Julie Williams recently returned home from a spring adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia and has kindly written this blog piece. Julie travelled from Hanoi to this hills of Sapa, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and the Mekong before flying to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and the incredible Angkor….anyway, here she is…
Travelling on your own can be daunting, especially when heading somewhere like Vietnam and Cambodia, but I had nothing to worry about!
I was met by a friendly guide at the airport and each destination from there (some more punctual than others!) and a detailed itinerary ensured I knew what I was in for every step of the way, but still had no idea what to expect! I enjoyed the sense of independence and degree of flexibility that would help me discover these interesting destinations.
As always when travelling, I also repeatedly bumped into people on a similar itinerary and made plenty of new friends along the way. I travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia for a total of three weeks and had a ball! The people and scenery are fantastic and I embarked upon several fascinating side trips including a street food tour with a Hanoi food blogger and a Vespa tour of Saigon – a whole different experience to sitting in a cab!
My favourite Vietnamese town was Hoi An, which I visited during a beautiful lantern festival to celebrate the full moon. It was difficult to resist the cute (and very smart) small children asking you to buy a lantern from them to set loose on the river. I will be a lucky girl if all the associated wishes come true!
In contrast, Hanoi and Saigon are modern growing cities with all the usual city requirements – I spotted a small child with his McD happy meal from the brand new MacD shop, while I was enjoying traditional pancake in the streets of Saigon.
Unfortunately neither the weather nor the season were ideal for seeing the terraced fields of Sapa or the beautiful islands of Halong Bay, but the scenery was still amazing and quite atmospheric in the mist! The ethnic groups shopping for Chinese goods in the hill village markets of Sapa were a colourful and interesting distraction from the rain!
From the somber Killing Fields and S21 in Phnom Penh to the beautiful (if a little crowded) Wats and Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia was a much different (but equally amazing) country. Market stalls in “Pub Street” in Siem Reap offer deep fried termites, snakes and ENORMOUS spiders, but there are also plenty of restaurants offering more palatable dishes.
Angkors Wat, Thom and all the associated temples (especially Banteay Srey) are incredible works of architecture and artistry and it is astonishing to think how old they are.
The Phare Cambodian circus was an immensely entertaining end to my trip. Unsure of what to expect I ended up laughing the whole time and the acrobatics were quite stunning.
Big thanks to Enfys and InsideVietnam for arranging a great holiday!