Insider's View

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Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

We spoke with Barbara Bryant of Trails of Indochina to get an insider's view on travel to fascinating Indochina.

Q: How would you describe the Indochina region for visitors who haven't been there?

Indochina is the colonial name for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos combined; attractive for both cultural and colonial history. It is famous for its delicious and refined cuisine; warm, ever smiling and welcoming people and of course the excellent value for money in exchange for world-class service.

Q: When is the best time to visit and why?

Anytime is a great time to visit, so long as you're prepared. Summer months can be steamy yet lush with tropical downpours rejuvenating the springs, waterfalls and gardens. Photographers love to travel in the summer months (Green Season) from May to October to capture reflections in the pools of Angkor Wat and the contrasting colors. For those sensitive to humidity and heat, best to travel from December to March where the temperature is cool, and winter in the north of Vietnam – a drier time of year to be traveling. No matter what season there are always opportunities for the beach, you just need to select the right one for the time of year you will be traveling.

Q: What are the top sights (cities, attractions, hidden gems etc.)?

Our top sights are Hanoi in north Vietnam, a one-thousand-year old town designed by the French and characterized by wide, tree-lined boulevards, many lakes and colonial architecture in certain parts; Hue in central Vietnam, a picturesque city well known for its interesting architecture, tasty royal cuisine and center of Buddhism; Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia with its French colonial architecture and traditional ornate temples.

Q: What are your personal favorite sights (locations that most tourists may miss or have enjoyed)?

  • Halong Bay: UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam famous for its limestone islands.
  • Angkor Wat: UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, one of the modern wonders and most important religious monument in the world.
  • Hoi An: UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, a city that drew merchants from Europe, Japan and China between the 16th and 19th century.
  • Luang Prabang: is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Q: Do you have any interesting facts about the Indochina region you would like to share?

The city of Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam has 4 million motorbikes.
In 2013 Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) welcomed nearly 15 million visitors.

Q: How would you describe the people and the culture?

In Asia, the doors of people's homes are almost always left open. Any visitor is made welcome in every home and to host a guest is an honor and a pleasure for every Asian family. People are kind hearted, open to westerners and share a very strong value for the family.

Q: Can you describe your most unique tour/river cruise?

The Lost Civilization
7 nights Saigon (Vietnam) – Siem Reap (Cambodia) or vice versa
The classic Mekong river cruise, the lost civilization combines places rarely visited with opulent world heritage sites; rural experience of river life and of course the beguiling nature of the people who call the Mekong their home.

Q: What foods / wines / desserts would you recommend people try?

  • Vietnam: spring or fresh rolls and Pho long noodle soup
  • Cambodia: Amok Fish
  • Laos: Lap (traditional salad with spicy meat)

Q: Do you have any tips for people planning a river cruise, tour or visiting Indochina?

We recommend visitors be open-minded, bring along a sense of humor, adventure and book well in advance for your first choice of cabins and hotels.

Q: What types of activities are popular in the Indochina region?

Street food tours, photography tours, cooking classes, visits and experiences with local experts arranged to suit each person's own interests.

Q: In your opinion, where is the best scenic view and why is it the best?

The best scenic views we recommend are in Luang Prabang, Laos. The pace of life here is extremely laid back and has changed little for centuries, which makes it arguably the region's most captivating destination yet the quietest. Laos has stylish, elegant towns such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang, which combine French colonial architecture, stunning Buddhist temples and a sleepy atmosphere far removed from other Asian cities, to create an intoxicating mix for the visitor. The countryside is no less fascinating, with the mysterious Plain of Jars and the unusual Mekong River islands all contributing to the unique ambiance of Laos.

Vietnamese fishing boats. | Hoi An, Vietnam
 

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