On Foot in Vietnam + Cambodia Highlights

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21 days, from £1685
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Description

We combine spectacular coastal scenery, colonial towns with evocative war memorials and lost temple cities on this trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam we enjoy both walking tours around the must-see city sights in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, and easy walks in the countryside. Rural rambles take us from the stilted tribal villages of the north, to ancient temples in the jungle and the heat and quiet of the sleepy Mekong Delta. A junk cruise among the karst landscapes and still waters of Halong Bay is an undoubted highlight. In the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh we visit the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. Travelling into the jungle we spend four days exploring the incredible temple city of Angkor.

Tour comfort rating: standard

Trek grade rating: easy-to-moderate

Itinerary


 Day 1 Join trip in Hanoi: explore the Old Quarter on foot

This afternoon we are introduced to life in Vietnam on a walking tour through the bustling streets and markets of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The maze of fascinating alleys is known for its interesting 'tube' houses, whose narrow frontages give way to long rooms that stretch back from the road. Street vendors tempt you with noodles, snacks and stir-fried delights from shoulder panniers, all adding to the charm of Hanoi's historic heart. We can expect today's four kilometre walking tour to take around one-and-a-half to two hours.
Meals included: none
Single room option


 Day 2 Drive to Pu Luong; hike to our stilt house retreat

Leaving Hanoi behind this morning, we drive west to the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, a beautiful region of limestone cliffs, forests and terraced fields that is richly biodiverse. This area is a home to the Thai ethnic minority tribe who live in villages of stilt houses. We will be staying in the heart of the Reserve at the Pu Luong Retreat, an eco-friendly lodge built from traditional materials in a 'boutique' style, with breathtaking views all around. There is even an infinity pool in the former fish pond! At the Retreat we will be staying in its unique stilt house, a beautifully appointed and traditional structure where we sleep on comfortable mattresses in one very large room that can be divided into sections by curtains. The shared bathrooms are connected to the stilt house and open to the elements. See http://puluongretreat.com/house-on-stilt/. On arriving at the Nature Reserve, we hike through the villages to our accommodation while the bus continues there with our luggage. We can expect today's eight kilometre walk to take around two-and-a-half hours across gently undulating terrain.
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner


 Day 3 Hiking in Pu Luong Reserve; lunch with Thai family

We spend today hiking among the beautiful landscapes of the Reserve and will enjoy plenty of stops along the way, planning to spend time in some of the villages of the Thai minority tribe and have a traditional lunch at a local house en route. Today's leisurely paced hike of approximately 10 kilometres will take around five hours across gently undulating terrain.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner


 Day 4 Morning walk and bamboo raft trip; return to Hanoi

In the morning we enjoy another walk, rambling alongside the bubbling river with its vast wooden waterwheels which transport its waters to irrigate the terraced paddy fields. Ending at spot where we take to the river on simple bamboo rafts, we float along in this tranquil place and will no doubt feel rejuvenated and ready for our adventure ahead! We return to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi later today with time in the evening to enjoy a performance of traditional water puppets (optional). These puppet shows date back to the 11th century, and performances took place in the flooded rice fields of the villages in the Red River Delta. This morning's walk covers approximately five-and-a-half kilometres and is expected to take around two-and-a-half hours.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 5 Walking tour in Hanoi; drive to Halong Bay

This morning we will discover more of Hanoi outside of the Old Quarter on a walking tour. Architecturally styled like a French provincial town with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses, the city is wonderfully nostalgic. Among the interesting sights that we will visit are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda, Confucius Temple and the Presidential Palace. Ho Chi Minh himself, a spartan-living and scholarly man, chose not to live in the Presidential Palace; he preferred instead a simple teak stilt-house specially built for him and which we will see in the Palace grounds. In the afternoon we drive to our hotel at Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. We can expect today's seven kilometre walking tour to take around four hours including sightseeing.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 6 Junk Cruise around Halong Bay; overnight train to Hue

This morning we enjoy the romantic scenery of Halong Bay on a junk cruise amongst the thousands of jagged limestone islands that rise out of the jade green waters like the hairy scales of a submerged dragon! In fact Halong means: 'Where the dragon descends to the sea'. As legend has it the rugged seascape was created by the pounding tail of a dragon as he ran from the mountains into the sea, carving the islands in his wake. During our cruise we'll have the chance to stop at a grotto beneath towering cliffs and perhaps visit a beach and enjoy a delicious freshly caught seafood lunch on board the boat. After disembarking, we return to our hotel in Hanoi to freshen up before boarding the 'Reunification Express' to Hue. We travel 'soft sleeper' class on the train, with four people to a compartment with all bedding provided.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch


