After having visited several countries in the past few years, I decided to visit Vietnam and Cambodia in the month of February-March 2017. I wanted to try out something different this time and hence was actually looking for some Guide/Agency who could give me good travel related information of my intended travel destinations.
Lo and Behold, I found “Travel Triangle” (online travel marketplace) to do this piece of work for me. They were “up and about” in taking this up for me and after understanding my requirements, they were quick to respond by putting me through to a Vietnam Tour Company to take on this task. Since I had already gone through a lot of information of my proposed trip, so, after a swift and heavy exchange of information between the Vietnam Tour company and me on WhatsApp, I was able to finalize my trip within a week.
This was a trip aimed at visiting North, Central, and South Vietnam and the important touristic spots of Cambodia. And it went as per the plan and very well.
My Vietnam And Cambodia Package Details:
Duration: 13 Nights and 14 Days
Cost: INR 212649 or 3295 dollars
Inclusions: Flights, Transfers, Hotels, Cruise, Meals, and Sightseeing
Exclusions: Personal expenses and anything not mentioned in the itinerary
Day 1 – 2: Hello Hanoi, you beauty!
So I set off for Hanoi via Bangkok where I was well received by representatives of my Tour Company at Noi Bai airport, Hanoi.
Hanoi – (Capital of Vietnam)
It’s a crowded city with very narrow streets and lanes except for the stretch from the airport to the city which has wide roads and open spaces. Nonetheless, it retains its style and grace which I could feel in its old world charm and some of the most striking colonial architecture. There are innumerable lakes and parks where one can go and chill as the surroundings make a good relaxing atmosphere. One can also find the streets dotted with many eateries serving local cuisine and shops where you can bargain and get products at a price you desire. The people, too, are extremely friendly but during the evening, one can find huge traffic jams on the streets.
At Hanoi, I visited:
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – It is the final resting place of the great Vietnamese leader, popularly called Uncle Ho. The body is kept in an air-conditioned glass casket donning his military uniform and a Military Guard protects the former leader. The Mausoleum is surrounded by very well kept gardens and manicured lawns which is so very pleasing to the eye. He was such a popular leader that hordes of visitors visit the Mausoleum to pay their respect.
President Ho Chi Minh’s stilt House – A modest house where he lived from 1958 to 1969.
Ho Chi Minh Museum – The museum has enormous information of this very tall leader.
Overall, the day went very well. I was thoroughly enjoying my time in this wonderful city.
Day 2: Halong Bay – The cruise of a lifetime!
After finishing some of the above-mentioned sightseeing, I proceeded on for a 4 hours bus journey to Halong Bay and later embarked on the LaFairy Sails for a magnificent cruise in the picturesque Halong Bay which has over a thousand extraordinarily shaped limestone islands.The ship explored the Lom Bo area and we had a halt at Me Cung Cave, which is an extremely beautiful (if you climb to the top you get to see a panoramic view of the bay).
Then, there was a sunset party on the top deck of the ship and I got to witness a fruit carving demonstration. The ship had very cozy cabins where we spent the night after a sumptuous barbecue dinner.
Day 3 – 4: Hue – Having a closer look at the local life!
Next day, I boarded a flight to Hue, which was once the feudal capital from 1802 to 1945.
It’s a small and quiet city known for its magnificent architecture, pagodas, and royal tombs. I visited the Minh Mang Tomb, Khai Dinh Tomb, Tu Duc Tomb, The Citadel, and also the Conical Hat, and Incense Making Villages. Next day I drove for about 5 hours to Hoi An via Danang. On the way, we stopped at Lang Co Beach and then the winding road took me up to the spectacular Hai Van pass which is perched up in the mountains abutting the sea coast, it is thronged with tourists. The temperature here suddenly plummeted to 8 degrees and I made a quick getaway.
Then we drove to visit the Marble Mountains whose peak represents the 5 elements of the universe. By this time the sun was right above us and hitting hard. So, I purchased a ticket and started climbing the “Marble Mountain”. It’s a steep climb and it takes 45 minutes to reach the cave which is at the highest point. As I walked along with other tourists, who were mainly Scandinavians and Canadians, it reminded me of the oft-repeated saying as you ascend into the mountains – ” 4×4 laga de jhoor”. The humidity takes a heavy toll on climbers and it was glaringly on display today. We also visited a marble factory en route where finished products were on display. There were marble, Onyx, Crystal, and Amethyst products which are exported worldwide. We continued our drive and passed Danang, which is a very tidy city with a good mix of the old and new. There were skyscrapers hugging the coastline and then there were boulevards, lovely beaches, and beautiful roads. Fantastic! We reached Hoi An in the evening.
Day 5 – 6: Hoi An – Hand in hand with history!
I spent the night at a very good riverside resort and next morning, we set off to My Son, the holy land of the mighty Champa kingdom, constructed between the 4th and 14th century AD. It is a UNESCO heritage site and was found in the 18th century in a very thick forested area. To reach it, one has to walk for about 2 hours. On the way, one can also see bomb craters caused by the bombing by US B 52 bombers on Viet Minh soldiers who were hiding there during the 1968 Vietnam War. The temple has many carvings of Shiva, Parvathi, Vishnu, Brahma, and Ganesha. It’s a must see, if anyone is coming to this part of the world. The next day was spent at Hoi An, a vibrant, colourful, and bustling township where you can party past midnight. It’s one of the best markets I have been to as far as entertainment, partying, and shopping is concerned. The best part is that the crowd, both the young and the not so young, carry themselves so majestically in their best attire as if they are dressed to kill. Later, I took out some spare time in the evening and attended a Vietnamese Cooking demonstration at a very colourful market area of Hoi and worked on 6 exotic dishes (quite an experience!).
