7 days makes for a whirlwind tour, but if you only have a short time, it's possible to squeeze a little of Vietnam and Cambodia into your busy south east Asia itinerary...
When I was offered an opportunity to visit Vietnam and Cambodia, I thought I’d be going to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, the two most popular and well-known cities in Vietnam. To my delight I discovered I would be heading off to Central coast Vietnam, followed by a trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia before a quick stop in Ho Chi Minh City - here's how I did it.
Central coast Vietnam consists of Lang Co, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hue. It is becoming an extremely popular destination in Southeast Asia and it’s becoming a lot more accessible due to recent new flight routes.
The flight from London to Ho Chi Minh takes about 12 hours, then it’s a short one hour flight from Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang – you can make it to the hotel in time for breakfast!
Da Nang is a traditional fishing village and having not travelled in Southeast Asia for about 3 years, it was exactly how I remembered. After five minutes of driving, you get your first glimpse of the beach, which is lined with the archetypal basket boats of Central Vietnam.
If you stay along the new road that links Da Nang to Hoi An, all the hotels along this stretch offer a beautiful beach front location. We've picked some of our favourite Vietnam beach hotels including places to stay in Hoi An, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet - all are recommended..
The drive from Da Nang to Hoi An is only about 20 minutes, so when it comes to choosing where to stay on the central coast, Da Nang is a good choice as it offers great access to the beautiful sandy beach, and it is very easy to spend time in neighbouring Hoi An.
Hoi An is a fascinating ancient town where you can spend hours getting lost in the winding streets and alleyways, exploring the tiny shops and market stalls. It’s popular for textiles and tailoring, so for the more refined traveller, this is the perfect opportunity to throw away your threadbare tee shirts and design your own three-piece suit ever so cheaply!
I'd highly recommend spending some time in both Da Nang and Hoi An as they both offer a lovely insight into local life and culture. Combining the two towns works really well as you get to relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Da Nang, experience a fishing village, and then soak up the culture and unique atmosphere of Hoi An, and come away with a few local crafts as well.
The Central Coast is easy to reach and is an obvious stop if you’re travelling between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. You can fly into Da Nang from Ho Chi Minh as I did, or from Siem Reap, Cambodia.
This is a new route recently launched by Vietnam Airlines - the flight takes just under two and a half hours and is an easy and quick way to combine Vietnam and Cambodia in one trip.
This was my second trip to Siem Reap, but the first time I visited I was definitely on a shoestring. I'd recommend you experience Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples with a guide – it's extremely informative and something I would never have justified previously, but will always consider in future.
I thought having a guide would restrict my freedom to explore, but in reality it allows you to get the most of where you are and understand what you’re looking at – as well as ensuring you don’t spend half the day haggling over a few pence with a tuk tuk driver!
Spending a couple of days exploring Angkor Wat is great - the temples are awe inspiring and actually quite baffling, something you can’t appreciate until you are standing at the foot of one of them. Jackie recently did a cycle trip round Angkor Wat – I love cycling too but didn’t have time to do it on this trip!
The beauty of the new Vietnam Airways Da Nang – Siem Reap flight is that it opens up this incredible place to travellers who are tight with time, and to people who are in Southeast Asia to explore Vietnam, but are looking for that extra something. To make this side trip even better, you could also fly from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh in one hour. So you can get right back on track in Vietnam and explore the South.
Ho Chi Minh is a vibrant and historic city, and if you're short on time, consider using a guide like we did – he was lovely and informative and took us on a walking tour so we got to see more of the city - I'm really glad we did as it allows you to soak up the atmosphere and see the little details that make places unique.
Whilst you’re in Ho Chi Minh, I’d recommend a visit to the War Remnants Museum to learn about the Vietnam War and its effects; the Saigon Central Post Office (for its architecture), and if you have more time, definitely head out to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a massive network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The new Vietnam airlines flight from Da Nang to Siem Reap really opens up your options for exploring Vietnam and Siem Reap in the same trip. If you’re looking for a diverse trip and want to break up Vietnam, heading to Central Coast Vietnam is priceless, and why not throw in the awe inspiring Angkor Wat temples while you’re at it!
If you’re interested in including central Vietnam with Cambodia, we can build these destinations into a longer multi-stop itinerary, or tailor-make a holiday. We can arrange every part of your trip from flights and transfers to accommodation a trips. We offer a number of Vietnam tours, plus some tours in Cambodia which include Angkor Wat.
For more information and advice, call us on +44 1273320580 or get a quote.