 Day 7 Afternoon walking tour around Hue Citadel

Awaking aboard the train, we pass through a rural landscape of seemingly endless rice paddies before arriving in the city of Hue mid morning. This afternoon we will discover Hue's fascinating history on a walking tour around the Imperial Citadel. Located on the left bank of the river, the palace was built by the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam's ruling emperors from the early 1800s to 1945. The Citadel has formal moats and impressive ramparts that were constructed by 20,000 men and was a copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although most of the inner part of the city was totally destroyed during the month-long Tet Offensive in 1968, the vast outer walls and the west wing remain an eloquent reminder of the palace's former glory. We can expect today's seven kilometre walking tour to take around three-and-a-half hours including sightseeing.
Meals included: none
Single room option


 Day 8 Hike through villages; cruise on the Perfume River

This morning we drive out of the city to enjoy a hike through some of the villages that lie along the banks of the Perfume River. Exploring on foot enables us to observe rural life up close and our leader is always on hand to explain what we see. The river supposedly got its name from the aromas carried by the river downstream from the forests and mountains of its source. After our walk, we will catch a boat for a short cruise along the river back to our bus. Today's leisurely-paced hike of approximately seven kilometres will take around three hours. We will walk along village footpaths and the terrain is flat.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 9 Drive to the laid-back town of Hoi An

Today we enjoy a scenic drive south to Hoi An, crossing the spectacular Hai Van Pass en route and passing through rural scenes of thatched, wooden houses and lime-green rice paddies as well as panoramic sea views. The UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An was one of the busiest international trading ports of Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. First colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it still retains its medieval charm today, with many of its old buildings superbly preserved. The afternoon has been left free to explore Hoi An at your own pace. You may choose to visit the Japanese Bridge or some of the Chinese temples and meeting halls in the Old Town. There are also many shops, bars and restaurants and it is a great place to buy souvenirs, have clothing tailored or simply watch the world go by in a riverside cafe.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 10 Hike to the Cham temples at My Son

Today we drive for around an hour from Hoi An and enjoy a hike through a hilly landscape of pine forest and grasslands to the ancient Cham site of My Son.The Chams were dynastic lords who rejected the authority of China in the second century and established their own kingdom in what is now Vietnam. Although they benefited from strong sea links with the rest of South East Asia, the kingdom's interior could not supply sufficient food for a strong military force. For 1000 years they managed to stave off attacks by the Vietnamese and Chinese, before being overcome by the Vietnamese in the 15th century. The site is impressive, despite the fact that much of it was bombed in the 1960s and there are several groupings of Cham temples which we can visit. We can expect today's eight kilometre hike to take around four-and-a-half hours across undulating terrain with a high point of 168m.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 11 Travel to Binh Hoa Phuoc Island in the Mekong Delta

After a short drive to Danang Airport first thing this morning, we fly to Ho Chi Minh City, from where we drive further south to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta. Surrounded with lush and fertile land the area is home to small villages and swaying coconut palms. We take a walk on Tan Phong Islands to see local Delta life. Later we travel by boat to the island of Binh Hoa Phoc where we spend the night in a local homestay-cum-guesthouse. At the homestay we will be accommodated in a mix of twin and triple rooms with attached bathrooms. The rich soil of the Mekong provides an abundant harvest, including coconut, fruits, rice and of course fish and tonight we will enjoy a dinner of local produce We can expect today's four kilometre hike to take around one-and-a-half hours.
Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
Single room option


 Day 12 Walk in the Mekong Delta; drive to Ho Chi Minh City

This morning we plan a walk on the island, stopping off along the way to observe some of the traditional cottage industries of the Delta such as the production of rice paper and coconut sweets. Other glimpses of everyday life may include seeing people catching fish from the river, or mending baskets and repairing tools by the river bank. Departing by boat once more we meet our bus in Vinh Long and drive to Ho Chi Minh City. Still unofficially referred to as 'Saigon', the city is the largest in Vietnam with a population of around eight million. You will find an eclectic mix of the traditional and the new, where pagodas and markets compete alongside the trappings of Vietnam's newly discovered entrepreneurial spirit. We can expect today's eight-and-a-half kilometre hike to take around three hours across at a leisurely pace. The terrain of the Delta is flat.
Meals included: none
Single room option


 Day 13 Walking tour of Old Saigon; free afternoon to explore

This morning we walk around the central sights of Old Saigon, now known as District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. We see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the GPO building as well as some of the old French Colonial hotels such as The Rex. We then continue to the Independence Palace (renamed the Reunification Hall) and the War Remnants Museum. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city further, perhaps with a visit to the huge Ben Thanh market for some shopping. We can expect today's five kilometre walking tour to take around four hours including sightseeing.
Meals included: none
Single room option