Having done North & Central Vietnam inadequate details and having made so many new friends, rebuildVietnamese, and other foreign tourists, it was time to say goodbye to all of them and leave for Hoi An for Danang Airport after an early start at 6 AM next day. My next destination was Saigon in South Vietnam, now called Ho Chi Minh city.
Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City – The most famous city out of them all
Ho Chi Minh City
The city is still called Saigon by many locals. It is the center of commerce, finance, culture, and tourism in Vietnam. This bustling metropolis, a contradiction of its northern counterpart Hanoi, is crowded with bicycles and motorbikes. A city tour took us to the Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the President of South Vietnam until April 1975. Close to the palace are French colonial structures including Notre Dame Cathedral and the old Saigon Post Office. After visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda and the War Remnants Museum we went to Ben Thanh Market to witness the local life.
Next day we left the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and drove for My Tho, which lies on the left side of the Mekong River. We then boarded a sampan and cruised down the river around the four beautiful islands known as Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix, and Tortoise islands. We stopped over at Unicorn Island, and walked around its country lanes, enjoying orchards, tropical fruits, and folk song music, which was being performed by the local people. We visited the fruit plantation and then riding a hand-rowed sampan through Thoi Son canal, we treated ourselves to the beauty of the countryside, where we visited the family businesses, a honeybee farm, and enjoyed honey tea and even got to see the coconut candy workshop. In the afternoon, post lunch, we cycled around the Tan Thach village, met the local villagers to experience the local daily life in the Mekong delta. For people who could not go on the cycling trip, there were hammocks arranged for resting in the cool breeze. Later on our way back to the Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the Lacquer Painting Factory which is about 12kmms out of Ho Chi Minh City. The skills that these artists possess are breathtaking.
We also visited the “Vietnam War Remnants” Museum at Ho Chi Minh City. What is most revealing here is the amount of destruction and devastation that was caused by the US during the Vietnam war of the late 60s, early 70’s, which has left stains all over Vietnam.
“Hats off to the Vietnamese people who rebuilt their country so brilliantly that I can tell you that it has become one of the best tourist destinations in the world”.
Day 8: Mekong Delta
Next day we visited My Tho in the Mekong Delta. It’s a place you must visit.The drive from Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho is over 3 hours.I visited the head quarter of Cao Dai sect located in Tay Ninh. This religion was founded in 1923 and now numbers over 2 million members. Heading out of Ho Chi Minh city, we drove for approximately 200 Kms to Tay Ninh to see the ornate temple of Cao Dai and attend the fantastic mid-day service.The followers of this sect fill the hall wearing colored robes, a symbol of the curious combination of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
Next was to visit the War Zone….. the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, which were an incredible underground network constructed by Vietnamese fighters during the long struggle for independence. The tunnels contained hospitals, plus accommodation and schools, and were used as a military base for the Viet Cong in the American war.
Day 9 – 10 (Phnom Penh) & Day 11, 12, 13 (Siem Reap)
Next day I took a flight to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I visited the Jungle covered temple of Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Sra Srong, Ta Leo, Thommanon and Chau Say Tevado. The grand circuit with Preah Khan, Kravan, Neak Pean, Krol Ko, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup Temples and concluded it with a steep climb up a forested hill up to Bakheng Hill which gave me a spectacular view of all the sandstone monuments of Siem Reap way down below (indeed a spectacular sunset scene) where I could also catch a glimpse of fishermen at work. From the Mekong Delta, I also visited the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and Wat Phnom. The city lies at the confluence of 3 rivers, Siem Reap, Mekong, and Tonle Sap.
I also visited the famous Angkor Wat temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple is breathtaking and you just cannot take your eyes off it as it is simply stunning. Angkor was the capital of Khmer Empire from 802 AD to 1350 AD and the temple was built in the 13th century. It has Hindu God’s engraved/etched all over. There is Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh, Arjun, Ram, Bramha, Hanuman, and Ravan at so many places and the Shivalinga almost at every entrance. The story of Ramayana and Mahabharata is also shown very neatly on the walls. Buddhism replaced Hinduism sometime the 14th century and Buddha statues replaced many Hindu God’s. If you are physicality fit, get ready to walk for 4 hours, climb about 100 steep steps up and down under the blazing sun for the temple experience us surely worth it. I also visited all its important adjoining places namely, Bayon Temple, Royal Enclosures, Phimesnakas, Elephant Terrace, and Terrace of the Leper King.
I concluded my trip to Cambodia by chilling on a boat ride on Tonle Sap lake, Cambodia s largest natural lake where we also stopped at a floating village en route.
My visit to Vietnam and Cambodia was remarkable and the experience will be remembered for a very long time. Traveling solo here was a bliss and I suggest everyone experience these two countries at least once in their lifetime. You won’t return back the same, I promise!
Sasi had an amazing time traveling solo in Vietnam and Cambodia. You to can do it too, all thanks to perfect planning and an itinerary that suits you. We suggest you book your customized Vietnam and Cambodia Package right away!