Any advice for booking a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia(12 Posts)
As the title says really. Me and DH want to visit Vietnam and Cambodia but I don't really know where to start. We want to go in 2014 and could go for a maximum of 3 weeks.
We haven't got a fortune to spend and DH likes (what I would call) luxury hotels (air con, pool, bar, restaurant etc). He would also like to work in seeing some of Thailand but my brain is going to explode!
But where do I start looking for hotel recommendations? It all seems so confusing! Can anyone recommend areas to stay in and the best ways to travel between the 2 (plane, train etc).
I cant help with Cambodia, but ee 'flashpacked' from HCMC to Hanoi in 16 days & had a wonderful time. It's such a diverse country, it's hard to know what to recommend but I hope any of the following is useful:
- food is really cheap.
- the absolute MUST do of the trip was Halong Bay. We actually went to Bai Tu Long (not the main tourist drag) with Indochina junks and it was spectacular, not overcrowded in the slightest. We chose a small 6 passenger boat & it was worth every penny.
- we did a short (8h) journey on a sleeper train for the experience. I actually preferred the upper bunks! More private.
- internal flights were surprisingly cheap about £50. Sleeper buses do not come recommended by any of the travellers we met.
- all our hotels fell over themselves to book flights/ trains etc for us. Really helpful.
- nha trang is very backpacker orientated however we stayed at an amazing (expensive) place called Mia Resort which was just heaven after the city.
- loved HoiAn, we arrived for lantern festival (every full moon?) which was fab. Be brave and hire a bike!
-if it's your birthday/ anniversary/ honeymoon let hotels know. We got flowers, cakes, upgrades and they got a bit funny on the odd occasion we hadn't told them it was our honeymoon!!
We used trip advisor for everything & got very good, basic accomodation no problem.
I'm not a hardened traveller by any means but found it all very easy & exciting. No issues at all with theft etc although you need to watch all the zeros - its easy to give 10k instead of 1!
Oh and whatever you do... Please make sure you have your visa before you go!!
Have a great time!
Thanks kitKat, that's really useful. Iv'e heard of Halong Bay and a friend has said it's worth starting in the North where it's busier to the South, to finish in a nice hotel.
Off to do a bit of googling now!
as well as the visa, make sure you have jabs and tabs - some of the areas you are looking at are malarial and all have dengue, plus all the other usual diseases.
also check out a bit of local etiquette, especially regarding dress. No, they won't shoot you if you get it wrong but it is courteous.
if that 'brave bike' is motorised, check your travel insurance before you do it.
No 'brave bike' not motorised - i would never recommend a moped. Sorry should have made that clear (although it will be clear when you go to HoiAn and see all the bicycles )
Don't "save" buy not getting travel insurance or by buying a policy that won't give you cover for things, eg extreme sports or motorbike riding, if that's what you plan to do. And if you do them, use safety gear - both because it's the sensible thing to do and because your insurance may be null if you don't wear a helmet or other equivalent.
Easy to do both.
Remember Cambodia/thailand relations strained so no fly through Bangkok. Best is trough hong kong distance wise but Singapore and KL will connect easily to vietnam and cambodia.
Very lityle to do in phnommpenh so prioritise ho chi minh to get a feel of a crowded city/war history.
Hanoi for old time grandeur and the Halong bay.
Hoi Ann/hue is a great beach/culture combination.
Finally there are so many easy way to connect into Siem Raep, it would be a shame not to make it to angkor wat. So peaceful and ansolutely breathtaking. I'd spend a good 3-4 days there.
Get your Hep jabs done as the street food is cheap, plentiful and just plain delicious. Drink bottled water only, lots of mosquito repellent ( not sure about malaria tablets)
If you want flight options let me know and can look up local flights for you (am in asia). Important to know if you fly with a stopover and where.
Personally I would go just to Vietnam with a few days at the end in Thailand attached in the end. As 3 weeks is a nice time to travel Vietnam but 2 weeks quite a rush
We zigzagged down the country going between coastal and inland. The coast is probably the main place but we stayed in some lovely villages inland.
