This is a stunning introduction to Indo China, with a primary focus on Laos and Vietnam. Travel by plane, minibus, tuk-tuk, cycle rickshaw, bicycle, canoe, boats, sleeper train and foot. This is a "full on" trip that is well paced to allow independent exploration as well as the benefits of well informed local guides. Accommodation is varied, but always comfortable. A fabulous trip to abolish a UK winter!
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
So difficult to narrow these down to a shortlist, but would have to include :-
1. Sunrises and sunsets on the Mekong whilst on the 200 mile river trip.
2. Stunning mountain scenery of northern Laos.
3. Floating markets of the Mekong Delta and the Vietnam/Cambodia border town of Chau Doc - an unexpected gem.
4. The contrast between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Can they really be in the same country?
5. Temples at Angkor Wat
- What did you think of your group leader?
We had a different leader for each country.
Thailand/Laos. Khag (aka "Kate") was a larger than life, thoughtful and well organised leader for Thailand, and also for Laos, as our Lao guide was still under training. He was a lovely guy and very knowledgable but no doubt found it hard in the company of a group that had already bonded with their Thai guide.
Vietnam. Thanh was real gentleman, knowledgable and passionate about his country. Always prepared to go the "extra mile" to make our trip special.
Cambodia. Allan's command of colloquial English was such that it was all too easy to forget that she is a young woman who had grown up with parents who are still subsistence farmers who had survived the "Killing Fields". Her knowledge of Angkor Wat where she is an accredited guide was exceptional. Bright and bubbly personality and able to look at the Killing fields era from her own family perspective which made her input invaluable.
In each case it was a real plus to have a local person as our guide rather than a well informed westerner. They were able to get local food and fruit for us to try that we wouldn't have dared try for ourselves and they added greatly to the insight we were able to get of the culture and history of each country.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Just do it! Travel light - it is easy to get laundry done cheaply and quickly (same day) virtually every where. Read about the history of the area before you go to get the best out of the experience - especially the Vitenam War and the Killing Fields. Take an ENORMOUS memory card for your camera - I filled a 32gb card. Take each day as it comes and be prepared for the unexpected.
Consider arranging your own flights at the beginning and end of the trip. The included flights involve a long stopover in Kuala Lumpur. We flew Jet Airways - London to Bangkok via Mumbai - where the stopover was short, and was also considerably cheaper, particularly if booked early.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
At over 4 weeks this is the longest holiday we have ever taken and we were a little apprehensive about whether we would have had enough after 2 weeks. It says a lot for the trip that at no point were we ready to come home. It is well paced with plenty of variety and with highlights all the way through to look forward to. Having previously struggled a bit with the food in India, we had no trouble whatsoever in Indo China - the food was tasty, incredibly varied and appetising - in fact it was a real highlight of the trip. Although the weather was generally hot (28 - 37 deg) it is not overpoweringly so, and we had very little trouble from biting insects - even along the rivers and the Mekong Delta. Just make sure you have plenty of insect spray.