Wanna go to Cambodia and Vietnam? Ummm sure…I guess…
This trip was Chris’s idea. To me, Cambodia and Vietnam seemed exotic, unfamiliar, and to be honest, a bit scary. We forged ahead since Chris really really wanted this trip (he’s a huge history and war buff) and I love to explore so I figured I’d come around. Great call! My nerves eased once I started learning more about both countries (see the “Preparation” tab for books and movies related to Cambodia and Vietnam). And excitement skyrocketed once I finally got my butt in gear and dug into planning our itinerary and sightseeing.
We traveled for 31 days total with seven days in Cambodia and the rest in Vietnam. So what’s the verdict? I’M SO GLAD WE WENT! We loved both countries and hope to go back someday, especially to explore the hill country of northern Vietnam. My travel articles will dive into a lot more detail, but these quickie impressions/summaries are straight from my travel notes, written as we were winging our way home:
- What I’ll miss: Cultural immersion, history lessons, motorbiking, kids shouting “Hay-lo!!”, town markets, cà phê sữa, street food, river valleys, rice paddies, karst, wondering what each day will bring.
- What I miss from home: Family, friends, carpet, proper bathrooms, clothes without sweat stains, cars that stop for pedestrians, Diet Dr. Pepper, proper cake, salad, clean air, being able to chat with strangers (language barrier!), sidewalks, sidewalks without motorbikes, sidewalks without burning trash, smoke-free restaurants, cushioned seats, water I can trust.
Ha! There’s no place like home. The “what I miss” list can seem like a list of negatives, but most really weren’t, they were just differences. A month of traveling abroad made me appreciate the many little things we take for granted in our daily lives. Sure, both countries were often dirty and smelly and traffic was bonkers, but the people, food, history, culture, landscapes…loved it!!
One other thing I’ll miss about Cambodia and Vietnam: Both countries were cheap, cheap, cheap. We thought Cambodia was inexpensive but Vietnam took prices to a new low with $2.50 entrees and fresh beer for 25 cents a glass. Transportation and lodging followed suit with $3 tuk-tuk rides, Uber Motos for 65 cents each, and hotel stays for $25-$35 a night. It was hard to come home to higher prices!
A few random tips:
- Bring crisp, new money to Cambodia. They don’t accept worn or damaged bills.
- Always ask for prices in advance before taking a boat, tuk-tuk, taxi, ordering food, etc.
- When haggling, start at 25% of their original price, shoot to pay 50%, and always be willing to walk away. Or try, fail, and pay close to the original price like I often did! It was still fun 🙂
- If getting SIM card, take your passport; we needed it to get a SIM card in Cambodia.
- Always have toilet paper or tissue for bathrooms, just in case. Generally don’t throw TP in the toilet; put it in the wastebasket.
See below for trip posts for Cambodia and Vietnam. Check out the trip map (on the “Map” tab) for restaurants and hotels that might not have been mentioned in articles. Note: I have listed articles below that I have yet to write! I’m switching things up and posting the Trip Summary first and will add to the lists below as new articles are published. If you have questions about anything (current or future posts), please email!
Cambodia and Vietnam
- Itinerary for a month-long trip to Cambodia and Vietnam
- Impressions of Cambodia and Vietnam
- Cambodia’s Tortured Past: It’s Never to Late to Learn: Under Pol Pot’s oppressive regime, some 2–3 million Cambodians were killed in one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. This post shares our visits to Tuol Sleng (S–21) security prison and the Choeung Ek killing field, along with movies and books that help shed light on this horrifying period in Cambodian history.
- A Siem Reap Tour That Gives Back: Community First Kompong Khleang Floating Village Tours: This group offers meaningful, responsible tours of floating villages south of Siem Reap on the Tonle Sap and a chunk of each tour fee supports the Bridge of Life School in Kompong Khleang.
- 2 Days in Phnom Penh
- 3 Days in Siem Reap
- 3-Day Motorbike Tour: One of our favorite memories from Vietnam!
- Day 1: Dong Hoi to Phong Nha: This recounts day one of our motorbike trip and also details our quick sightseeing around Dong Hoi the day before.
- Day 2: Phong Nha to Khe Sanh: Our ride plus info about the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Vietnam’s ethnic minority villages.
- Day 3: Khe Sanh to Hue: Our DMZ day! Read about the Khe Sanh Combat Base (and the Battle for Khe Sahn), the history of the Hien Luong Bridge, and the Vinh Moc Tunnels.
- 2 Days in Can Tho
- 3 Days in Ho Chi Minh City
- 2 Days in Hue
- 3 Days in Hoi An
- 2 Days on Cat Ba Island
- 2 Days in Hanoi