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Venturing Into Vietnam

Lindsay Cutting, assistant manager at our Bury St Edmunds travel agents, spent 10 nights travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia. Here are some of the exciting things she got up to…

Destination: Cambodia and Vietnam

Operator/Host: Wendy Wu Tours

Accommodation
(Hotel names/Ship name): 
Angkor Paradise Hotel – Siem Reap, Lan Lan 2 Hotel – Ho Chi Minh, Green Heaven Hoi An Resort – Hoi An, Church Boutique Hotel – Hanoi

Airline: Cathay Pacific/ Dragon Air

Duration: 10 nights

Flights

Travelling with Cathay Pacific was a pleasant experience. We travelled economy in both directions as the flights were very full and upgrades were not available. We did, however, have access to their lounges and this relaxed us all prior to our 13hr flights.

The seat pitch was good and was comfortable enough to enable me to sleep for a while after watching a few films on the seat back screen. The food was ok with a choice of main meals and the staff were very helpful. As is the norm now, dinner was served then we all settled down for the night and were not disturbed until breakfast. On the return flight, I did find the cabin very cold and sat with a blanket around me most of the time.

We also travelled with Dragon Air on internal flights for around 1-2 hrs and the service and staff were very good.

 Ho Chi Minh

Accommodation

Angkor Paradise Hotel Siem Reap

The Angkor Paradise Hotel Siem Reap is in a great location in the centre of Siem Reap and within walking distance of the shopping areas, markets and a short drive away from the main historical sights. The rooms were large and comfortable with two big double beds. They were very clean but needed a little TLC in some areas. There was a lovely pool which we used, along with a Spa and fitness centre that didn’t have time to make the most of. We had breakfast and also an evening snack here and the food and service were good.

Lan Lan 2 Hotel Ho Chi Minh

The Lan Lan 2 Hotel is a great place in a brilliant location. I had a single room here and there was still a large double bed for me to spread out in. The rooms were clean and comfortable with the added bonus of free Wi-Fi. Its location is perfect - in easy walking distance of most of the main sights and the massive market where you can barter with the locals and purchase any souvenirs.

Green Heaven Hoi An Resort, Hoi An

The Green Heaven Hoi An Resort was a lovely hotel and was, again, in a perfect location. It has a small pool; fantastic Spa, which we made good use of by having an amazing, if somewhat painful, massage; a fitness room and even a tailors where you can order suits shirts etc. They have a variety of rooms which we were shown around. Our favourite was the Grande Suite River View which will sleep four people and has its own private steam bath, living room, marble bathtub, bar area and balcony overlooking the river. The standard rooms which we were in were also bright and spacious and very comfortable. It is a short walk to the Old Town and the local market.

Church Boutique Hotel Hanoi

Located in the old quarter and the heart of the shopping district, with the night market just a stone’s throw away, the Church Boutique Hotel was perfectly positioned. The rooms were very nice if a little on the small side, but the bathrooms had opaque glass doors which were a little disconcerting. It was a very modern hotel; clean, bright and tastefully decorated.

Bhaya Classic Cruise in Halong Bay

We enjoyed an overnight stay on a junk boat where we all had our own cabin. These were twin-bedded with an en-suite shower and toilet and a balcony also. They may have been compact, but they had everything we needed and were very comfortable. There was a large, communal dining area with bar and a sun/viewing deck along with a small Spa area. This, however, was open to the elements and looked like it could get quite cold. Alternatively, you can ask for treatments to be given in your cabin.

Excursions

 Angkor Watt

In Siem Reap, we had trips to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm; the three major temples in Cambodia.

In Vietnam, we walked around Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) taking in the Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office and the Reunification Palace. We also travelled to the Mekong Delta where we toured the river in a traditional sampan boat before taking lunch at a local restaurant.

In Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, our tour began on foot visiting the local market, Quan Dong Chinese Temple, Japanese Covered Bridge and one of the 200-year-old houses passed down from generation to generation.

