Travel through Vietnam to Cambodia with specialist tour operator Emperor Tours discovering local cultures and traditions along the way. Sit back and relax as you watch the countryside and everyday life pass you by as follows:
• Hanoi – French colonial boulevards and outstanding attractions including memorials to former founder of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh. Learn about the country’s ethnic origins at the Museum of Ethnology and explore the Old Quarter with its labyrinth of ancient streets.
• Halong Bay – change of pace and a day and overnight stay on a luxurious junk taking in the beautiful scenery of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonder with its 3000 towering limestone islands.
• Hue –discover the Imperial Citadel with its palaces and temples.
• Hoi An –explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site with its ancient streets, a wonderfully preserved old merchant town with it’s Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences.
• Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) – visit the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Vietnamese fighters during war time, as well as the major attractions of this vibrant city including the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Saigon Post Office.
• Phnom Penh – capital of Cambodia, French colonial inspired architecture and historical sites including the opulent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
• Kampong Khleang – houses built on stilts overlooking the exceptional natural environment of flood plains, rice fields and water for as far as they eye can see!
• Siem Reap – immerse yourselves in the ancient ornate temples including the world-famous Angkor Wat and the extraordinary Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, plus many more wonderful and memorable heritage sites showcasing Cambodia’s rich heritage.
Today is the start of your private Indochina holiday by departing London Heathrow for international economy flight to Hanoi.
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
Our local guide will welcome you at Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) on arrival. A private transfer awaits to the centre of this amazing city for hotel check in.
You are free to relax for the rest of the day.
Today we will spend a full-day to explore Vietnam’s capital city, including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum (closed on every Monday and Friday), his traditional stilt house, the One-Pillar Pagoda, and the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature, also known as the First University of Vietnam.
In the afternoon, visit the Ethnology Museum (closed on every Monday) where you can learn about the costumes, customs and daily life of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. We then continue with Old Quarter Streets and the Hoan Kiem Lake vicinity of Hanoi.
In the evening, enjoy a traditional water puppet show – a unique Vietnamese Art form hailing from Southeast Asia’s wet-rice culture.
We leave Hanoi this morning and head straight to Halong Bay, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with its 3,000 islands of towering limestone dotting the bay.
After arriving at noon, you will board a beautiful junk (ancient Chinese ship) for an overnight cruise on Halong Bay, accompanied with an excellent menu of fresh seafood. Lunch and dinner are prepared by our onboard chef and served on boat.
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy aquamarine water of the bay at its best. After tea break, the boat continues to cruise quietly through spectacular limestone formations of Halong Bay. Enjoy this more isolated bay’s spectacular and unique islands of the bay.
We return to Halong harbour after a brunch for private transfer to Hanoi station for your overnight soft-sleeper train to Hue.
On arrival in Hue station, your local guide will be there to meet you and drive to your hotel for a short rest.
Enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant and then start to explore Hue city, beginning with the Imperial Citadel of Hue and the traditional Thien Mu Pagoda on the banks of Perfume River.
In the afternoon, we visit Tu Duc tomb – one of the most beautiful tombs in Hue. If time permits, we will also visit a garden house to learn more about the culture of Hue.
Today we depart by car for Hoi An via the scenic Hai Van Pass, where we will enjoy the spectacular panorama of the central coastline from the summit. We also stop at Lang Co to stretch our legs on the white sands of this peaceful beach.
Upon arrival in Hoi An check in at the hotel and remainder of day free at your leisure. Hoi An is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its historic role in international trade, unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes.
In the morning, you will hop on your bike for cycling through the countryside to Tra Que village (about 20 minutes biking) – transfer by cyclo or by private vehicle are also the options. This village has been known for its special aromatic herbs, mint and basil; leaves of those plants are smaller than usual, however they have a very particular aroma.
Together with local people in their daily work, you will learn how to plant and water vegetables. Then learn to cook some local specialities, for example “Tam Hu” – set of shrimps, pork and aromatic herbs. Of course you will get the opportunity to enjoy your creations after cooking! Then enjoy a local foot massage.
In the afternoon, take a stroll to visit Hoi An town. Set out to explore the quaint cobblestone streets of the town with the more than two-century-old Chinese houses. Sites include the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple, and Phung Hung Chinese-trading house.
At the end of the day, you will have memorable time for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee at “Reaching Out Tea House” – a very special and unique ancient house where they offer you not only fabulous drinks and snacks but also the soul values.
You have the morning free at leisure to either relax by the pool, the beach, or grab the opportunity for some independent exploring or shopping.
In the afternoon you will be transferred to Danang Airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Meet your local guide and driver on arrival and drive to your hotel in the city centre for check in.
