If you are looking for a relaxing 3 week vacation checking out some of the sights and beaches in SE Asia, Cambodia and Vietnam have all you are looking for. While more expensive than our 2 week SE Asiatrip, this 3 week adventure will have you falling in love with the region.
Airfare here was a little tricky and all depends on the season and the airline. I used Kayak.com to find a 400 dollar one way trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. For my return, I booked a 450 dollar ticket from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon),Vietnam. This is by far NOT the cheapest option as I made my travel arrangements only a few weeks before departing. You can do this much cheaper by looking into Air Asia or keeping a watchful eye on deals off peak season.
Once in Siem Reap, take a day to walk around and soak up some of the Cambodian culture by biking out of town for a few kilometers. Spend the night sampling some local cuisine around the night market and join in the party on Pub Street. The next morning, hope into a tuk-tuk at 5am and see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Many people think Angkor Wat requires 3 full days but I’ll tell you now, one day is plenty and by the end you may even find yourself a bit “templed out.” If temples are your thing, by all means take the long tour and really see each site in great detail. However, if you’re like me, the main temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Keo, and Ta Prohm will be enough. After a day at Angkor Wat, spend the last night in Siem Reap and board an early bus to Phnom Penh.
It’ll take you 3 hours to reach Phnom Penh. If you time it right, it’s possible to snag a bus from a travel agency and head straight on to Sihanoukville in the south. If not, or if you want to stay in Phnom Penh, grab a hostel and check out some of the temples and museums that Cambodia’s capital city has to offer. Once you do decide to leave, hop on a 6-hr bus to Sihanoukville.
The bus will drop you off near the harbor and there isn’t much to see there. Instead, flag down a tuk-tuk and tell him to take you to OccheutealBeach. This was our favorite beach and comes highly recommended. However, I have also heard great things about Otres and Sokha beach in Sihanoukville, so you may want to see for yourself. Regardless of where you choose to stay, we recommend 6 relaxing days in Sihanoukville. At least 3 should be spent soaking up sun on the beach, eating some of the shrimp scampi the old ladies carry around on their heads, drinking around Serendipity beach, and having a few meals of barbequed fish. The rest of the time can be spent motor biking around the area or taking a day trip out on a boat for some snorkeling. If Vietnam is in your sights for the next stop, be sure to visit the embassy in town to get a visa quick and easily in about 30 minutes.
From Sihanoukville, you could take a ferry over to Vietnam, but I have heard there are some dangerous waters out that way. Instead, I opted to go back to Phnom Penh, spend a night, and then take a bus to Ho Chin Minh City. They make a stop at the border and then you board the same bus bound for Ho Chi Minh. The whole trip is about 15 dollars or so and takes 8 hours.
Spend 2 nights and a full day walking around the city taking in some sights. Don’t miss out on the war museum, reunification palace, or the Notre Dame Cathedral. From Ho Chi Minh, anywhere in Vietnamis possible. I grabbed a cheap flight on Vietnam Airways to Danang for only 45 dollars online. Once off the plane, I took a 20 dollar cab to the town of Hoi An.I stayed here for 3 days but honestly, it can be done in two. The beach is breathtaking and motor biking around the area can be a lot of fun especially if you head towards Danang on the coastal road and check out Marble Mountain.
From Hoi An, get a taste of Vietnamese travel by taking the Reunification Express overnight to Nha Trang. A word of advise though: the 11 hour ride is unbearable if you take the “soft seat” option. Be sure you book a sleeper car for this journey, you won’t regret it.
You should arrange a hotel in Nha Trang before venturing there so that they can pick you up for free from the station. I advise 3-4 days in Nha Trang. There is plenty to do on the beaches, including taking a boat cruise out for some snorkeling and fishing; but the best parts of Nha Trang are inland. I know I am a big proponent of renting motor bikes, but you can’t miss this in Nha Trang. Bike up the coast northbound and see some fishing villages and picturesque mountains as you press on. This can be done in 1 or 2 days depending on how keen you are on biking. After that, it’s a cheap flight or 9 hour train ride back to Ho Chi Minh Cityto head home.
Quick Note: As this trip was specific to my schedule, I only did the south part of Vietnam. I have heard wonderful things about the north and if you have the time and money don’t miss out! Also, I originally planned on visiting the French influenced Dalat northwest of Nha Trang. Dalat is difficult to reach and takes about 7 hours by bus, but from all I have heard, this is a must see destination if you have the time.