Vietnam and Cambodia Tour: Two Weeks from North to South
For two weeks we toured two neighboring countries on the border, and made a complete tour through Vietnam and Cambodia. We were able to explore the beauty of Vietnam from north to south and enjoy the temples of Cambodia, on a visit to the city of Siem Reap.
A country devastated by two major wars (that of Indochina, against France, and against the United States, the most famous episode in the history of that country), but strong and full of culture to show visitors who visit it.
It would be unfair to remember this former French colony only because of the oppressed past and almost destroyed by these moments of horror in its history.
Vietnam holds secrets that need to be discovered and enjoyed by visitors. In Hanoi, the population walks not so calmly through the labyrinth formed by the streets of the Old Quarter, while women of the most diverse ages sell everything and carry these products hanging in bamboo baskets or on bicycles. With traditional cone-shaped hats on its head and its thousands of motorbikes the city shows life and its most striking features.
The more than two thousand islands in the Halong Bay region attract nature seekers, while the lanterns and colorful colonial mansions of Hoi An bring a lot of local culture and history to their visitors. Buddhist temples appear, amid rice paddies, from north to south of this country. Chaotic and peaceful, this is a country that remains in the traveler’s memory forever.
When is the best time to visit Vietnam?
In a country over 1,600 km long, the climate in Vietnam varies considerably as you go from north to south, from temperate to tropical. Although this variety makes Vietnam a destination to visit throughout the year, spring (March to April) is usually the best time to visit the entire country, when the days are generally pleasant, temperatures are moderate and the rains are light. Tropical monsoons bring heavy rain and occasional flooding during other parts of the year, while extreme temperatures can make summer days uncomfortably hot and humid.
When to visit North Vietnam (Sapa, Hanoi, Halong Bay)
Northern Vietnam experiences cold, dry winters from December to February, where overnight temperatures can drop to 4 ° C (39 ° F). The summer months (May to August) are typically very hot and humid. The best time to visit northern Vietnam is during spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November), when the days are generally warm and sunny.
When to visit Central Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An)
The central coast of Vietnam is often hit by typhoons during the rainy season. It is difficult to predict when these heavy hurricane-like rains and winds can hit coastal cities like Hoi An, but typhoon seasons generally occur from August to November. The rainy season usually disappears in February, when you can expect warmer temperatures and more sunshine. While travelers experience pleasant weather in Central Vietnam anytime between February and August, sunny days at 30 ° C (86 ° F) are the norm in July and August.
When to visit South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta)
Southern Vietnam experiences warm, pleasant temperatures all year round, making the trip good at any time. The dry season usually lasts from December to May and the rainy season from June to November. Although flooding can occur, rain usually occurs in small bursts and rarely affects travel. In fact, the monsoon season is often the best time for photography, as storms float across the Mekong Delta and the rice fields are vibrant emerald green. Some, however, may find unbearable temperatures from March to May, when the thermometers regularly reach 40 ° C (104 ° F). ( source )
Do Brazilians need a visa for Vietnam?
Yes! The tourist can apply at consulates / embassies within the country they have or can apply directly at the airport of arrival in Vietnam. If you live in Brazil look for the Embassy in Brasilia , if you live in Australia – Sydney, as we live, look for the Consulate that is in Edgecliff, and if you are in a backpack in Asia and need to enter the country look for the embassy / consulate in the country who is or applies the visa at the entrance of the country (at the airport or at the border, if you are entering by land / sea (for this situation by land / sea look for more information so that there are no problems).
Electronic visa for Vietnam
It is possible to apply for and obtain an entry visa, to be picked up upon arrival at an international airport, through the outsourced services of accredited travel agencies. In this case, the visa must be applied for electronically: once the site is contacted, the form must be completed (children under the age of 14 may appear on the parents’ form, but must bring 2 photos); the service fee is paid and the form is printed.
After the visa has been processed, the “Approval Letter” will be sent to the applicant. The letter of approval and form, as well as 2 photos (2x4cm) must be presented at the counter – “Landing Visa Counter” -, at the arrival airport; and visa costs paid.
Visa costs (regardless of the fee charged by the agency) range from $ 19.00 to $ 55.00, depending on the period of stay and single or multiple entry. The best known agencies are: visa-vietnam.vn ( email@example.com ) tels: 84-903119200 and 84- 932652585; and / or vietnam-visa.com 84- 437925078 and 84-946583583.
The Embassy of Brazil in Hanoi is not responsible for any problems eventually encountered in contracting services with the agencies, which are mentioned for the sole purpose of facilitating travel arrangements for the Brazilian citizen ( Source ).
Sea and land borders
The electronic visa granting system is only available at the two international airports, where an appropriate counter is located. Entrances to Vietnam by boat, train, bus or private vehicle are not covered by this system ( Source ).
See here all the countries that Brazilians need a visa.
The two-week trip started with a flight between Sydney (the city where we live) and Ho Chi Minh City (the former capital of Vietnam also known as Saigon).
The flight duration is approximately 8 hours between these two cities. We arrived in Vietnamese land at midnight and a half and there we stayed at the airport for the next flight, as the route had not yet ended. The next stretch was between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (capital of Vietnam).
We opted for a route starting in the north and going down to the south. For this country, travelers usually build their routes this way, north (from Hanoi) -> south or going south (from Ho Chi Minh City) -> north.
We arrived at our final destination at 6 am and went straight to the hostel we booked.
The airport -> hostel section was made by a paid transfer to the hostel (18 US dollars for 2 people).