In Hanoi, we took part in another walking tour to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, the Temple of Literature (dedicated to Confucius) and the Old Quarter. This was followed by an evening performance of the famous water puppets and a trip up to Halong Bay where we cruised around the 3,000 islets that rise out of the beautiful, clear water. This was all included in our itinerary.

Trip Highlights

All of it. Cambodia and Vietnam are two places that have been on my wish list for a while, as Asia is my favourite holiday destination.

The temples in Cambodia were breath-taking and enormous. I feel we only touched the surface and would definitely like to spend more time exploring all of these in more depth. Watching the day dawn over Angkor Wat was magical and is a must do. Trying to imagine how these temples were built with no mechanical machinery is very difficult, and they took over 30 years to build.

We also walked around Ta Prohm, known as the jungle temple, as the trees are entwined around the buildings. It is also famous for featuring in the film Tomb Raider.

Our next stop was Vietnam. We started in Ho Chi Minh in the south, which is a cosmopolitan city influenced by the French who occupied Vietnam for several years. We then toured the Reunification Palace where a soldier bulldozed the gates during the final stages of the American War in 1975 and raised a North Vietnam flag from its balcony. Following that, we travelled by coach to the Mekong Delta, passing numerous rice paddies and fruit farms until we reached Ben Tre. Here, we took a sampan boat along the river, visiting local villages to see them making coconut candy before boarding a larger boat to sail to our restaurant for the most amazing lunch I have ever had.

Later, we had a short visit to a temple to see three massive Buddha statues before making our way back to the city. Just a two minute walk away from our hotel was a massive local market where anything and everything could be bought. It was quite intense with so many stalls all trying to sell you something and, of course, bartering is mandatory. Dinner was taken in a restaurant called KOTO which helps underprivileged children to make something of themselves rather than spending their lives on the streets.

 Japanese Covered Bridge

Another flight took us to Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for having the most unique architecture in Southeast Asia. It is a very charming town and one that is very easy to walk or cycle around. We had a tour by our local guide which took in the local market, the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Dong Chinese Temple. I will definitely return here as it was so calm and relaxing after a very hectic Saigon.

Our next stop was Hanoi in North Vietnam. Again, it was a very busy city where you take your life in your hands when crossing the road. Here, we visited Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature (which is dedicated to Confucian worship). We also watched a performance of the famous water puppets, invented thousands of years ago by the farmers to entertain themselves when the paddy fields were flooded and they were unable to work.

The next day we travelled up to Halong Bay; a four-hour coach journey but well worth the trek. We spent the night on a junk boat sailing between the 3,000 islets in crystal clear waters. It was somewhat cooler here and although a few did brave the waters for a quick swim, I observed from the deck. We climbed up to see the magnificent caves and had a trip in a bamboo boat to see the water villages where the locals sell their wares. It is a truly magical place and a must see part of Vietnam.

Possible Improvements

Nothing. I had a fantastic trip and experience.

Recommendations

The trip was so well organised from start to finish. The pack they sent out was excellent, with detailed itineraries and everything you need to know for your trip. Wendy Wu Tours even obtained our visas for the countries we visited; a superb service rarely offered these days. The guides we had were very knowledgeable, friendly and nothing was too much trouble.

We ate in lots of fantastic restaurants which served mouth-watering food and everything ran like clockwork. Nothing was rushed. We had time to take everything in when out on the tours, however, it’s important to be aware there can be a lot of walking. We did have some time to ourselves which gave us the opportunity to relax or do some shopping. It was a fantastic trip and I will certainly return to both of these wonderful countries.

Additional Comments

Thank you to Wendy Wu Tours and our host Diogo Castanheira for a fabulous trip.

Must see? Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm

Must do? Sail around Halong Bay

Must try? The local food; it is amazing

If you would like to organise a similar trip to Lindsay, whether it be by land or in the form of a river cruise, we can put together the perfect holiday. Visit us today at any of our locations in East Anglia or contact us online.