We took 6 weeks just for Vietnam, but had a 4 month and 19 month attached in slings at the same time so went slower.
For us we liked staying in nice places too as described but did roughly 1 night somewhere random like a traditional village hut/ on boat etc followed by 3 days in one place in hotel. Giving us time to explore and travel but also a base to explore for a few days
Don't take suitcases either. We took just small bags between us 4 and travelled light and was far easier to get on buses/ trains/ taxis/ boats than people who had a suitcase each.
Ie staying on a boat is only a small cabin and would be no space to open it/ get it on. On trains and buses large luggage is usually stored away from you so more likely to get stolen
We just did 4 days in Siem Reap with the kids (aged 4 and 8) and it was fab. We did temples in the mornings (Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prom, Banteay Srei etc) and had a car and guide (easier with kids but would have taken a tuk tuk and guide book if just us two). We also went to the silk weaving workshop, landmine museum and on Tonle Sap lake to visit the communities who live on the water. It was great and enough just to scratch the surface. DH and I did Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, which is also wonderful) for 3 weeks in 2001 - it was very different, no tourists but still a fantastic place to visit.
No need for Malaria tablets in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Check when the rainy season is - it doesn't always rain and it can rain in the dry season but rainy season is cheaper - depends on your budget and how important the weather is to you, esp if you are sightseeing. Make sure you tip people (USD) as wages are very low but the Khmer people are so lovely, kind and gentle, its a great place to visit.
Hanoi was dissapointing after Saigon. It's a 6 hour round trip to Halong bay. HAvkng a 5 year old it wasn't an option ad she was do over travelling. Pre kids Angkor was amazing, although Cambodia in general a bit of a culture shock. I warned DH about how they have no concept of personal space. Totally get used to it after a couple of days. I did raid the hotels toiletries and buffet breakfast for our guide. .He still lived in a monastery and appreciated all the goodies to take bAck. I found the Vietnamese were more money motivated than other Asian countries , I felt as though I had a dollar sign stamped on my forehead
Some tips to get you started:
- 3 weeks is more than enough time to see Vietnam and Cambodia for a first trip. If you tell me when you're planning to go (roughly) I can explain what the weather will be like. This is particularly important for Vietnam, and if you want to stay on the beach anywhere you need to get your seasons right.
- Contrary to the above Phnom Penh is great. I lived there, it's got great restaurants, some beautiful architecture (you can do a half day cyclo tour of the historic buildings) and if you're not travelling with kids then you must visit Tuol Sleng. The Killing Fields was bought up some time ago by a Korean company, and is being slowly commercialised. Tuol Sleng, on the other hand, is very raw history and an excellent way to understand Cambodia's recent past.
- Halong Bay is oversold in the UK. I've been three times, and sent hundreds of people there, and the weather is often a coin toss and the transfer takes ages. But by and large, on balance, it's worth it. But don't expect blue skies, it's like that less than 50% of the time.
- If you're in Vietnam between March and August then go to Hue - thousands of people every year go during Hue's wet season because nobody tells them it's the wet season then, and the locls think it's all tragically amusing. In nice weather it's a very nice town. Good beaches nearby too, and near Hoi An.
- In Siem Reap you need a minimum of 3 nights to do it justice. As you have 3 weeks in total I would extend to 4 nights probably, but that's my preference because temples are something I enjoy. Don't only do the beaten track stuff or you will quickly get fed up of the numbers of tourists (unless you're there in the off season). There are many options for going off the beaten track and doing things that hardly anybody knows about.
- The whole region is amzing for food. And not just restaurants, but also street food (especially Hanoi and Hoi An). However the very best resutaurants, at the busiest times of year, need pre-booking. Check out Marum and Kroya in Siem Reap, and Chim Sao in Hanoi.
Hope that helps, PM me if you need any other advice.
I get email bulletins on flights from round the world experts and they have really good offers for Asia - e.g they had flight from London to Hanoi, you make your way to HCMC and fly home from there and that was £350 for next may.
Although I haven't been to Cambodia or Vietnam so can't advise on the specifics of those places.
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