 Day 14 Visit Cu Chi Tunnels; drive to Phnom Penh

This morning we take a short drive out of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, which formed an incredible underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the 1968 Tet Offensive. The site is a fascinating insight into the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. There is the opportunity to crawl through a small specially adapted section of the tunnels should you wish to sample the claustrophobic conditions in which the Viet Cong lived. Afterwards we bid farewell to our tour leader who continues back to Ho Chi Minh City while you join with customers who have been enjoying other Explore trips in Vietnam to continue by road into Cambodia. Border formalities take place at Moc Bai (Vietnam) and Bavet (Cambodia) crossing point. Our final destination is Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 15 Discover the sights of Phnom Penh; free afternoon

Phnom Penh took over from Angkor as Cambodia's capital city in the 1440s. It is now a lively city with many French colonial buildings and plenty to see. Accompanied by a local guide we visit the National Museum, a treasure trove of beautifully preserved carvings and lintels rescued from Angkor; the emotive Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a high school that became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre; and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek - the memorial stupa is a glass tower filled with human skulls - a gruesome reminder of the scale of Pol Pot's atrocities. This afternoon we visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda as well as the temple of Wat Phnom before having some free time in the city.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 16 Free day in Phnom Penh; optional visit to Silk Island

Today is free allowing you the opportunity to explore the city or its surrounds further. Optional excursions close to the city include a trip to Silk Island, Chiso Mountain or the abandoned Royal City of Oudong. Each of these excursions are half a day in duration and may be combined, your tour leader will discuss in more detail. Silk Island or Koh Dach is reached by a short boat journey along the Mekong where the majority of villagers on the island earn a living through producing handicrafts. It is a great opportunity to learn more about traditional ways of life and interact with locals as you learn about silk weaving, woodcarving, pottery, painting, and jewellery making. Chiso Mountain (380m), located in Sia village about 62 km south of Phnom Penh, is topped by the ruins of an 11th century Khmer Brahmanic Temple with fine views of the surrounding paddy fields. Oudong is about an hour north of the capital and offers the opportunity to explore attractive historic temples and stupas.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 17 Drive to Siem Reap; cruise on Tonle Sap Lake

This morning we make an early start for our drive to Siem Reap, stopping somewhere for lunch on the way. Later in the day we journey to nearby Tonle Sap Lake where we board our charter boat for a leisurely cruise through the fascinating floating village of Chong Kneas, where we see stilt houses, floating markets and an array of boats.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 18 Explore Angkor temples with sunset

Our exact programme over the next three days may change slightly at our local guide's discretion (to avoid crowds, coincide with sunsets, etc.). Angkor was actually a series of cities, built between the 9th and the 13th centuries by the Khmer kings, with a population of 750,000 in its heyday. The Angkor complex is spread out over some 155 square kilometres, scattered with magnificent carved stone temples, elegant sculptures and incredible bas reliefs. We visit the Rolous group, which are some of the earliest temples. In the afternoon we visit the temples of Banteay Srei, a small but beautiful temples with exquisite carvings. We end the day at East Mebon, with a visit to Pre Rup temple for sunset.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 19 Explore Angkor Thom

We continue our exploration with a visit to the temples of King Jayavarman Vll, reputedly Angkor's greatest king. The fortified city of Angkor Thom, which he built at the end of the 12th century is enclosed by a square wall with five monumental gates decorated with stone elephant trunks. Originally, crocodiles inhabited the moat and huge statues of 54 different gods protected each gate. The city contains another of Angkor's true gems - The Bayon. Although not as impressive as Angkor Wat from a distance, The Bayon is nevertheless incredible for its maze of corridors, gothic style towers and magical central temples. We'll explore The Terrace of the Elephants and the Leper King, the Baphuon and Phimeanakas, and some of the surrounding temples such as Preah Khan.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 20 Explore Ta Phrom and Angkor Wat

On our final day we make a visit to the 2nd Angkor capital that includes the temples of Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei and Takeo. A highlight for many is a visit to the atmospheric temple of Ta Prohm, where the film Tomb Raider was filmed, lying half consumed by the jungle. We leave the best known and most breathtaking of all the sights, Angkor Wat, to the end - where we stay until the sun sets on the last night of our adventure.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 21 Trip ends in Siem Reap

The trip ends in Siem Reap after breakfast. If you have time, you may choose to browse the old market for some last minute bargains, or enjoy afternoon tea at The Foreign Correspondent's Club.
Meals included: Breakfast


Tour Map