The Jewels of Indochina: Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos

Full of incredible scenery and the most welcoming people on the planet; Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are three places everyone should see in their lifetime. These are the reasons why a Vietnam Laos Cambodia tour is worth a try.

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Image Source: Dennis Jarvis

Cambodia

Cambodia has been an increasingly popular holiday destination for western tourists over the last decade. This is the kind of place you could spend an entire year and still find something new to see every day. Its varied collection of sights are heaving with tourists, although there are still some hidden jewels off the beaten track.

Siem Reap in the northwest is a tourist hub. Here you will find hotels and hostels catering to every budget. The capital city of Siem Reap Province, there’s lots to see and do here, and you can completely understand why some tourist spend their entire holiday in this city. Because of this, the place has a very touristy and safe feel to it, but it is still worth remembering you are in Cambodia, and you should keep your wits about you. Some of the most memorable moments of your life could be spent in this city and attractions include:

    1. Sunrise at Angkor Wat: You will be surprised how many bleary eyed westerners you bump into at 5am at Angkor Wat. One of the Wonders of The World, this twelfth century palace in the jungle comes alive at sunrise. Get off the beaten track to bag a good spot to watch it unfold and beware of the monkeys – they will steal the food right out of your hand.
  • Ta Prohm: The site where tomb raider was filmed. This place is crawling with tourists so if you don’t like busy spots, best visit it first thing in the morning before everyone else gets there. The crumbling temples held together by tree roots are something you have to see to believe, and well worth the trip.
  • Tonle Sap Lake:  A little bit out of the city, it is worth taking this trip just to remind yourself of the abject poverty most Cambodians live in. Here you’ll see the floating villages that rely on fishing (and now tourists) to survive. Livestock penned in floating corals and children maneuvering canoes with incredible dexterity are all common sights here. There really are no words for this experience.

Away from the city, the country takes on a whole new feeling. You begin to understand just why the life expectancy in Cambodia is so low (58) and get a real feel for the culture. The people here are incredible. They very rarely know any English, but they will exchange smiles with strangers and the children will happily follow you through town. They so rarely get western visitors away from the tourist hubs, which is a shame because there is so much to see out here. A trip to the Mekong River in the southeast is worth it just to see the Irrawaddy dolphins (they don’t look like dolphins!) whilst the ruins at Kampong Thom are just as spectacular as any you will see in the city.

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Image Source: Lucas Jans

Vietnam

Truly one for the bucket list, Vietnam has a unique culture that is a reflection of its varied history. There’s so much to see and do in this diverse country that staying in one place for any length of time really seems like a shame. The general attitude of the Vietnamese towards tourists can be less than friendly. For this reason, if you are touring the country it is worth doing it as part of a guided tour or with an established itinerary. Visit Inside Vietnam Tours to see an example of some of their award-winning, tailored trips throughout Vietnam and Indochina. Don’t let the attitudes of the locals put you off seeing the country though, it really is one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

  • Ho Chi Minh City: Formerly Saigon, this is the largest city in the country and an experience all in itself. Undoubtedly one of the busiest, most vibrant places you will ever come across, this is one hell of a place for food and history. The war museums are well worth a look, as is the opera house, but the must-see attraction is the Chu Chi Tunnels. Part of a network that underlie most of the country, the Chu Chi Tunnels featured heavily in the Vietnamese War.
  • Halong Bay: Heaven on Earth, this beautiful bay full of emerald waters is broken up by hundreds of immense Karst limestone islands. Full of beautiful beaches, a floating seafood restaurant and ‘hospital’ cave that was instrumental in the war, you need to spend a few days here to really see the place.

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Image Source: YoTuT

Laos

Laos, officially The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, borders Vietnam to the east. Full of Buddhist temples, the friendliest people you will ever meet and a real ‘old-world’ feel, Laos is a destination not to be missed. It is arguably one of the most thrilling places to spend your holiday. Historically (up until the mid 1990s) the Laos government actively discouraged tourism. This, combined with a general ignorance of this little, landlocked country keeps the majority of tourists away. A real shame since Laos has some amazing places to offer.

  • Vang Vieng:  This small, scenic town is the kind of place to spend a few days. With rice fields, mountains, rivers and lakes, it offers a real slice of rural Laos at its best. The market is well worth a visit, just don’t expect anyone to speak English; this is a true locals area and gives you a great insight into everyday life. Here you will find caves, lagoons to swim in and plenty of incredible places to just sit and take in the sights.
  • Si Pan Don: This archipelago of islands is a beautiful spot and a great, relaxing place to finish your holiday. Nothing happens quickly here, so bare that in mind if you’re coming from the frenetic western world. Travellers should visit Khong, Det and Khon islands, which offer a wide range of activities including dolphin spotting, cycling and boat cruises.

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