Travelled and Written By Emma Osman
We began our trip with a touch down for 24 hours in Hong Kong. Though tired, we ventured out to a local dim sum destination for lunch— where we ate waaaay more than necessary for a jetlagged group who already had 3 meals on the plane! We toured around the city for the rest of the day, experiencing the old and the new before getting some rest before our early morning journey to Cambodia. In Cambodia, we experienced a variety of local transportation— from ATVs to rickshaws to oxcarts to boats through floating villages, and relaxed at the beautiful Amansara in the afternoons.
After 3 days of experiencing amazing temples in the heat of Siem Reap and attempting to cross the wild, busy roads of the city, we flew to Hoi An. In Hoi An, we toured the old city and temples at Marble Mountain, all while enjoying the Four Seasons Nam Hai in our evenings. Next we moved to Halong Bay, where we spent the night on a "junk", a house boat that took us around the islands. Though it was chilly, the many mysterious islands and caves of Halong Bay were a sight to see. Finally, we ended our journey by touring Hanoi— the capital city of Vietnam. We saw the grand burial sight of Ho Chi Minh, and went on a motorcycle adventure tour of the backroads— an exciting highlight of the trip. Overall, we loved the friendliness and adventure of Cambodia, and the historic beauty of Vietnam.
Where To Stay
The Amansara in Siem Reap was an absolute must-stay. Siem Reap attracts huge crowds of tourists coming to visit Angkor Wat, and other hotels we passed in the area were massive and impersonal. The staff of the small (26 rooms) Amansara resort greeted us so personally every time we arrived back from touring— even remembering that we loved their lime juice and having a glass ready for when we returned! The food was amazing and we loved relaxing by the pool and enjoying the amenities of the spa. They made the experience of Cambodia even more awesome.
What To Eat
In Hoi An, we loved experiencing a local restaurant specializing in Banh Mi— a Vietnamese sandwich. The flavors were so strong and different from flavors in typical American meals and we loved the crazy crowded atmosphere! There was a line down the block. In Hanoi, we loved Hidden Gem, a small coffee shop serving egg coffee, a surprisingly delicious Vietnamese specialty made with a raw egg yolk whipped up with a teaspoon of alcohol. The trendy coffee shop looked like it would fit in in Brooklyn, and all of the decor was made from recycled materials. It's a must visit destination for a fun cup of coffee.
What to Do
The obvious stop in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, but we loved visiting nearby temples, and spending a day on a boat where we visited a floating village and were able to speak to a couple living on the river with their 10 children and now over 20 grandchildren! Definitely visit Pub Street at night to experience the fast-paced nightlife of Siem Reap.
In Hanoi, take a guided motorcycle tour with Hanoi Backstreet Tours. We rode on the back of bikes with experienced (and super interesting and friendly) drivers, and were able to view things that an average tourist on foot or on a bus would not see— like the black market and the back country. Our adventurous guides even encouraged us to venture out onto a busy bridge— with train tracks!!— for an awesome photo-op.
Don't Leave Without
Stopping at a street market in either Cambodia or Vietnam to bargain with the vendors. Their souvenirs include adorable wooden buddhas, woven purses, and beads, and they love to chat with you as you shop. The markets are packed, and you'll experience the scents and flavors of spices and local foods as you look around. It's an experience just to pass through!
To beat the crowds at Angkor Wat, we woke up at 4, arriving at the temple an hour before sunrise to secure our spot across a small pond. By 5 minutes before sunrise, a crowd of over a hundred people had gathered, but only our group had front row seats to watch the sunrise over the temple, and see it reflect on the pond. Though it was a tough wake up, it was worth it for the views. It's also important to note that for a visit to Angkor Wat, you'll need to cover your shoulders, even on the hottest days.
Finally, in Hanoi, we loved our guide Tommy, who we got through Remote Lands, the company that planned our trip. Tommy, in addition to being an awesome guide, owns the motorcycle tour company, and our favorite Hidden Gem coffee shop. He is passionate about the environment and about fighting poverty in Vietnam, and gave us a unique perspective about Hanoi, and Vietnam in general.
Kelly’s Packing List
From top to bottom, left to right: Talitha Crochet Top, Dr. Sturm Travel Essentials, Clyde straw hat, Corroon puffy kit, Mes Demoiselles seersucker romper, Sensi Studio wrap top, Three Graces Kaftan, Ancient Greek Sandals slides, Gabriella Hearst shorts through Net a Porter.