Under the guidance of your local guide, we set out on a city tour of the former capital of French Indochina, once known as Saigon. Historic landmarks include the Old Saigon post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Opera House, and the War Museum.
In the afternoon, visit the ethnic Chinese district of Cholon with Binh Tay market and Thien Hau pagoda.
This morning we will leave the city by private vehicle to visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi. This incredible system, covering almost 250 km in length was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. Initially started in 1948 to provide shelter against the French air and ground sweeps, the network went on to serve as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American war. If you are interested (and game) you can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived there.
After lunch we transfer to the Vietnam – Cambodia border and cross the Cambodian border. We then drive to the capital of Phnom Penh. Once deemed the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh offers a bustling mix of Asia’s past quickly taking its place amongst the trendy capitals of the region with super restaurants and a number of attractions.
Today we discover Phnom Penh City, capital of Cambodia located at the conjunction of four branches of the Mekong River “Chaktomuk” and historical capital for more than 600 years after Angkor.
We begin our day with Wat Phnom, an ancient pagoda standing up on the hill, followed by the National Museum – built in 1917-18 exclusively dedicated to Khmer arts. There are many artefacts from the Pre-Angkor as well as Angkor Period on display. They are made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood, ceramic and other materials.
We continue to the Royal Palace built in 1866 and Silver Pagoda located within the Royal Palace compound, the majority of treasures on display have been supplied by the King of Cambodia such as gift from various other countries. Among the treasures are a solid gold Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds and weighing 90 kilos and a small 17th century emerald and baccarat crystal Buddha.
This afternoon is a reminder of the more recent tragic history, with a visit to Toul Sleng, an ancient school which was used as a prison under the Khmers Rouges time.
Finally today we walk around the Russian market, built into 1937 of a splendid architecture of colonial style.
In the morning, we leave Phnom Penh for Kampong Thom. En route you will pass a number of villages and visit the temples of Sambor Prei Kuk, which is Angkor’s oldest capital.
After lunch, start to visit the pre Angkorian temples to get an ideal introduction to Angkor. After our visit, continue transfer to Kampong Thom where you will arrive in the afternoon.
In the morning we leave for Kampong Khleang. Here all the houses are on stilts offering an exceptional natural environment with breathtaking views of floodplains, rice fields and water views as far as the eye can see. Walk through the village meeting the locals and their lovely children.
Afterwards, travel by boat over the canals to a large lake where Vietnamese people live when they are displaced from their homes because of the seasons. Return to the village and have a picnic lunch in a villager’s home.
In the afternoon continue on to Siem Reap by private vehicle and transfer to your hotel in the centre of this unique and fascinating city.
Your day starts with a visit to the world-famous Angkor Wat, a world heritage site with soaring towers and extraordinary bas reliefs. It is one of the most amazing man-made monuments in the world, erected in the 12th century in honour of Vishnu. We have the whole morning to walk around this amazing structure!
In the afternoon, leave for Banteay Srei where a most impressive jewel of Khmer art exists. Erected in the 10th century, this small pink sandstone temple is known as the Citadel of Women.
On the way back, visit the ancient Ta Prohm Monastery where immense branches have taken root in the stones – hence the nickname of the Jungle Temple. You will find some splendid sculptured Devatas and an atmosphere that is unique.
In the morning you leave by tuk-tuk for the northern end of Angkor, beginning the day with Preah Khan Temple, built by Jayavarman VII in 1191 in honour of his father. This monument was both a city and a place for Buddhism studies.
Of the same era is Neak Pean, the only island temple of Angkor, and also known as Entwined Nagas. The large central basin is linked with four smaller basins which represent the four great rivers flowing from the earth’s four cardinal points. One of the most interesting features of this site is the superb statute of Balaha, representing the legendary saviour of shipwrecked boats.
Continue your exploration of Angkor by heading further south to visit the two very beautiful temples – Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda – dating from the 12th century and built during the reign of Suryavarman II. They stand out because of their very beautiful sculptured images honouring Shiva and Vishnu.
In the afternoon, visit Angkor Thom (the Great City) beginning by the south gate and the famous Bayon of the 12th and 13th centuries, dedicated to Buddhism and composed of 54 gigantic towers featuring 216 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara.
Then, visit the Elephant Terrace, which was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall; and the raised Leper King Terrace, built in the 12th century and which features many beautifully sculptured Apsaras.
