by Brooke Allison, May 2015
I recently had the privilege to travel to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with the amazing Wendy Wu tours. What an amazing experience it was. Having never been to any of these counties I was excited to sink my teeth into the culture, local cuisine & sights all 3 countries had on offer.
Upon arrival into Siem Reap, we were met by our local guide, Nee, greeting us with a happy smile, air conditioned mini bus and fresh cold water after our flight with Vietnam airlines. Wow what a beautiful, colourful city Siem Reap was. There are 1081 temples in Cambodia and we were lucky enough to see many of these historical landmarks and what stunning & unique temples they were. My highlights being the Bakong Temple, Ta Prohm Temple (where Tomb Raider was filmed with Lara Croft) and last by not least, witnessing the sunrise over the famous Angkor Wat Temple.
Our next adventure then began in Laos, where we had 2 nights in Luang Prabang and yet again, what an beautiful, historic city to arrive into. This is where I really felt and lived like a local.
This small town with a population of only 450,000 is where we began our city tour with EK our local guide. Starting at the UNESCO National Museum, formally the royal palace, we then climbed the 300 steps to the top of Mt Phousi to witness a 360 degree view of the city, followed by a visit the most beautiful temple of Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong. We finished off our amazing day with a traditional dinner and local Ramayana Performance.
The next morning we rose at dawn and lined the streets to partake in the daily Buddhist ceremony of Takbat. Hundreds of barefoot monks in the traditional orange robes, walked the streets, single file collecting food from us, the locals, of Luang Prabang, what an amazing, unique experience this was. After breakfast at the local bakery, we visited some local villages en route to the majestic Kuangsi Waterfalls for a refreshing swim in the most breathtaking falls I’ve ever seen!
Before we knew it sadly our time in Laos had come to an end, but our next adventure was only a short flight away, en route to the bustling city & sights of Hanoi in Vietnam. We were yet again, warmly welcomed on arrival by our local guide Ken, who was the most enthusiastic, knowledge guide I’ve ever had in all my travels. A guide can make or break your trip and Ken, along with all the other Wendy Wu local guides, really enhanced our experience & made our trip one never to forget! After a heavenly sleep in central Hanoi, we had an early start en route to one of the most famous sights of Northern Vietnam, the stunningly beautiful UNESCO recognized Halong Bay. Upon boarding our own private traditional boat, Halong Dream, we were greeted with friendly smiles and an amazing seafood feast with refreshing cold drinks. After many panoramic photos taking in the local surrounds of beautiful Halong Bay, we arrived at our next destination the fascinatingly, beautiful Thien Cung Caves. Known as the ‘Heavenly palace cave’, it is considered the most beautiful primitive caves of the Bay. Lit up like a Christmas tree inside the 10,000 square metres, the caves are famous for the unique stalactites and stalagmites with all different shapes and forms.
Our final day in Hanoi finished off with a bit of fun, venturing around the bustling and chaotic city of Hanoi by rickshaw. The local drivers took us through the bustling streets of Hanoi, past the City Hall, local temples, the Old City and the Opera House whilst dodging the hundreds of scooters, bikes & cars. What a fun and amazing way to see Hanoi, just like the locals do.
Our final destination was nearing, the famous city of Saigon, also known as Hoh Chi Minh city. Here we tackled the traffic, haggled at the Ben Thang markets and dined at the most amazing restaurant, KOTO, where they give the disadvantaged youth the possibility to learn & train here. To finish off our Vietnam adventure we cruised along the Mekong Delta, visited a local village for a traditional Mekong lunch and last but not least, got to experience seeing and walking through the historic Cu Chi tunnels.