and MRT (Subway), and is only a short USD2 taxi ride from Khao San road and the central shopping area of Siam Square, MBK, Siam Paragon, etc. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel has a small pool and wifi is available at extra cost. *Please note: if you have pre-booked the Adrenaline Bundle your CEO will inform you when you will do each activity throughout your tour: Flight of the Gibbons (Day 1 - Bangkok) (pre night recommended), Sunset ATV tour (Day 3 - Siem Reap) and Cave Rappelling (Day 14 - Hoi An). For more information on the Bundle see the Optional Activities section.
Days 2-3 Siem Reap (2B,1D)
After breakfast on day 2, we leave Bangkok and make way on the long journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It will take us approximately 4 hours to travel from Bangkok to the border. It is possible to get your Cambodian visa at the border - ask your CEO for details. Once at the border, we will disembark with our luggage and cross the border by foot. This process can take up to an hour or more so please pack your patience. After the border formalities are complete, we meet our Cambodian bus and continue on to Siem Reap. The scenery is spectacular and the contrast between Thailand and Cambodia is immediate. Enjoy an included tour of Angkor Wat temple complex. Angkor, the former capital of the Khmer Kingdom, is one of the wonders of the archeological world. Rediscovered at the end of the last century by French explorers, this vast ruined city is becoming one of the most popular sites in South East Asia. Your included tour will enable you to visit many of the highlights of this ancient capital, such as the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, the enigmatic faces of Bayon within the walled city Angkor Thom and the much photographed temple of Ta Prohm which is slowly being re claimed by the jungle. Depending on the day of the week that your trip travels to Siem Reap you will have one of these two experiences. You will either enjoy a meal in a nearby village at the Planeterra-supported New Hope project or visit a local home in a nearby village for a traditional meal. With so many travellers coming through these areas, alternating experiences helps to allow both small businesses to flourish. Both experiences are truly unique and memorable. We spend two nights in Siem Reap. Our Hotel is located some 10 minutes walk from city center. The hotel lobby has 2 computers for guests to browse the internet. Free wifi is also available. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Approx travel time: Bangkok to Thai/Cambodian border: 4 hours by private transport. Border crossing from Thailand to Cambodian border: 30 mins to 1 hour. Cambodian border to Siem Reap: 3 hours by private transport.
Days 4-5 Phnom Penh (2B)
On day 4, we journey by local bus to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. After a brief walking orientation tour from your CEO, you are free to explore Phnom Penh. Sights you might choose to visit this afternoon include the National Museum and adjacent complex of the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. After 1975, when Pol Pot and his henchmen took power, Cambodia was thrown into an abyss of unspeakable violence and mass-murder. Millions of Cambodians perished during this time. Witness to this genocide are the Killing fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng prison. A Tuk Tuk can be hired locally to take you there, or your CEO can organise a bus and private guide for the group. You may also wish to explore town or go shopping at the famous Russian Market. Phnom Penh can be confusing and we recommend to always keep a hotel card with you when you are exploring. Tuktuks (local transport) usually cost between 2-3 USD to anywhere in town. In the evening, there are many pleasant local restaurants where you can try some local specialties such as fish amok. We overnight two nights in Phnom Penh. Our Hotel is centrally located, close to the riverfront. The hotel has free wifi. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. Approx travel time: Public bus with A/C from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: 6-7 hours It is best to prepare your earplugs ready for this journey if you are not a fan of loud Khmer pop music!
Days 6-7 Sihanoukville (1B)
We travel by public bus to Cambodia's southern coast and the beaches of Sihanoukville. Time to relax on the white sand while perhaps enjoying a massage and eating fresh seafood, or why not join a boat trip for a day of snorkelling and lunch on an uninhabited island. In the evening, enjoy a barbeque on the beach before hitting one of the many fun bars to dance the night away. We spend two nights in Sihanoukville. The hotel has free-Wifi available. Bar and pool table are also available. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Tuktuks (local motorised transport) usually costs 2-3 USD in and around town. Approx travel time: Public bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville: 4-5 hours The bus will stop for a break after approximately 2.5 hours of travel. The bus has air-conditioning and public Karaoke. Best to bring out those earplugs again if you like to relax on your bus journeys!