After a truly wonderful holiday it is sadly time to say goodbye and transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
Hanoi – 5* Hotel de L’Opera Hanoi (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 5* Indochina Sails (for information click here)
Hue – 5* La Residence Hotel & Spa (for information click here)
Hoi An – 5* Palm Garden Resort (for information click here)
Saigon – 5* Hotel Des Arts Saigon (for information click here)
Phnom Penh – 5* Sofitel Phnom Penh (for information click here)
Kampong Thom – Sambor Village (for information click here)
Siem Reap – 5* Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort (for information click here)
Hanoi – 4* Silk Path Hanoi Hotel (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 4* Aphrodite Cruise (for information click here)
Hue – 4* Pilgrimage Village (for information click here)
Hoi An – 4* Boutique Hoian Resort (for information click here)
Saigon – 4* Grand Hotel (for information click here)
Phnom Penh – 4* White Mansion Boutique (for information click here)
Kampong Thom – Sambor Village (for information click here)
Siem Reap – 4* Viroth Hotel (for information click here)
Tour Prices include:
Tour Prices exclude:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.50 hours direct from London Heathrow to Hanoi (Vietnam Airlines Sun-Tue-Thu-Fri only). Other airlines fly indirect every day of the week. There are no direct flights from Siem Reap to the UK.
TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).
CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND / Cambodian riel £1 = approx. 5,480 riels
MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.
TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.
VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less in Vietnam. A visa is required for Cambodia and can be obtained on arrival at entry airport/port or in advance through the embassy website.
LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese. The official language spoken in Cambodia is Khmer.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT: From October to April are the best times to visit both Vietnam and Cambodia combined. March to April will experience least rainfall and more pleasant temperatures too.
FESTIVALS: Here are the main Vietnamese and Cambodian festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…
Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February
Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.
Mid Autumn Festival (Vietnam) – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar
Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.
Reunification Day (Vietnam) – 30th April yearly
Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south
National Independence Day (Vietnam) – 2nd September yearly
This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.
Hue Festival – end of April to beginning of May
A biennial festival celebrated in the former imperial capital of Hue, the Hue Festival condenses the best of Hue’s culture into a single week-long festival. Theatre, puppetry, dance, music, and acrobatics will be performed in different places around the city, although most of the activities are conducted around the grounds of former imperial citadel.
Lantern Festival (Hoi An) – 14th day of each lunar month
The festival features many hundreds of colourful lantern lit up throughout the town. The houses and shops are beautifully decorated and activities are often held in the streets and along the Thu Bon River.
Dong Da Festival (Hanoi) – 21st February
The festival celebrates the victory of King Quang Trung who defeated the army of 200,000 Qing dynasty soldiers at Dong Da Hill. A dragon procession, games and martial arts activities are performed to celebrate the strength of the Vietnamese people during this historic victory.
Victory Day (Cambodia) – 7th January yearly
This day marks the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. During the four years of the regime, it is estimated that two million Cambodians died (almost a quarter of the population). Remembrance services are carried out to honor those who lost their lives.
Meak Bochea Day (Cambodia) – coinciding with the full moon of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar
This day commemorates the final sermon of Buddha, in which he summarised the three fundamental principles of Buddhism: avoid evil, perform good deeds and achieve purity of the mind. Buddhists celebrate Meak Bochea by joining candlelit processions within temples in their vicinity.
Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year – Cambodia) – 13th to 15th April yearly
It marks the end of the harvest before the beginning of the rainy season. Cambodia grinds to a halt during New Year, drawing families together from all across the country into a celebration that turns wet and wild on the third day.
On the first day, people give thanks to Buddha by lighting candles and incense sticks. The second day is for charity where people donate or offer help to the poor and needy. On the third day, people wash statues of Buddha with scented water, which is symbolic of washing away sins of the past.
Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day – Cambodia) – celebrated on the 15th day of the 10th month of the Khmer lunar calendar
It is actually the culmination of a fifteen-day observance called Dak Ben, throughout which Khmers are encouraged to visit at least seven pagodas to make offerings to dead ancestors and light candles to guide the spirits of the dead to these offerings.
Observant Khmers will also throw a rice-sesame seed mixture onto temple grounds. This observance helps feed the spirits of the ancestors who roam the world on Pchum Ben and are consequently hungry from not having eaten all year.
National Independence Day (Cambodia) – 9th November yearly
This day marks the anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. The celebrations are centered around the Independence Monument at the center of Phnom Penh, where the King lights a victory fire in the presence of the country’s politicians, generals, and diplomats.
The celebrations also include cultural activities, parades down Norodom Boulevard, and fireworks in the evening.
FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.
Freshwater fish is the most commonly used meat in the Cambodian diet, with pork and chicken also being popular.
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits.
Showing anger is seen as a weakness.
Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.
HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.
If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam and Cambodia – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.