Haven’t been to Southeast Asia before? Vietnam and Cambodia are easy to navigate, full of culture, adventure, and natural wonders that make them good first visits to this part of the world.
Vietnam’s historical sites offer a glimpse into the Vietnam War. While in Saigon make sure to check out Ho Chi Min’s Mausoleum and see what shade of yellow he is turning, followed up with a trip to the Vietnam Military History Museum to check out some old war planes and guns. As you head to central Vietnam stop in Hue to explore the old demilitarized zone during, including Khe Sanh Combat Base, The Rockpile, Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail, Doc-Mieu-Station or the Vinh Moc tunnels. Further south in Ho Chi Min City check out the War Remnants Museum and it’s worth the day trip outside of the city to crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels.
For the water babies out there the Mekong Delta and Halong Bay are two spots not to be missed. The Mekong Delta in the south is the end of the Mekong River where you can explore water villages and floating markets. Life moves a lot slower here in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the larger cities. Halong Bay is a Unesco World Heritage site with nearly 2000 limestone outcrops protruding from the ocean. The best way to see Halong Bay is on a 3-day/2-night trip on a Chinese junk. Your tour will most likely include amazing views of the outcrops, swimming, kayaking, and tour of the caves in some of the islets.
Although Vietnam isn’t best known for it’s beaches, if you can’t get away with out a trip the beach, check out Na Trang, Ca Dong Island, and China Beach. For the adventurist travelers check out the sand boarding and beaches in Mui Ne.
Da Lat in the south and Sa Pa in the north are both great jumping off points for tremendous mountain views and treks. There is no better way to get around than by motorcycle to see the area and travel like a local. Da Lat is nestled in the Central Highlands in the south where you can take a 2-3 day motorcycle ride around the area. The Easy Riders are some of the best and oldest guides in town. Sa Pa is in the Hoang Lien Son range located in the north and is a good starting point for motorcycle rides and treks around the area. On a 2-3 day trip you can expect hills covered with rice terraces and passing along many villages with different ethnic groups and customs.
Vietnam is one of the best places in the world to get clothes made and buy knock-offs. Hoi An is the capital where tailors line the streets but you can fine a good seamstress in almost any large city. Check out the street markets and ask around. In addition to getting clothes made make sure to check out various local textiles, Louis Vuitton knock-offs, pirated DVDs and CDs, silks, Vietnamese coffee, and bizarre foods including snake vodka. Its medicinal purposes will make the awful taste worth it.
No trip to Cambodia is complete without a trip to Ankor Wat. Watching the sunrise or sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list. Spend 2-3 days getting lost in the numerous temples that you thought only existed on movie sets. While passing through Phnom Penh pay your respects to the thousands of people that were killed under the Khmer Rouge. First stop at S-21, a museum that was once a prison and torture center for people against Pol Pot. Afterward take a tuk-tuk ride to Choeng Ek Killing Fields. Albeit sad, it’s an educational day that doesn’t let us forget to not let it happen again.
If you need some beach time to cool off from the humidity and heat abundant across all of SE Asia, check out Sihanoukville in the south. These probably aren’t the best beaches around, but will surely give you a nice respite during your travels.