Day 8 Mekong Delta (1D)
This morning we make our way to the Cambodia/Vietnam border. After driving for approximately 2 hours, we'll stop for a break in Kampot, an attractive riverside Cambodian town, well-known for the quality of its local pepper. It is approximately another 2 hours to reach the Vietnamese the border. The border crossing requires you to walk approx 150 meters on a flat road with your bags into Vietnam where our private bus will be waiting for us. After completing the necessary formalities, we will continue on to Chau Doc (Vietnam), a 4-5 hour drive. Tonight we will stay in a basic village homestay that includes dinner. Approx travel time: Private bus from Sihanoukville to Chau Doc: 9 hours (not including border formalities)
Days 9-10 Ho Chi Minh City (2B)
After breakfast on day 9, we head to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) a journey which will take most of the day. This evening, why not head to one of the rooftop bars such as the Rex Hotel, one of the classic colonial Saigon institutions, where there is often live music. Enjoy one of several street food crawls with the group and CEO while in Ho Chi Minh City. Bring your appetites and your wallets, and the CEO will bring you to the best spots and teach you a bit about the local street food. Day 10 is free for you to explore. You may choose to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex network of tunnels 90 minutes from the city where the locals lived during the American War to keep safe. Perhaps visit the the immense Ben Thanh Market and grab a snack at one of its many food stands. Those with an interest in Vietnam's recent war history may like to visit the Reunification Palace, the residence of the presidents of South Vietnam before 1974, and the fascinating nearby War Remnants Museum. Also very interesting is Cholon, Saigon’s Chinese quarter. A cyclo can take you to any of these places for a very reasonable price and is a fun way to travel around Ho Chi Minh City. On the evening of day 10, we take an overnight train to Nha Trang, the first of 3 sleeper trains you will take in Vietnam. The sleeper trains throughout Vietnam are quite comfortable. Each cabin sleeps 4 people in 2 bunk beds. You will be able to lock the door from the inside. All bedding is provided. The train is air conditioned and has squat and Western style toilets with a wash basin at the end of each compartment. Bags can be stored in your cabin and accessed at anytime. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board. This is not to everyone’s taste so we recommend you bring your own. Our Saigon hotel is located in front of the city’s main market, Ben Than Market, and very close to Saigon's backpackers street. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Wifi is available. A small swimming pool is also available on the second floor. Approx Travel Time: Private bus from Chau Doc to Ho Chi Minh City: 7-8 hrs Please note: As this is a combination trip, some of your tour members may depart in Ho Chi Minh City and you may be joined by some new travelling companions on Day 10.
Days 11-12 Nha Trang (1B)
We arrive in Nha Trang in the morning with plenty of time for you to explore the local shops and markets, relax on the beach soaking up the sun or visit nearby historical sites. Optional activities in Nha Trang include a boat trip to nearby islands for snorkeling, or perhaps a fun filled all day beach party. On the evening of day 4 we take the second of our overnight trains in Vietnam to Danang, where we will transfer to our final destination, Hoi An. The train is air conditioned and has squat and Western style toilets and wash basins at the end of each compartment. Your bags are located in your cabin and can be accessed at anytime. Our hotel in Nha Trang is centrally located in town and everything is within walking distance. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Wifi is available. Approx travel time: Transfer train station to hotel: 10 min each way Overnight sleeper train Nha Trang to Danang: 9-10 hrs.
