How to best experience Vietnam and Cambodia
This is my point of view as well as some tips and advice from my recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with my family. We visited the most popular destinations of Vietnam, some call the 5Hs: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, plus Siem Reap in Cambodia
I will not go into details of my trip, but here’s something I want to share as tips while traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Don’t forget to try the street foods
To really experience the local cuisine, you have to try the street foods. And only eat the food where it is considered local delicacy. For example, a bowl of pho is at its best in Hanoi. We had pho in the south, but it was nothing like in the north, fattier and the sweet flavor in the broth was not the same. Food in Hue was also very good, though a little bit spicy for small kids. Overall, we enjoyed eating in Hanoi the most. Apart from pho, there were bun cha (Vietnamese BBQ with vermicelli), fresh and fried spring rolls and cha ca (grilled fish). I don’t think we will find these flavors again at home, although there are quite a few Vietnamese restaurants in the States. Oh, and if you’re in Cambodia, don’t forget to try the Cambodian Khmer noodles and the red Khmer curry.
Don’t forget to eat at fine dining restaurants also
If you like French cuisine, Hanoi is a place to be. While staying in Hanoi, we had a dinner at Le Beaulieu of Sofitel Metropole, a fantastic French restaurant. And it was one of the best dinners we as family have ever had. In Ho Chi Minh City, we even had more choices for international cuisine, from Thai, Japanese to Italian and American BBQ. Overall, I think we managed to find a perfect balance between local and international cuisine during the trip.
How many days in each destination?
While this depends heavily on the amount of time you have for the whole trip as well as personal preference, we think at Hanoi, Hoi An and Siem Reap, you have to spend at least 3 full days. Though it’s not the biggest city in Southeast Asia, there is still so much to see in Hanoi, not just the Old Quarter. Hoi An should deserve a good amount of time because apart from the ancient town area, the beach here is also very beautiful. For Halong, I think it would be a flaw not staying on an overnight cruise. For Hue, one full day is enough unless you want to stay and relax at a resort here. Two full days for Ho Chi Minh City if you have already spent much time in Hanoi. It is the best place in Vietnam for shopping though.
Mekong River Cruise
At first, our initial plan was staying at 5-star hotels throughout Vietnam and taking a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. But back then, we were not limited of time so we decided on some 4-star hotels to save some money for a Mekong cruise to get to Siem Reap. We decided to take that advice and did not regret. We chose Jayavaraman and had a great time together. On the cruise, we also encountered lots of other families as well as couples. The day excursions during the trip were also very nice.
The only regret
Was not being able to visit Laos, mostly because we could not spend an entire month for this trip.