When we looked for information about the country, we saw that there was a possibility to also use Uber or another specific taxi application, but for convenience we opted for the transfer.
We arrived at the hostel and from that point on our 13-day itinerary was starting.
Obs.: Best time to visit Vietnam according to information from tourist guides is from August until February.
Our # 2 week itinerary consisted of:
# 2 days in Hanoi (1 day city tour and 1 day tour to Ninh Binh region)
# 2 days and 1 night in Halong Bay (cruise)
# 2 days in Hue (with a quick ticket to Da Nang on the way to Hoi An)
# 2 days in Hoi An
# 3 days in Cambodia (one roundtrip from Vietnam to Siem Reap by plane)
# 2 days in Ho Chi Minh (1 day city tour and 1 day tour to the Mekong Delta region)
# 1 day: Hanoi City Tour
Our first day was marked by a lot of walking and recognition of the city.
We arrived at the hostel – Hanoi Culture Hostel – that we booked in the Old Quarter, central region, at 8 am.
We request an entry earlier than the “normal” check in time. We drank coffee from the hotel, and by 9 am we were already in the room preparing to go out and kick a lot around the city.
At 10 am we were already walking through the Old Quarter towards Hoan Kiem Lake. Our first stop was in this part of the city. It is around this point that the city vibrates and there are many restaurants, shops and tourist attractions. This location marks the division between the Old Quarter and French Quarter.
There we could find some of the most famous points of interest in this city:
- Ngoc Son Temple
- Water Puppet Theater
- Tortoise Tower (located in the middle of the lake)
- Huc Bridge
Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple e Huc Bridge
We drove across the lake, entered the Ngoc Son Temple (value: VND 30,000 pp), took many pictures and headed towards the French Quarter. We then walked towards two points of interest in the city: Opera House in Hanoi and the History Museum.
A few more meters walking, taking pictures and enjoying the crazy traffic in the city, and it was time for our lunch. We walked a few more blocks looking for where to eat and discovered a restaurant inside the French Quarter.
After an hour there, we continue walking towards the complex where is another point of interest: Temple of Literature .
This was one of the places we most enjoyed on that day of walking tour. The Literature Museum is a very peculiar space full of surprises. The cost to access it is VND 30,000 per person.
This site was built in 1070 in honor of the Chinese philosopher Confucio and housed the first university in Vietnam.
After this visit, we continue towards the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex.
We walked for about 20 minutes and arrived at the most crowded tourist section of this itinerary (with the exception of the Old Quartes and its Hoan Kiem Lake). There the traveler will come across imposing and well-organized constructions.
Located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, the site houses the body of communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who played an important role in the history of Vietnam.
Before going through this monument, we went inside the complex to take some pictures and see the Ho Chi Minh Museum. This museum tells the story of the life of the communist leader. The museum describes the life of Ho Chi Minh through artifacts, books and gifts. We chose not to enter, but we took many pictures of the gardens and surroundings.
After the visit to the site, we continue on foot to the Old Quarter. It took us about 30 minutes walking to our hostel.
At approximately 17h our walking tour through Hanoi and some of the main points of this city was finished.
After a well-deserved foot rest, we went out again at night to visit the Night Market and explore the streets of the Old Quarter. The Hanoi Night Market (starts at Hoan Kiem Lake and ends at Gam Câu Street) is the face of the city. If you are in this capital for a weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sunday – it only happens on weekends), go and visit it!
Lots of confusion, stalls with many items for sale, ranging from electronics, clothes to local auctions. In addition you will also find stalls with typical food and local restaurants.
After walking around the market, we sat down at a local restaurant and enjoyed Vietnamese cuisine. We have two local beers and take the opportunity to taste a “rice noodle soup”, typical of the country.
Between 9pm and 10pm we close our day’s itinerary! We went to rest because the day was intense and the previous night was heavy on our trip.
# 2 day: Halong Bay
For this day we booked our tour to Halong Bay.
The tour was purchased by Booking ( Rosa Cruise ) and the package (U $ 193.14 + U $ 30.00) included a transfer between Hanoi and the port where the boats leave, food and the full 2-day tour and 1 night (package we choose ).
We left the hostel in the center of Hanoi around 8:30 am. We took approximately 3 hours to the port. In the middle of this trip, a technical stop is made for what the guide called the “happy room”, the bathroom. This stop was made 1 hour after we hit the road.
We arrived at the port around 12:30 pm and in less than 30 minutes we were already heading for the boat that took us to Halong Bay.
As soon as we boarded the boat the first instructions were given and the keys to the rooms handed over. Lunch time was already predetermined and our first stop too. Around 1:30 pm, everyone was already having lunch and the boat was heading for the bay. Lunch with a view of the most famous place in Vietnam.
After sailing for almost 1 hour, we arrived at the first stop: Halong Bay Pearl. This is a place where there are several oyster cultivation plants and there the whole project was presented to us, from a short explanation of the types of oysters to the final stage when the jewel is ready and can be sold.
After this stop we return to the boat, but with the next destination guaranteed: the Kayaking tour.
We spent 45 minutes kayaking very close to our boat. We took the opportunity to take many photos from this different angle of Halong Bay, from inside the water, and around 5pm we were already inside the vessel. From then on the program was bathing, dining and resting. The first day was over.
# 3 day: Halong Bay and return to Hanoi
For the second day in Halong Bay and the third in Vietnam we used our morning for, first, a Tai Chi Chuan class, then coffee, and finally a guided tour of Halong Bay’s largest cave, Heaven Cave ( Thien Cung Cave ). After this activity, we returned to the vessel and witnessed a small presentation of the local cuisine, where all the crew could get their hands dirty and learn.
