Following the curvature of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City has become one of Southeast Asias classic trails with Mekong cruises the culmination of a tour that can also include imperial walled cities, limestone monoliths and some of the finest beaches this side of Thailand. Over the border in Cambodia, parallels await with the all too recent past following a familiar pattern, although the unique experience of Angkor Wat, it has to be said, is something else entirely. If youre looking for similarities between Vietnam and Cambodia, youll find them. If youre looking for differences, yes, they exist, obviously. However, if youre hoping to untie cultural threads through street food stalls, homestays, temple visits and by not sticking your head in the sand when it comes to the regions history, then, for goodness sake, dont let a little old river like the Mekong stand in your way.
Find out more in our Cambodia and Vietnam travel guide.

Why combine Cambodia & Vietnam?

One vacation, two countries


Laura Farnell, Destination Manager at our supplier, Intrepid Travel, explains why combining Cambodia and Vietnam works: Cambodia and Vietnam are really unique in terms of culture, religion, history, modern development and landscapes. The beauty of combining both countries in one tour is that youre able see tangible differences without having to travel a huge distance to do so.
Same-same, but different was once, perhaps still is, a stock phrase in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, and on this occasion it also fits quite nicely into reasoning why its wise to combine Cambodia and Vietnam within the same tour. Forever linked by the Mekong Delta and shared borders with Laos and Thailand, traveling from Hanoi to Siem Reap or vice versa has become far more than simply a rite of passage for backpackers and instead offers opportunities to escape and experience Asia, without the gap yah influence.
Perhaps its the snaking physical geography of Vietnam that naturally leads you south, along the coast, and into Cambodia. Maybe its the allure of Angkor Wat and the ancient sites proximity to Ho Chi Minh City, just 10 hours by road, or the ease of border crossings from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh, undertaken by boat ride on the Mekong River. Comparing cultures, expanding historical context, searching for the best beach, the most mountainous jungle trail; whatever the reason, Cambodia and Vietnam vacations work and we think youll find them anything other than samey.



No matter where you start, traveling across Cambodia and Vietnam takes you through some of Southeast Asia's quintessential scenes with the limestone karsts of Halong Bay and the temples of Angkor Wat just a couple of cultural contrasts to point you in the right direction. Following the Vietnamese coast south from Hanoi can take you, via overnight train, to Hue and Hoi An, in the centre of the country, whereas to the west of Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam, the Mekong River can be followed past Phnom Penh, in central Cambodia, to afford effortless border crossings alongside ever-changing tales of the riverbank.
Angkor Wat Halong Bay Hue Kampong Thom Province Mekong Delta Phnom Penh

Angkor Wat

You'll need at least a couple of days to do Angkor Wat justice and although it's fun to explore the creeper entwined temple ruins on your own best hide and seek setting ever there's nothing like the knowledge and passion of a local guide to bring Cambodia's ruined citadel to life. Timing is everything on a temple tour with Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom appreciated earlier or later in the day.

Halong Bay

Just four hours from Hanoi, although another world away when it comes to surreal landscapes, Halong Bay forms the world's largest marine karst setting with over 2,000 limestone monoliths rising from the water like giant pairs of knees in a bath. Set sail on a wooden junk boat and discover secret sandy coves and eerily dripping caves before watching the sun cast shadows as it sets into the sea.


Substantial stonework signifies Hue's standing in Vietnam with an emerald green moat surrounding the Imperial Citadel reflecting the might of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as crumbling royal tombs and the war effected ruins of the Forbidden Purple City. Explore Hue on the back of a motorbike or on-board a dragon boat on the Perfume River, before banh khoai (rice cakes) at Dong Ba market.

Kampong Thom Province

Situated to the southeast of Siem Reap, Kampong Thom holds some significant archaeological sites, pre-dating those at Angkor, to provide a fascinating history tour, without the crowds. Aside from the Sambor Prei Kuk temples, overnight homestays, in nearby Sambor Prei Kuk, invite home cooked Khmer meals as you ease into village life, way off the tourist trail.

Mekong Delta

There's only one way to cross from Vietnam to Cambodia and that's along the Mekong Delta. River banks are alive with industry as kids wave and fathers fish, and floating markets, like Cai Be and Cai Rang, invite a glimpse at life on the water where rice, fruit and flowers are cultivated to stock stalls in Saigon and beyond. Paddle by sampan or just watch the world gently chug by on board a river boat.

Phnom Penh

The capital of Cambodia is set at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers to provide its inhabitants with free flowing imports and exports from which cottage industries, street stalls and marketplaces thrive. This is Cambodia, for real. Local life extends way beyond Angkor Wat with French colonisation and the appalling legacy of the Khmer Rouge, dealt with, but not forgotten.

Photo credits: [Helpdesk: siribao] [Map intro: Phalinn Ooi] [Angkor Wat: Jerry Luo] [Halong Bay: Lawrence Murray] [Hue: Arabsalam ] [Kampong Thom Province: Baldiri] [Mekong Delta: Davidlohr Bueso] [Phnom Penh: Phalinn Ooi]
Written by Chris Owen
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