Tuk-tuks, Temples and Tunnels
Our very own Sally Collicott had the chance to experience a fantastic trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. She enjoyed a pre-cruise stay in Hanoi, a journey across Ha Long Bay in a Junk boat and a Mekong cruise. Here is her first-hand report.
Choosing the Sofitel Metropole Legend, as we did, allows you to stay at the most historic hotel in the city, reminiscent of French colonial days, and the place where Charlie Chaplin spent his honeymoon.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the administrative centre. It’s safe to walk out and explore the bustling centre with restaurants close to the hotel where you can enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. Try the Club Ly for a beautiful setting and authentic experience.
The “Hanoi Hilton” where American prisoners of war were kept.
Rickshaw ride through the Old Quarter for a real taste of local life.
The Softiel Phokeethra Spa and Resort is a beautiful five-star hotel around a lake, with swimming pool and spa. It offers great food but, for a few dollars, a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride will take you into town to sample the local cuisine or shop at the market.
Angkor Wat temple at sunrise – get up early for the first tour of the day and you will be rewarded. This spectacular temple will appear from the night right in front of your eyes. It is also less busy and cooler.
Ha Long Bay
The coach journey from Siem Reap to Ha Long Bay allows you to see life in the Cambodian countryside. There are incredible landscapes at the Bay and great food and hospitality on board the “Junk” boat. See the caves and/or climb to the top of one of the cliffs for a stunning overall view.
Mekong River Cruise
The river changes dramatically during your seven days aboard. From sparsely populated, remote rural communities to the bustling capital of Cambodia, Phnom Pen. Visits are made to local craftspeople, villages, schools and markets and you are guaranteed a warm welcome along the way. Access to excursions can be by tender boat, ox cart, tuk-tuk or trishaw. Expect the unexpected – markets offer produce which we would not consume in the west, but reflect the incredible resourceful nature of the Cambodian and Vietnamese people when starvation was a reality for many.
A big part of the joy on this journey is learning about the real life experiences of your river guides. They are open, knowledgeable and happy to share their stories with you and love you to ask questions. They and their families have lived through very turbulent times and they are very positive about their future.
The capital of Cambodia is home to the Royal Palace and National Museum. It’s busy with tuk-tuks but it is easy to get around. As well as the delicious food on board, there are opportunities to eat ashore – AmaDara will provide a list of suggested restaurants which past guests have enjoyed. I found the city to be safe and easy to explore alone.
Central Market for an insight into local life.
Killing Fields memorial ground – a stark reminder of recent history in Cambodia.
Ho Chi Minh
This popular city is extremely busy and is the modern commercial centre of Vietnam. The Sofitel Saigon Plaza is well-placed to explore vibrant Ho Chi Minh on foot.
There are no tuk-tuks as there is no room for them thanks to all the motor bikes and cars in the city, so independent exploration is best done on foot or by taxi. The hotel is just around the corner from the national Opera House, for which you should pre-book your ticket online if you want to see a performance.
High-end shopping and local markets – Ho Chi Minh caters for all.
Cu Chi tunnels – an impressive complex of tunnels used as shelter by the Viet Cong. This was a real insight into the resourcefulness of the population in their struggle to survive. There is the opportunity to briefly explore the tunnels yourself.