I recently traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia for a South East Asian experience and had one of the most memorable trips of my life. From the moment I landed until the day I left, I experienced so many incredible things.
My first few days were spent in Saigon touring the city. I explored the Thien Hau Pagoda (pictured above) and many different streets shops full of antique and vintage items as well as markets overflowing with fresh produce and unique foods. We even stopped at a secret bunker in a simple unassuming house that once stashed with weapons and soldiers in preparation for the 1968 Tet Offensive.
After our 2 days spent in Saigon, we drove a short distance to board the Aqua Mekong (pictured above), which was going to be my home for the next 4 nights. The Aqua Mekong is a gorgeous 5-star hotel floating on the majestic Mekong River.
We floated down the Mekong river for 4 days from Saigon to Phnom Penh. Every day there was a day and afternoon excursion offered to the shore which gave us an opportunity to visit unique places such as Binh Thanh mat weaving village, Sa Dec’s vibrant market, even a local’s home where we heard traditional folk songs performed by the villagers. In addition to these excursions, there was a daily option to bike further into the villages to see things that most people would never get to experience if just walking around or driving through town.
One of my favorite day excursions in Vietnam was when we drove to the top of Sam Mountain to visit the Long Son Pagoda. The views at the top of this mountain were incredible. You could see all the gorgeous green rice paddies along the border of both Vietnam and Cambodia (pictured above).
After crossing the border into Cambodia, we noticed a bit of a difference in the change of scenery. Things seemed to be a bit greener and lusher. The next few days traveling along the river in Cambodia were spent visiting Khmer artisans, biking past Buddhist temples and houses on wooden stilts, and enjoying the delicious Khmer cuisine (pictured above).
When the Aqua Mekong reached Phnom Penh, we disembarked and spent the day exploring the Cambodian capital by tuk-tuk. We stopped at the Royal Palace (pictured above), Silver Pagoda and the Tuol Sleng Museum. Later that evening we took a flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and then took a short ride to our beautiful resort Phum Baitang Zannier where we stayed the next 2 days.
While in Siem Reap our local Khmer guide took us around by tuk-tuk to the many ancient temples. This was by far the most fascinating part of the trip for me. To be able to walk around and see temples that date back to the 9th century! The three temples we saw make up the Roluos Group. These are some of the earliest great temples and mark the beginning of the classical period of Khmer civilization. They date from the late 9th century when they served as the capital of Indravarman. Bakong Temple (Pictured above) is the largest of the three and is home to an active Buddhist monastery.
Later the day, we visited the fortified city of Angkor Thom (pictured above) which covers an area of 10 square km. Enclosed by a wall and wide moats; the city includes many of Angkor’s most popular sights, such as the giant stone faces smiling down from every angle.
The last stop while in Cambodia was Angkor Wat (pictured above), which is considered the crown jewel of Khmer Architecture. Angkor Wat is the national symbol and highlight of many people who visit Cambodia. It is the largest, best preserved and most religiously significant of the Angkor Temples. I was incredibly impressed by the delicate carvings along with the extremely proportionate layout. After a full day of exploring temples and ancient towns, we headed back to town and had one last delicious meal before flyinh home the next morning.
This trip was very special and I have created memories that will last a lifetime. The people in both Vietnam and Cambodia are some of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met. The stories and experiences they shared will not be something I will soon forget. If anyone is looking for a trip of a lifetime that is rich in history, culture and some incredible food, I would not hesitate to recommend Vietnam and Cambodia. It will not disappoint!