Curiosities about Halong Bay:
- More than 2,000 islands in Halong Bay
- Approximately 550 dry caves
- The Lady Island (largest island in Halong Bay)
- Meaning of Halong Bay – Ha: Descending / Long: Dragon (mountains mean the rise and fall of a Dragon)
After cooking class we have free time inside the boat. We waited until lunch was served and at approximately 12 noon we were back in port and ready to return to Hanoi. Another 4 hours of travel (the return took longer due to traffic on Monday) and we arrived in the capital of Vietnam.
For the end of the afternoon and night we book a tour of the Old Quarter, its alleys and shops. We went to dine in one of the most popular streets in Hanoi’s “pretty dirty” bars. We sat in a beautiful bar and ordered local food to the sound of the crowd that was there. We ended the activities at 9 pm and returned to the hotel.
# 4 day: Full Day Tour to Hoa Lu – Tam Coc (Ninh Binh region)
We left Hanoi at 8 am in a tourist van to the Ninh Binh region. The schedule for the fourth day was in Hoa Lue the first capital of Vietnam (ancient capital). It takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to reach this location.
The first stop was made in Hoa Lu to visit the Temples built in the former Imperial Palace of the Dinh and Le Dynasties. Temples today are dedicated to the worship of the Dinh and Le kings.
After this visit, we proceed to lunch in Tam Coc. We sat in a restaurant like a bun and stayed there for almost 1 hour.
The next stage of the tour was the most interesting in my opinion, the Ngo Dong river tour. In this place we follow in a small boat and we travel for approximately 1.5 hours the river. Sampan boats are conducted by hand and foot.
The last stage was a bike ride through the local streets and fields.
At 4pm we were already back and concentrating for the return to Hanoi. At approximately 4:30 pm we were already on the road. On the return trip it took us 4 hours to arrive at the hotel.
Some curiosities about the place:
- This location served as a film set for the movie Kong – Skull Island
- Hoa Lue was the first capital of Vietnam (Ninh Binh region)
- Tam Coc – It means Tree Ca
# 5 day: Hanoi – Hue stretch
For the fifth day in Vietnam we started the activities very early, more precisely at 4 am. We followed a transfer (U $ 18 dollars) from the hotel to Hanoi airport (domestic terminal). The flight left at 6:30 am towards our second base city, Hue.
We arrived at the airport around 7:45 am, and at 8:30 am we were already at the reception of our hostel – Than Tien – Friendly Hotel . The transfer between aero and hostel was also done with a transfer contracted directly with the hotel (U $ 12 dollars).
We disembarked from the transfer, waited for our check in time and, during that wait, we asked a lot of questions at the reception, so we could define what we would do in the next two days in this city.
We leave suitcases in the room, get ready and go out for a little reconnaissance of land and search for more information about tours and tips on what to do. It was after 11 am and hunger hit. It was time to have lunch and decide our future.
We then entered 3 more agencies in the Rua dos Bars region (very close to our hotel) and left one of these agencies with the full day tour for the next scheduled day! We got a small discount in relation to the value of the hotel and decided to close. Once decided, we went for a quick lunch around the region, and then returned to the hotel.
The idea of the fifth day was also to take a private tour, since we only had half a day, or to walk around the city to get to know a little of life. We ended up deciding on the second option.
Around 2:00 pm, we left the hotel towards the Perfume River and its surroundings. We followed the alleys and alleys and ended our small walking tour of the day. Around 5pm, we decided to end the day with a nice dinner and some local beers.
Notes on Hue:
- The city has punctual attractions, which in a short summary are: Imperial Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda, the boat ride on the Perfume River (The Dragon Boat) and the Tombs (7 in total);
- The streets with the most bars and nightlife are: Chu Van, Pham Ngu Lao and Doi Cong. All are in the vicinity of the hotel we stayed in, which is also the best location for lodging;
- If the traveler has more days in the city (more than 2 nights), there are complementary tours: The DMZ Tour (takes the traveler to a historic area – demilitarized zone), Paradise Cave or Phong Nha Cave (two different full day tours outside from the city and that lead to cave areas) and finally the private tours (you hire a driver and they take you to destinations outside the city – countryside, including a beach: Thuan An Beach);
- The city itself is not one of the most beautiful that we know, and the ideal (in our opinion) is to do a full day tour through the main points (either closed, private or tuk tuk tour) and for a second day, if you make the same option as we did, choose a tour outside the city (cave, tombs or beach);
- For the internal day tour in the main points of Hue there are some routes sold by hotels / agencies and they do basically the same points with some exceptions. The value is always around 35 to 40 dollars (whenever we speak dollars remember that they work with quotation of American dollars). Some agencies sell separate values (example tour + tickets) and others already inform the total price with tickets included. We opted for the closed package from the Deluxe Group Tours agency (we paid U $ 35 dollars);
In the search for information I found two very punctual tours (I didn’t and I can’t say if they are good, but I found it interesting):
Hue city exit and entry options:
From Hoi An – approximately 3 ½ hours
From Hanoi – approximately 15 hours
From Hoi An – approximately 2 and a half hours
From Hanoi – approximately 14 hours
From Ho Chi Minh – approximately 14 and a half hours
From Hanoi: 50 minutes
From Ho Chi Minh: 1 hour
If you are going from Hue to Hoi An, as we did, the options are:
- Private car with stops at specific points: 45 to 59 dollars;
- Private bus with specific stops: 10 to 12 dollars;
- Regular direct bus to Hoi An: $ 5 (departing at 8 am and 1 pm from Hue).
