With the expansion of airports across Asia and the pending opening up of London Heathrow to direct flights to Vietnam, getting to Vietnam and Cambodia has never been easier! With easier access for all you may be fooled into thinking that Vietnam and Cambodia have, as far as holidays go, seen the best of their quiet days. However, even when it comes to the most iconic sights such as Angkor Wat, there are still ample opportunities to escape the crowds and experience a more authentic Vietnam and Cambodia holiday.
One thing I should point out at this point is that a great way for avoiding crowds is to avoid the peak visiting periods. Typically the busiest times in both Vietnam and Cambodia are between the months of January and March. This is due to the fact that the worst of the rainy season is avoided, the temperatures are more manageable (25-35 Degrees Celsius) especially for the more popular destinations in central and southern Vietnam, however, the northern areas of Vietnam can be quite cold with temperatures ranging from 10 – 20 Degrees Celsius. So, if you can put up with the occasional or prolonged downpour, then the months of August to November are a great time to visits, or, it you can handle high humidity and temperatures (30 degrees Celsius plus) then May, June and July are ideal. Whatever time of the year you go these three suggestions should help you enjoy a slightly quieter holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia.
1. Angkor Wat:
Rather than the obligatory Tuk-Tuk or large and impersonal busses why not, for a more active holiday, see Angkor Wat by bike. There are plenty of local operators that can assist you with bike hire and rates start as little as $5 per day. As with all well laid travel plans be sure to book with a good local operator or book it with a travel agent before you leave home! If you do prefer to book before you leave then most specialist operators will be able to seek out alternative methods of seeing an Angkor Wat. This can include secret temple gateways, balloon rides and even helicopter rides around the famed temple complex. As a general rule of thumb it is almost impossible to avoid the crowds so try and stagger your timing. For example, most visitors will get up at the crack of dawn and travel by bus to the watch an Angkor sunrise and will then climb back on board and return to their hotels for breakfast and rest. A great way to capitalise on this mass migration out of Angkor is to pack a lunch (or visit a local eatery) and enjoy the relative peace offered by the tourist bus exodus during mid-morning.
2. Can’t holiday without the beach?
For some a holiday is simply not complete without some well earned beach time. Well, you’re in luck as Vietnam and Cambodia really are perfect destinations for the beach seeker and due to the sheer scale of the countries coastline you can easily find your spot on the beach. On Cambodia’s south coast most travellers will gravitate towards the resorts of Sokha beach (itself a great destination) but the less well know colonial towns of Kep and Kampot also offer incredible coastlines minus the crowds. It should be noted that aside from the crumbling colonial villa’s, stunning coastline and lush forest scenery Kep and Kampot are generally devoid of other activities and amenities so a couple of days here are ample, especially for those looking for a more consummate holiday experience. Although Vietnam is just over 1,00km in length – and much of it coastal – the traditionally popular coastal regions can be found in central Vietnam. Unlike the rest of the country the months of June, July and August are generally rain free making it an ideal spot for a beach break with mainly dry and hot conditions. Favourites include Nah Trang which is resplendent with accommodation that ranges from backpacker huts to ostentatious villa’s. Indeed, hotels such as the opulent Sixth senses spa have earned a global reputation for decadence and natural beauty – here special touches include swimming pools built it to limestone outcrops. If you’re looking for the beach holiday then yes, Vietnam and Cambodia are perfect!
3. Dalat in Vietnam and Cambodia in Battambang:
Battambang (Ancient Khmer for stick) is Cambodia’s second largest city (Phnom Penh being the largest) and has earned a reputation for retaining its provincial charm. A city that is symbolic of life before the dark days of the Khmer Rouge, I can’t recommend this city enough. The streets are dotted with charming colonial villa’s that have aged gracefully and many an hour can be spent wandering the streets stopping at the numerous coffee shops and bars. Seeking out a quiet spot along the Sangker River which languidly flows through the town is never an issue as is a great place to enjoy some of the cities freshly chopped fruit. Although it is a popular tourist destination it does not suffer from overcrowding, many Cambodia itineraries omit this sleepy city from their Phnom Penh and temples of Angkor itineraries.
Dalat is a love it or hate it destination. Located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam the city was once used by the French seeking refuge from the intense heat and humidity of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) during the summer months. If you are looking for a vibrant nightlife and energetic attractions then Dalat is not you place. However, if you are looking to escape the tourist trail and enjoy rolling hills, charming gardens and colonial and traditional Vietnamese architecture then Dalat is perfect. What is more due to Dalat’s relative isolation – it’s roughly 200 miles north east of Saigon – it is comparably quieter than other cities on located on the main tourist trail. Accommodation is not that varied and you are limited for choice to a handful of hotels per star category this city is worth drifting off the beaten track.
Wherever you choose a strictly Vietnam holiday or opt for the popular Cambodia Vietnam combination just try to enjoy the scenery, take time to drift away from the usual tourist trails and consult every source going before you leave.