Days 13-14 Hoi An (1B,1L)
From Danang, it is only short drive to the picturesque port town of Hoi An. Once known as Faifo, it was an important trading town with strong south Chinese influence and connections. Enjoy a tasty cooking class with oodles of noodles (more than 26 types!). Run by Planeterra Foundation partners STREETS International, the class was developed exclusively for G Adventures. Former street youths that are part of this hospitality training program will help you prepare and cook a number of different types of noodles. This program helps these youths practice their English, increasing their skill-set and the amount of opportunities available to them in the tourism industry. Enjoy tasting these yummy creations while learning more about the local cuisine and this initiative which empowers street youths through skills and employment training. Opt to support a Planeterra project and spend an hour learning how to make your own traditional lantern and support local Vietnamese with chronic disabilities. Or take a self guided walking tour of this living museum whose main sights includes the Museum of History and Culture, the Tan Ky house, the Japanese bridge, the Fujian Assembly Hall and lunch at a riverside restaurant to sample some of the delicious local delicacies and fusion food at the restaurants for which Hoi An is becoming famous. You might consider heading off on an optional motorbike or bicycle tour to visit the beautiful countryside surrounding Hoi An. Hoi An is a shopping mecca. Tailors can produce virtually any item of clothing you may wish for overnight at extremely reasonable prices, and silk lanterns, lacquer ware and many other crafts abound. It is also the centre of modern art in Vietnam. For sun worshipers, Cua Dai Beach is 4kms from town- a great flat bike ride away. Add in lots of fun bars into the mix and this really is a town that has it all and trust us, you’ll have trouble tearing yourself away! Our hotel is located approximately ten minutes walk from Hoi An downtown. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel also has swimming pool. Approx travel time: Transfer from train station in Danang to Hoi An: 45 min Approx Travel Time: Danang to Hoi An, 45 minutes by private mini van.
Days 15-16 Hue (2B)
We continue our journey north to the city of Hue. We will make a stop about half way into our ride at the Hai Van Pass where you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. When in Hue, options to explore include a visit to the former Royal Citadel which was modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing or traveling by boat along the Perfume River. Don't miss a visit to the seven tiered Tien Mu Pagoda and try to fit in a visit to at least one of the tombs of the former rulers of Vietnam, located here in the quiet countryside, all of which are like self contained mini palaces. A true highlight of Hue is the surrounding countryside and cycling is a great way to get out and experience this while checking out the sights. On the late evening of Day 8 we will travel by sleeper train from Hue to Hanoi. Our hotel is centrally located in town and is very convenient to explore the city. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning. The hotel has internet, with a computer available for passengers at the lobby. Approx travel time: Private bus from Hoi An to Hue (Day 7): 4 hours Overnight sleeper train Hue to Hanoi (Day 8): 14 hours
Day 17 Halong Bay/Bai Chay (1L)
We arrive in the early morning to bustling Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. After meeting our local guide we transfer to a private bus and make our way to the beautiful and famous Halong Bay. Thousands of islands rise dramatically from the waters of the Bay and, to further their beauty, intricate caves have been hollowed out through these limestone karst formations. Aboard a sailing junk we'll enjoy a seafood lunch and a visit to one of the islands and caves before transfering to the mainland for our overnight stay. Our hotel is located on the Bay Chai beach front with great views of Halong Bay. Our hotel has internet in the lobby with one public computer being available and free wifi. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning. Approx travel time: Private bus Ha Noi to Halong Bay: 4 hours
Days 18-19 Hanoi (2B)
After breakfast, we'll transfer back to Hanoi. Upon arrival, explore Hanoi with an orientation walking tour through the city's old quarter. Each street is named after the trade practiced on that street for several generations; it's an interesting glimpse into the life of a Hanoian in one of the oldest parts of town. Opt to visits the Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) or Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum. The Mausoleum houses the remains of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the unified Vietnam (closed October-November). Don’t miss taking a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a maze of street, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. Follow this up with a walk around nearby Hoan Kiem lake and see if you can spot one of the famous 100 year old turtles which may still live within its murky waters. In the evening you have an option to attend a performance at the famous Water Puppets and sample some of Hanoi's amazing eating venues. Ask your CEO to tell you about the local Northern delicacies. Our hotel in Hanoi is located in the Old Quarter some 20 minutes walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, the centre of Hanoi. Make sure you grab the map and hotel card before you leave the hotel. All hotel rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Computers and wifi are available. Approx Travel Time: Private bus Ha Long Bay to Ha Noi: 4 hours
Day 20 Hanoi (1B)
You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that hotel check out time is 12pm. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEO's performance. We value your input into what we could improve to make this trip even better and of course love hearing about what we are already doing well! You will be sent a post tour email on your return with details on how to go on line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance. Some of your group will most likely continue traveling through Laos with G Adventures. If you are interested in ongoing travel in Laos have a look at the following trip on our website: Roam Laos and Thailand http://www.gadventures.com/trips/roam-laos-thailand/AVRL/2012/