# 6 day: Hue – Full Day City Tour
We booked the sixth day in Vietnam, and the second in Hue, for a city tour in Hue. We closed a tour with a local agency ( A Travelmate ), and at 8:15 am we were already inside the van towards the points of interest in this city.
Our first stop was at the Central Market in Hue, a very busy place full of gadgets and food. This is a very typical market and the same as many big cities. There, residents buy and sell everything.
We drove a little bit inside the market, and in about 30 minutes we were back in the van, ready to go to the next destination.
At 9 am we were already on the premises of Citadel, one of the most valued locations in Hue and for the history of Vietnam.
This is a place of great importance because it was where the reign of this country was established during a certain period, that is, it was the capital of Vietnam at the time.
We passed through the entrance and immediately found the Royal Palace (Supreme Harmony Palace). There we come across typical architecture and many details from the time of royalty. After many explanations from our guide and several photos, we proceeded to the other Citadel environment, Forbidden City.
In this part of Citadel we were able to find the garden and the outbuildings where the other members of royalty lived at this time. However, during the Vietnam War and with the many bombs dropped, several buildings were destroyed. We stayed in that area for about an hour and a half, and then we went back to the van. From there we head to the main Pagoda in the city, and the main Pagoda in the country – Thien Mu (meaning: Heavenly Lady) Pagoda.
In Hue there are more than 300 pagodas, but this is the star of the city. It is on the banks of the Perfume River, and has 7 floors (this number is sacred to Buddhism). There you can also find the car and photos of a story famous for the world and for the Vietnamese: the monk who burned his body as an act of protest to the regime of the time (see more about the story here ).
We went up the steps of the place, took some pictures and after this visit we headed towards the Perfume River for the boat ride (Dragon Boat). The boat tour lasts around 30 minutes and departing from the Pagoda we headed towards the city center. At that time it was lunchtime and we went to a restaurant (lunch included / drinks apart). Between 12pm and 1pm we stayed at the restaurant and after lunch we headed towards the most famous tombs in Hue.
In total there are 7 imperial tombs, but on our itinerary we only visited two.
The first visit was to Minh Mang Tumb. This was the tomb of the second king of Vietnam, the most popular monarch in the country. There we find a beautiful space with buildings and nature (lakes and lots of green).
We walked around the place and received many explanations from our guide. After approximately 40 minutes we return to the van and then proceed to the last leg of the tour and the second tomb of the day.
Khai Dinh is the name of the second Tomb we visited. This place was built by the 12th king of Vietnam, and according to our guide the most unpopular and most European of kings (this monarch suffered a lot of French influence in his formation during the period he lived in this country).
This tomb is also considered to have the most European influence in its architecture. We found a beautiful space with an interior decoration to impress visitors. Many stairs and a darker style were found on the outside and many details of stones and ornamentation on the inside.
On the roof of the main building there is a huge painting and there is a story behind that detail. The “legend” tells that this painting was made with the feet. Stories aside the place is very beautiful.
By 3:45 pm our visitation options were over. We drove to the van and then made our way back to Hue’s center and finally to our hotel.
We arrived at the hotel at 4 pm, left the film and photo equipment in the room and left again, but now to close our transport the next day – between Hue and Hoi An.
All right and organized, we proceeded to Hue’s last happy hour. Beer, pizza and pub. The day was ending.
# 7 day: Hue stretch – Hoi An and Hoi An Walking Tour
Here comes our seventh day (we completed in this stage 1 week in Vietnam) and the day’s schedule started with our transfer between Hue and Hoi An.
We opted for transportation in a 30-seat van (cost U $ 10 pp) and at 8:30 am we left the hotel in the direction of Hoi An. This type of transfer gives us the options of some stops along the way, and with that we were able to see more attractions and places in Vietnam.
It took us about 6 hours (140 km – it takes a long time on Vietnamese roads because the roads are bad, the traffic is ungrateful, the maximum speed allowed is 60 km / h and we made many stops to specific points).
Our stops were:
- Thanh Toan Tile – Roofed Bridge and Local Market
- Lang Co Beach
- Hai Van Pass (top of the mountain where you can see Hue and Danang)
- Marble Mountains
Of all the places visited, the only one that was worth it was the Marble Mountains. There we find a well maintained and super cute space, full of cellars and buddhas. This is the place where the Vietnamese government extracted a large part of its marble, but today they do not do it anymore to conserve the place.
The first stop at the bridge and market is unnecessary, and above all it is an ugly and dirty place. The second stop, the beach, was interesting to see what the beaches in Vietnam are like, but we didn’t have much time (just one stop even for photos and to enjoy the local weather a little), finally the third stop was a horror. Location high in the mountains that we passed between Hue and Danang and totally dull and expendable. However, as it was a closed transport package between Hue and Hoi An, and there were these stops, we had to go according to the tour.
The fourth stop, as I said earlier, was the best and most interesting. Thanks for the whole tour! And we still know a little bit of Danang.
In Marble Mountains there is a visitation fee and there the values are like this:
- 40,000 Dong to access per person
- 15,000 Dong to take the elevator (if you don’t want to take the elevator to the top of the mountain, there is the possibility of taking the stairs)
In this last point we stayed 1 hour, in the others, at most 30 minutes. In the end it was very worthwhile as we paid U $ 10 dollars per person for transportation between the cities and we even took a regional tour. We arrived in Hoi An around 2:30 pm and headed for the hostel – Hoa Binh Hostel . We checked in, dropped bags on the spot and went on our walking tour. We still had a lot to see, and it was from this moment that we started to visit one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Vietnam.
