My work schedule for the first quarter of 2020 has been set and my vacation dates confirmed, so now it’s time to start anticipating my next travel adventure! After an awesome trip to Thailand and Laos this past April, I knew that I wanted to return to Southeast Asia. Next February, Mr. Chuckles and I are planning a trip back to the region, this time to visit Cambodia and Vietnam.
Being the obsessive travel planner that I am, I’ve actually already started to do a ton of research on a potential itinerary. So far, I’m looking at a 16 day trip: 5 days in Cambodia and 11 days in Vietnam (including one day for the long flight home). It’s going to be a packed itinerary, but suits my fast travel style.
Self planned or package tour?
After much consideration, I’ve decided to plan this entire trip independently. Although we had a great time with Intrepid Travel on our last trip to Southeast Asia, I have since become much more confident in organizing long distance travel. It’s also a bit more budget friendly and will allow us more flexibility in modifying our itinerary as we go. Another qualm I had with the packaged Intrepid tour was their selection of accommodations, so it will be nice to customize this ourselves this time around. We’re going to avoid the rough transportation options as well; our experience on an overnight train was a novelty but not necessarily fun enough to pursue again. The only thing I’ll probably miss while doing this on our own is the social aspect of being in a group, but I’m sure we’ll have the chance to meet some people during our day tours.
Day 1: Arrival in Phnom Penh. We will only spend a half day in this city to rest and get over our jet lag, as there isn’t a whole lot that I am interested in seeing here, but it’s logistically and financially easier to fly to Phnom Penh from Toronto rather than directly to Siem Reap. Points of interest include the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and perhaps a traditional Khmer dance show at Cambodian Living Arts.
Day 2: Morning flight to Siem Reap. Evening street food tour.
Day 3: Tour of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom complex.
Day 4: Morning cooking class. Afternoon tour to Tonle Sap floating village Kompong Khleang.
Day 5: Day trip to Kulen Mountain and Beng Mealea. Evening show at Phare Circus.
Day 6: Flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Evening street food tour.
Day 7: Day trip to the Mekong Delta area.
Day 8: Flight to Da Nang and transfer to Hoi An. Evening food tour (yes, another one!).
Day 9: Countryside bicycle tour on Cam Kim Island in Hoi An.
Day 10: Morning cooking class. Relax and explore more of Hoi An on our own. Points of interest include Old Town and An Bang Beach.
Day 11: Flight to Hanoi. Spend the afternoon exploring the Old Quarter.
Day 12: Morning Hanoi city tour. Evening street food tour.
Day 13: Morning pick up from Hanoi to our overnight boat cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay, the lesser touristed alternative to Halong Bay.
Day 14: Second day in Bai Tu Long Bay. Evening arrival back in Hanoi.
Day 15: Day trip to Ninh Binh. Final evening in Hanoi.
Day 16: Departure to Toronto. End of trip. 😢
A note about Sapa
My original itinerary included 2 days/1 night in and around Sapa, located in the northwest region of Vietnam. It’s a beautiful mountainous area known for its rice terraces and ethnic minority communities. There are a couple well-reputed companies, such as Sapa Sisters and Ethos, that organize treks led by guides hired from local villages and do some good work in promoting sustainable, ethical travel in this increasingly popular tourist destination.
However, after further research, I think I will be leaving Sapa for another trip. February is just not a good time weather-wise to be visiting since it is in the midst of winter and it actually gets quite cold and foggy in Sapa, likely obscuring the views that most people travel here to see. It’s also outside of harvest season so the rice terraces will not be the lush green that is seen on all those epic Instagram photos. On top of this, it’s quite a journey even from Hanoi, including a 6 hour bus ride on bumpy, winding roads. As such, I am swapping out for an extra day in Hoi An and Hanoi, where I’m sure we’ll still find lots to do and see!
Original post 24/10/2019 | Updated 15/11/2019
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