I was chatting with STA Travel Canterbury’s Hayley Davies recently, about a tour we offer over in Indochina, called Roam Cambodia & Vietnam. In fact, back up, I lied.
To say, “I was chatting with Hayley” is grossly misleading, because in all honesty, she did all the talking. I just stood there and paddled my brain in the surf of her inspiration. Although she hasn’t done the complete trip, she’s certainly done a large chunk of it, and her insights makes for some fascinating reading.
I’ll leave it to Hayley to walk you through her experience on the tour, but don’t forget to encourage her via the comment thread below, with some ideas of your own, for when she revisits the region some time in the near future!
My Adventures on Roam Cambodia & Vietnam
SNAPSHOT: 20 days; Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam; average group size of 10; £949
We were given some great advice: get up early if we want to see sunrise at Angkor Wat. Needless to say, we were too late, but sat back on a nice chair, with my hands wrapped around a nice up of tea, the view was still stunning.
I was surprised to discover that Cambodian children spoke excellent English, and even some of the youngest I met had the art of wit about them. I was eating lunch one day when a young boy came up to our group trying to sell bracelets.
He approached one of the guys, and proposed he buy one for his girlfriend. “I don’t have a girlfriend”, said the guy. So the boy suggested he buy one for his wife. “I don’t have a wife”, said the guy, rather smugly. The little boy put his hands on his hips, lifted his head up high and boldly said, “Do you know why you don’t have a girlfriend or wife? Because you never buy her anything!”
Discovered among Angkor Wat. It brings a whole new meaning to the term 'tree house'
After this, we journeyed south to Phnom Penh. We felt assured, knowing that we’d arrived before monsoon season, but over dinner that evening, the heavens opened and the roads of the Cambodian capital were flooded! Neither tuk tuks nor cars could move, so we did what any backpacker would do — we danced the night away at a hotel on the riverside. We left around 3am when the roads began to clear, but soon discovered the back roads were worse and we had to pull the tuk tuk to dry ground! It wasn’t all bad though; all the girls were kindly given piggy backs back to the hotel!
We also visited the S-21 Prison, with a warning that it would be gruesome. There were very few survivors but to this day, one comes to the prison every day to meet tourists and answer questions. Our guide encouraged us to talk to him, so I asked a few questions only to find he didn’t speak a word of English, so I bought him a can of Diet Coke, which made us both smile.
The Roam Cambodia & Vietnam itinerary works really well. It blends some of the country’s most interesting sights, with some well-earned downtime. I welcomed the rest days in Sihanoukville, not least because I got to kick back for a few days while our tour CEO (Chief Experience Officer!) did all the running, arranging group meals on the beach. Talking of food, we dined on some amazing seafood for around $3; and she educated us about locally sourced delicacies — including deep-fried crickets, yum!
It wasn’t only the food though, she was always on hand to recommend the best foods to try and translating.
Passing into Vietnam you stop overnight at Chau Doc, which appears to be a town set atop hundreds of mechanic shops, and not much else. We all hired scooters and rode up to Mount Sam for sunset. The roads are pretty hectic, and everyone else seemed to thrive on this, and the breeze going up the mountain. I can’t say I shared their enthusiasm; as I bear-hugged my driver the whole way up. The sunset was incredible, especially as we lazed back in hammocks on a veranda. It was only later that we found out it was someone’s bedroom!
Further into the journey, we visited Ho Chi Minh, which is typically mad! You travel from Cambodia, which has a total population of under 15 million, to Vietnam which is 84 million! Simple tasks such as crossing the road turned into an adventure in itself. It was really interesting to wander along the roads, with thick red silk Communist banners draped every few metres, with friendly bars and ice cream parlours nestled in between.
Losing your contact lens in Vietnam can be a real pain.
It was here that my experience of Roam Cambodia & Vietnam rolled to an end; and I’m thirsty for more. The tour itinerary continues to the east coast of Vietnam, where it rises north to Hanoi via the beaches of Nha Trang, the picturesque port town of Hoi An, to Hue, nestled among the emerald countryside and the magnificent Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone karsts thrust out of the South China Sea.
Top 5 Tips for Roam Cambodia & Vietnam
I could keep talking, but instead, I’ll leave you with five tips for making the most of your time along the Roam Cambodia & Vietnam trail.
- Don’t miss out on the day trips! They’re available everyday, and the CEO will know the best people, and the best times to show you around, at the best price.
- If you’re on a budget, make sure you carry some smaller notes to hand.
- There are a lot of street beggars; but I preferred to contribute to charities. I also tried to give children fruit, not sweets, as very few have access to dental care.
- You’re on the move a lot, but be aware of the beautiful surroundings you drive through, and wave to the locals!
- Don’t automatically avoid the rainy seasons! It only takes a burst of rain, for your whole surroundings to change. Rice fields flourish, and water flowers come out to bloom. It’s a really beautiful time to see Cambodia.
Thanks to Hayley for taking time out to share her experiences of life on the road in Cambodia. It’s really helped to bring the journey to life. If you have any questions for Hayley, myself, or any of the team here at STA Travel, you can lay them neatly into the comment thread below this post and we’ll happily answer them for you.
For more information on this journey, visit our Roam Cambodia & Vietnam page and you could soon be following in Hayley’s footsteps, across some of Southeast Asia’s most thrilling areas.