We had already read that this was a stop that we could not fail to do, and so it was! No sooner said than done! The city is cute and full of charms to be explored.
We took a map at the hostel, some tips and off we went for a lot of walking. We continue to Old Town, the region on the banks of the River Thu Bon. There are about 4 to 5 parallel and main streets where the points of interest and all the local commerce can be found. And what is found, mainly, is a trade focused on tourists, many stores and the famous tailors.
The main streets for seeing attractions and shopping are:
- Tran Phu
- Nguyen Thai Hoc
- Bach Dang
- Nguyen Phuc Chu (which is across the river)
- Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
And the transversal ones:
- Le Loi
- Hoang Van Thu
- Tieu La
- Tran Quy Cap
We toured all points of interest in Old Town:
- Cantonese Assembly Hall
- Duc An Old House
- Hoi An Craft Workshop
- Japanese Covered Bridge
- Museum of Folk Culture
- Museum of Trade Ceramics
- Phuc Kien Assembly Hall
- Phung Hung Ancient House
- Tan Ky Old House
- Tran Family Chapel
- Traditional Art Performance House
All points mentioned above are paid. There is a single ticket that can be purchased at the various windows scattered around the city and with it the tourist can visit 5 attractions.
– 120 Dong (5 attractions) scattered in Old Town
Our first day city tour was very intense and we stayed from 3 pm until 9 pm just enjoying the streets of Hoi An and its charms. We were still very lucky because, during this period that we visited the city, an international food festival was happening and everything was decorated and the city was full of attractions.
We closed the day satisfied and full of photos to take with us.
# 8 day: Cham Islands (Hoi An)
Ufa! Our first day of the second week of Vietnam started with a full day tour to one of the islands near Hoi An – Cham Islands.
We closed a transport + food package and left our hostel at 8 am sharp. Around 8:45 am we reached the point where the boats leave for this island. We left in direction Cham Island and soon we were already disembarking in the center (25 minutes of transport between Hoi An and Cham Islands).
We did a small city tour, better saying island tour. After these 30 minutes, we returned to the boat and went to the beach where we would spend the day. The initial tour of the island is completely bland, but we couldn’t miss it due to the itinerary. We stayed at the beach for about 2 and a half hours. There we were served lunch (varied and simple local food) and we took the opportunity to rest our bodies and legs after walking the day before. At 2:30 pm we left the beach and headed towards Hoin An.
We closed the day with dinner in the center and a little more walking through the colorful streets of this city.
# 9 day: Hoi An – Da Nang – Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Our ninth day had arrived and with it the final schedule in Hoi An. For this day we booked something more light and short, due to the check in of the hostel at 11am.
We woke up at 7 am, had our coffee and at 8 am we were ready for the bike tour that we ourselves took through rice paddies and the region further away from the center.
We rented the bike at a store in front of the hostel ($ 200 dong) and followed the main street, where the hostel was located. Without much script we headed towards the exit of the city and looked for colorful and beautiful sceneries for photos.
We followed the small roads of the rice fields and soon came across some tours (that is, we were on the right path and in places that were special). We rode for about 1 hour cycling, and at a certain point, within the small streets we were on, we found an establishment that provided massage services. We stopped and gave ourselves that little moment of relaxation! It was only 30 minutes, because we had to check out, but it was very valid.
After the bike and massage tour in the morning we went to the hostel, packed our belongings and checked out. At that time, it was time to look for a restaurant for lunch. And that’s what we did! We headed towards Old Town, had lunch, walked a little more to say goodbye to the city, went back to the hostel and then we stayed for a while waiting for our transfer ($ 300 dong – closed with the hostel). We proceed to Danang airport (neighboring city of Hoi An which has the nearest airport).
At 2 pm we headed for Danang. At 5:30 pm, we depart for our number 35 country, Cambodia. We then proceeded to another country, but with a very similar culture.
At 6:45 pm we disembarked at Siem Reap airport with the expectation of seeing a new country. But before we were delighted with the local scenery, the sausages came.
We spent approximately 2 hours on visa procedures for entering the country. As we did not request a prior visa via the website, we had to apply for it right away. And unfortunately, at the same time that our flight arrived, several more arrived. Many flights, many people, bureaucracy and disorganization. The result could only be one: delays, queues and long waits.
Besides all the delay we were STOLEN! That’s right, stolen. But I will explain what happened! No signs or information about currencies accepted for payment of visa existed at the airport. We asked if they accepted Australian dollars, and then we delivered AU $ 100.00 to the hands of one of the attendants along with the form and photo (passport size). The total with the conversion of US dollars to Australian dollars would be approximately AU $ 80.00. But ask me if they returned any change. NOT! Nor did they return as they also reported nothing about it. They just take the money and damn the tourist! I even tried to argue and ask if we would get our change, and the denial was right and direct!The first impression was bad about the country. But we still had 4 days to overcome this disadvantage.
Documents to be completed at the entrance to CambodiaNo Reap Airport – ImmigrationNo Reap Airport – ImmigrationOur transfer to the hotel – Tuk Tuk
About the Cambodia visa:
Brazilians need to apply for a visa to enter this country. Before we met the procedures in person at the airport in Siem Reap, we looked for information and they all made us doubt that the websites that appeared on the internet as “official” were not reliable (even because we had also made the same trip to Vietnam and to this country on the same trip. All “official” sites that appeared in Google search were not that official). All of this led us to believe that we should do it at a consulate. As we live in Sydney and in this country there is only Cambodian embassy in Canberra (the capital of this country), we decided to leave even to apply for the visa in the air. Our mistake!
The best way to apply is via the official website (website indicated in banners in the airport lounge). The cost is U $ 36.00 and the visa leaves in 3 days.
The value is a little higher on the site ($ 6.00), but much more comfortable. The value for the tourist visa taken directly at the airport is U $ 30.00 (1 month visa).
Approximately 8 pm we had already gone through immigration and went towards our transfer (free of charge granted by the hotel). The surprise was the type of transport, a tuk tuk. Nice start for ambiance!
We went to the hotel, checked in, left suitcases and went out to eat. Without knowing much, we walked to Pub Street (the trendiest place in bars in the city) and had dinner. At that moment the body asked for rest. We returned to the hotel and ended our day’s activities.
# 10 day: Siem Reap (Angkor Archealogical Park – Small Circuit)
After the immigration marathon on the last day, at 7 am we were already up for our first tour in Siem Reap and its ruins in Angkor.
The day before we closed the tours for the following days with the same driver who made our tuk tuk transfer (airport – hotel).
Angkor Ruins Tour Considerations:
- average values : U $ 15 small circuit, U $ 20 big circuit and U $ 62 (per person – fixed amount) for 3 days entrance to the park (see the other values here );
- Consider buying several bottles of water to take and close your Styrofoam / container with your Tuk Tuk to take these waters (walking through the park without water is very complicated due to the intense heat);
- Wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees (it is not allowed to enter the temples with these bare parts);
- Wear comfortable sneakers or sandals (the day is intense and very tiring);
- Take a hat;
- Take sunscreen;
- All temples are basically the same type of tour (both on the Big and Small Circuit). I mean, basically the physical structure and attractions. However, the temples / sites visited on the Small Circuit are more tiring (larger temples and more complicated access) than those on the Big Circuit. In the Small Circuit the traveler makes the journey more slowly, because the locations are large and have many accesses and details, in the Big the temples are smaller and with easier access.
- Consider doing the Small Circuit on a day that is rested and not associated with sunrise;
- Another important and interesting tip (and you only understand when you spend the whole day walking in the temples) is to try to start your day as early as possible (the sun is less ungrateful in the early morning and the heat too);
- Even for the Small Circuit that guides usually start at 8 am, try to start earlier (at 6 am for example), as this will help with the walks and will be less tiring.
At 8:15 am we left the hotel and went on our first day of touring the temples.
Before entering the park structure, we passed the Angkor Museum where the Ticket Center is located, bought our passes and proceeded to the first temple.
We visited the following temples on the Small Circuit:
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm
- Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphoum and Phimeanakas Temples)
- Baksei Chamkrong
The day was intense and very heavy. We made many strategic stops in the shadows during walks inside the temples, drank a lot of water and climbed many stairs.
SMALL CIRCUIT MAP
At 1.62 km², this temple was first built as a Hindu temple in honor of Vishnu by King Suryavarman II, but was transformed into a Buddhist when the city came to be ruled by King Jayavarman VII. Angkor Wat is the closest temple to the box office and is usually the first to be visited – the sunrise here is very busy and worth it! Over 2 million people visit Angkor Wat annually! The temple is the main attraction of Angkor and the national monument of Cambodia. He is represented on the Cambodian flag and money notes. Built in the best of the classical Khmer style, it combines two plans: the temple-mountain and the temple in galleries, built later. It was designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology.The temple still has Buddhist activities taking place inside. Buddha statues are decorated and “dressed” according to religious tradition. Many Buddhist monks from around the world visit Angkor every year. ( source )
Does this scenario look familiar to you? The Ta Prohm temple was the setting for the film “Tomb Raider”, starring Angelina Jolie. The film also had scenes shot at other temples, but Ta Prohm is the most striking of them. More than its architecture, this temple draws attention because it is one of the most taken by trees that grow inside and outside the ruins. With huge exposed roots, these centuries-old trees are in constant conflict with the stone walls. The result is impressive! ( source )
Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphoum e Phimeanakas Temples)
The Bayon Temple is the most beautiful and most decorated temple located in the center of Angkor Thom, the city built by Jayavarman VII. It was erected first as a Buddhist temple in Mahaiana, later modified to serve as a Hindu temple and finally as a Buddhist temple, this time Teravada. The main feature of this huge temple is the huge stone faces on top of many towers. His serene expression is an invitation to meditation (if he is not too full of tourists, you can even sit and meditate). ( source )
Baksei Chamkrong is a small Hindu temple located in the Angkor complex (Siem Reap, Cambodia). It is dedicated to the god Shiva and used to maintain a golden image of him. The temple can be seen on the left side when entering Angkor Thom at the south gate. It was dedicated to Yasovarman by his son, King Harshavarman I. The temple was completed by Rajendravarman II (944-968). The name Baksei Chamkrong means “The bird that shelters under its wings” and comes from a legend. In it, the king tried to escape from Angkor during a siege, and then a huge bird landed and sheltered him under his wings. ( source )
SMALL CIRCUIT MAP
# 11 day: Siem Reap (Angkor Archealogical Park – Big Circuit)
Our third day in Cambodia started extremely early, at 4:45 am. We got up at that time because we booked with our Tuk Tuk driver to take us to see the sunrise at the temples. The location indicated was Angkor Wat.
We left the hotel in the dark and headed towards Angkor Wat. Approximately 5:30 am we were already sitting inside the temple waiting for the day to rise.
This is a very popular option for tourists and many people from the same itinerary. Therefore, the traveler will find at this time many people arriving and sharing the same spaces to take that beautiful picture of the temple and the sun rising.
We stayed at the venue until 6:45 am and after that event we went on to our official tour of the day, the Big Circuit.
In this circuit we follow clockwise and visit the following temples:
- Phnom Bakheng (expendable as it was under construction)
- Preah Khan
- Neak Pean
- Ta Som
- East Mebon
- Pre Rup
- Banteay Kdei and Sras Srang
We did all these locations in approximately 5 hours (from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm) and after the intense day, we went on to our lunch. We went to a restaurant selected by our driver friend (the same was done the day before, only in a different place). At 1pm we were already boarding the tuk tuk towards the last temple in Siem Reap. This last chosen temple was outside the great circuits and much more distant from the most famous ones. We chose this one because of our driver’s instructions and because he heard other people’s opinions.
As we had already completed the two main circuits, and we still had an afternoon to do something, we decided to visit another historic point in the city.
Like the nearby Ta Prohm, the Preah Khan is also largely destroyed by the region’s lush nature. Its architecture is flat, much simpler than other temples, but with a lot of “extra” added after its inauguration. Buddhist monks are often found among tourists visiting Angkor. ( source )
Neak Pean (or Neak Poan) (“The serpents entwined”) in Angkor, Cambodia is an artificial island with a Buddhist temple on a circular island in Jayatataka Baray, which was associated with the Preah Khan temple, built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. ( source )
This temple enters the list as another impressive construction taken over by trees. It is a small temple that is currently being restored to improve its stability and security for visitors. ( source )
This 10th century temple was located in the middle of a very large artificial lake, which is now dry. It is dedicated to the god Shiva and draws attention due to his sculptures, including 2 meter high stone elephants. The area where he is very sunny, as everything around him used to be covered in water: during the Khmer Empire, it was only possible to reach the temple by boat. ( source )
Pre Rup is a Hindu temple in Angkor, Cambodia, built as the state temple of King Khmer Rajendravarman. The name of the temple is relatively modern and means “to turn the body”. Pre Rup was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and it is assumed that it is located in an ancient Shivaite ashram, built by Yasovarman I in the previous century. Perhaps it was in the center of a new capital built by Rajendravarman, with the south dike of East Baray as the northern limit of the city, but none of the residences survived and this “hypothesis of the eastern city” was never confirmed by archaeological discoveries . ( source )
Banteay Kdei e Sras Srang
Banteay Kdei which means “A Citadel of Chambers”, also known as “Citadel of Monks” cells “, is a Buddhist temple in Angkor, Cambodia. It is located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom. Built in the middle of the 12th century to the beginning of the 13th century AD during the reign of Jayavarman VII (which was posthumously given the title “Maha paramasangata pada”). This Buddhist monastic complex is currently dilapidated due to faulty construction and the poor quality of the sandstone used in its buildings, and is undergoing renovations. Banteay Kdei was occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries until the 1960s. ( Source )
We drove to Banteay Srey (we paid the driver another $ 10 USD) and it took us about 30 minutes to access it. The distance between this temple and Siem Reap is 37 km and tuk tuk is always slower. But as we left halfway (we were close to the Small and Big Circuit temples) it took us less time than if we were in the city.
Considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art , Banteay Srei is built of a pink-colored stone and has some of the most incredible carvings. Started in 967 AD, it is one of the smallest sites in Angkor , but what it lacks in size makes up for in stature. Angkor’s art gallery , Banteay Srei , a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva , is beautifully preserved and many of his sculptures are three-dimensional. ( source )
BIG CIRCUIT MAP
It was already approaching 1:30 pm when we arrived, and the heat and the sun were at their peak! We visited the temple and at that moment we felt that our day of wanderings could end. And that’s what we did. We ended the activities and went to the hotel. We arrived at approximately 2:30 pm / 3pm. We gathered, rested for a while and got ready for the last event on our itinerary: a dinner with a typical Cambodian dance show.
We closed the reservation the day before, and at 6pm we went to the place (value of US $ 12 per person with dinner included and without drinks). The restaurant was very close to our hotel, so we went on foot.
A lot of people turn their noses at these types of events, but we love it! We love to know the local culture and its dances. And as much as it is a “mounted” show, it is always beautiful to see the local colors and music.
We took lots of photos, videos and the like! We had dinner and stayed at the venue for about 2:30 am until the end of the show.
We returned to the hotel and at that moment our route of activities had ended.
Show location: Koulen Restaurant
# 12 day: Siem Reap – Ho Chi Minh City
We closed our circuit in Cambodia with a lot of walking and sunshine. And thankfully we did everything we could in the previous days, as we slept from our eleventh day to the twelfth day with a lot of rain. And this remained until 10 am on the last day. If we had left any activity for this morning we would have missed it.
We woke up later, had our coffee and at 11 am we were already heading for the airport (we made this trip with the same tuk tuk driver for U $ 7 dollars). Our final destination on this trip, where we associate Vietnam and Cambodia, was Ho Chi Minh. We then proceeded to the last stop and to end our trip.
We left at 2:55 pm from Siem Reap (check out our full post here on the trip to Vietnam and Cambodia) and at 4 pm we landed in Ho Chin Minh (Saigon). At the airport our transfer was waiting for us. We booked through the hotel we stayed in (cost U $ 15 dollars).
Next to the hotel – Vintage Hostel Saigon– which was on the main street of bars in Ho Chi Minh (which was supposed to be great news and ended up being a sleepless night). We arrived, checked in, left our bags and left for the location recognition. We walked the block, chose a place to eat and then continued our walk on the craziest street in this city.
We stayed at this place until approximately 9 pm, and after a few draft drinks and drinks, we returned to the hotel.
Our nightmare started there, because exactly because we were on that same crazy and tireless street (Bui Vien Walking Street) the noise was so loud that we couldn’t sleep. At 4 am I decided to cancel the hostel and look for a new alternative in the city. Because a traveler doesn’t always live with flowers and beautiful landscapes!
At 4:30 am the loud music and the annoying noise ended, and then we were able to try to rest. But just try, because at 7am we would already be up for the next day’s tour.
Long day, long night! Our day was closed.
# 13 day: Ho Chi Minh City – Full Day Mekong Delta Tour
We woke up at 7 am, decided to leave the hostel (we got the return of the next two nights that we would stay), and proceeded to the meeting point of the tour that we closed the previous day.
We closed at an agency very close to our hostel, on the same busy street. We paid 450 Dong for two people (bus for up to 45 people – very hard tour and really catches tourists).
At 8 am we headed for the bus and around 8:30 am we were on our way to the day’s attractions.
In about 1 hour and a half we arrived at the first stop: a place where they use bamboo fiber and cotton to make many products. This stop was really useless and only served to go to the bathroom and stretch our legs. Another 30 minutes were already on the banks of the Mekong River, the main attraction.
We continue by boat to the other points of interest of the day. We made the 3 islands that are accessible to tourists: Dragon, Phoenix and Unicorn Islands. In each one, different activities where they mixed the local culture with some typical foods.
We saw a small singing presentation plus some typical fruit tasting. Then we canoe down the river and are guided by the locals. Then a new presentation of some local products, such as honey, and derivative products, we had the opportunity to pick up and find a Pyton (snake), and at the end of everything on the last island we had lunch and we had a little time for leisure (which it could be biking, hiking, or any other activity you had on the island).
At 2:30 pm we returned by boat to the banks of the river and took our bus to a nearby temple, but as it was raining a lot at that time we were unable to get off and went straight to Ho Chi Minh. We arrived in the city at 5:30 pm, had a quick bite at Bui Vien Walking Street, picked up our bags at the old hostel (the one we had problems with last night) and soon headed for our new hotel – Kien Hotel 2 .
We took our things to the new location and settled down. The day was really tiring and wear and tear, much on account of the night before, so what we had left was a bath and bed. We closed our day.
A little note about the day tour (My Tho – Ben Tre (4 Islands) Mekong Delta 1 Full Day): IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Even though it is very cheap (225 dong per person) it is a tiring ride, as you have to go by bus (and in Vietnam they are usually old and dirty), it takes hours to get there due to the chaotic traffic in this country and we still visit places well dull and with an appeal to purchase it catches tourists.
We were in a group of approximately 40 to 45 people and all the points we went through had nothing interesting. Here’s the tip!
We took this tour with Sapphire Travel ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
# 14 day: Ho Chi Minh City – City Tour
For the last day of the trip we leave our time more free and for a quiet walking tour of the city.
We left the hotel a little later than usual, at 11 am we were drinking coffee on the street and then we went to the beginning of our walk.
The day before we took a map with the main points of interest in the city and followed the directions of the hostel attendant. At the beginning of our walk, we still passed a tourist information center and confirmed our idea.
Our route was as follows:
We went through all the places and took some photos. The distance between them was approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
At 3:30 pm we stop for our well-deserved lunch and then return to our hotel. We came back early because at night we would have our return flight to Sydney. We rested, went out again for a quick snack, returned to the hotel and relaxed until it was time to go to the airport. We closed our tour through Vietnam on this day.
Note: It is important to know that in Vietnam the traveler can use Uber or another local application called Grab . Both work very well and are much cheaper, as in other countries, in relation to taxis. In Vietnam there is even the option of Uber and Grab by motorcycle. It is to the taste and availability of the tourist.
“What is most rewarding and beautiful about a trip is that you can look into the eyes of people and feel their joy, their pain and their struggle. In Vietnam and Cambodia it was like that. Each city, each person and each moment that we live brought us feelings and truths that no book or film could tell us. Thank you Vietnam and Cambodia for welcoming us. Even with all the problems we face, the beauty of the meeting is even greater. ” (Graziela Bastos)
- Site Oficial do Turismo no Vietnã
- Site Oficial do Turismo do Camboja
- Hoi An Cyclo Tour
- Cham Island Diving
- Cham Island Snorkeling & Tour
- Family Cooking Tour – Hoi An
- Heaven & Earth Bicycle Tour Hoi An
- Hoian Diving Center Hoi An
- Hoi An Cooking-Eco Tour
- Bay Mau Eco Cooking Tour Hoi An
- Hoi An Village Experience
- Yellow City Food Tours Hoi An
- Electric Scooter Tours Hoi An
- Agência de Turismo Ho Chi Minh
- Agência de Turismo Ho Chi Minh 2
- Saigon Skydeck
- Passeio de Barco em Ho Chi Minh
- Sightseeing Tours Vietnã
- Tours Voluntários em Hanoi
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