Vietnam and Cambodia offer a colourful culture, poignant history and verdant landscapes. These countries are ideally suited to travelling by water as many of the most rewarding experiences are tucked away in the countryside through which the Mekong River passes.
With most leading cruise operators, all excursions are included in the price of your trip. Not only do these include visiting popular sights such as the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat and the Cu Chi network of wartime tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) but you’ll also have the chance to visit homes, schools, markets, monasteries and tiny villages.
This immersive approach enables you to see how ordinary people go about their daily lives, eat the food they do and experience less-seen landmarks and rituals. It adds a compelling dimension to your holiday without the hassle of having to make any complicated plans yourself.
Mix with the locals
You’ll get a glimpse of everyday life on the riverbank from the deck of your modern ship as you drift serenely along the Mekong. Rickety wooden houses on stilts lean haphazardly against each other. Children wave excitedly and shout “hello”; their fathers are fishing and tinkering with boat engines and their mothers sell rice, fruit and flowers in the floating markets.
Ashore, you’ll be taken off the beaten track to visit villages, where smiling people offer a warm welcome. You can find out how craftspeople work with silk, copper and silver, and learn how to make rice paper. You’ll get a taste of rural Mekong life on a rickshaw ride through village streets and on a cart pulled by an ox through paddy fields. There’s also the chance to be showered by lotus petals in a blessing by Buddhist monks at their monastery in Oudong, the former royal capital of Cambodia.
Sample regional food
Immersing your senses in the aromas and flavours of a region plays an important role in really getting to know a country. This is especially true in Vietnam and Cambodia, where the aromatic cuisine is a treat for the nose and taste buds.
As well as sampling regional dishes aboard your river vessel, docking overnight in Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh gives you the chance to dine ashore and mix with the locals. The cities are places of manic energy and riotous traffic, and crossing the road is almost impossible. The easiest option is to ask a local to see you across, preferably a Buddhist monk. His orange robe is hi-vis and no one would dare to knock down a holy man.
In restaurants, people tend to eat “family style”, sharing dishes. A typical Vietnamese meal will include rice, a meat or seafood dish, a vegetable dish, soup and fish sauce for dipping. The national dish is pho – a broth in which noodles, vegetables, and chicken, beef, pork or shrimp are added. Cambodia’s national dish is amok – a delicious fish curry steamed in banana leaves – and samlor macho trey (sweet and sour fish soup) and char kroeung sach ko (stir-fried lemongrass beef) are among other favourites.
The chef on board your river cruise ship may also take you to a market in Saigon to watch street food being prepared and to buy ingredients for an authentic Vietnamese cookery class back on board.
Leaving the big city, your guide may lead you to a riverside market in, say, the delta town of Sa Dec, where you can shop for everything from lotus stalks and rose apples to delicacies such fillets of skinned rats and deep-fried tarantulas (happily, neither are included for your cookery lesson).
Delve into history
Itineraries offered by leading river cruise operators include a hotel stay in Siem Reap with a pilgrimage to nearby Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s extraordinary 12th-century temple complex dedicated to the god Vishnu. Your guide will take you to witness sunrise or sunset over its ornate spires and regale you with colourful stories. Your visit may include a tour of the Bayon, the Khmer temple built for the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, and the atmospheric vine-smothered Ta Prohm, the so-called “Tomb Raider Temple”, constructed for his mother.
Reaching Phnom Penh, you will have the option of visiting the Killing Fields memorial of Choeung Ek and the S-21 Genocide Museum. Each tells the story, movingly and horrifyingly, of the terrible Khmer Rouge years. In the late Seventies an estimated third of Cambodia’s population was killed – chiefly educated Cambodians who were seen as a threat to Pol Pot’s regime. Teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers, diplomats – even those who could speak French or who wore glasses – were eliminated.
Not everyone may want to join this harrowing excursion but it is important to learn about and acknowledge what happened here only a few decades ago. Thankfully, Cambodia has come a long way since the dark days of the Khmer Rouge and the country has made a remarkable recovery. You’ll meet families, heads bowed, who come to pay their respects to those who suffered.
In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) you can delve into an underground world of guerrilla warfare in the 125-mile maze of Cu Chi tunnels dug by the Communist Viet Cong. The site contains trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, command centres. In some areas there were even large theatres and music halls to provide diversion for the troops.
The tunnels played a large part of military campaigns during the Vietnam War and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968, a series of surprise attacks on scores of cities, towns, and hamlets throughout South Vietnam. This played an important role in weakening US public support for the war and a slow, painful American withdrawal from the region.
River cruise operators in Vietnam and Cambodia include…
APT (0800 012 6683; aptouring.co.uk)
Avalon Waterways (0330 0588243; avaloncruises.co.uk)
Jahan (+84012217448; jahancruises.com)
Jayavarman (+84012217448; jahancruises.com)
Uniworld (0808 302 6270; uniworld.com)
Viking River Cruises (0800 319 6660; vikingrivercruises.co.uk)
The temperature has sharply fallen in Sapa in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai bringing snow.
Luu Minh Hai, head of the provincial Centre for Hydrometeorology Forecasting, said that the mountainous areas of Lao Cai saw the temperature of below zero degrees centigrade on Wednesday morning. Sapa Town has been covered by snow, particularly in the O Quy Ho Pass area.
Despite the chilling-bone cold, snow has attracted quite many tourists to Sapa.
Authorities of Sapa District have urged local residents to take measures to mitigate the worst effects of the snow.
Vietnam is poised to extend the validity of single-entry visas for U.S. citizens to one year to facilitate their travel and foster trade and commercial ties between the two countries, the lawmaking National Assembly said Monday.
U.S. tourists or business travelers currently can only apply for a three-month, single-entry visa for their Vietnam trips, and the American business community has repeatedly pushed for the term to be prolonged.
A proposal to extend the visa term to one year was delivered to the National Assembly at Monday’s meeting in Hanoi by Vietnam’s newly elected President Tran Dai Quang and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
Vietnamese citizens who wish to enter the U.S. for business and tourism purposes are now allowed to apply for a multi-entry, 12-month visa, and Vietnam should do the same on the basis of reciprocity, according to the proposal.
The proposition therefore calls on the National Assembly to approve a new diplomatic note on granting visas between Vietnam and the U.S., with the extended duration included.
The new visa term will facilitate the travel of U.S. citizens and boost Vietnam-U.S. trade and commercial ties, according to the proposal.
The proposition was discussed by lawmakers at the meeting.
Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly Tong Thi Phong, who chaired the event, eventually concluded that the legislative body “agrees to grant one-year visas” for U.S. citizens to enter Vietnam.
The Standing Committee of the National Assembly will prepare a resolution to officially ratify the diplomatic note as proposed by the president and foreign minister, Phong said.
The trekker would have to start 3 hours earlier than usual despite the dark, the cold and fog to be at the summit before the cable car is to open at 8:00.
After the grand opening in February 2016, the cable car system between Sapa and Fansipan is a hot topic to debate among community and trekkers. Spending only US$ 30, anyone can touch the legendary summit at 3143 meters within 20 minutes. Most of the peope agree that the cable car installation would change the beauty of Indochina roof, even some people think that the cable car will kill the Fansipan with the picture of the crowd at the Fansipan top.
With the experience of a real Fansipan trekker via the classic route, Mr. Kien Lam in Hanoi told us that “Fansipan would not die but our spirit would die slowly. The cable car would be a test for the trekkers’
determination and spirit.
The cable car system is ready to use in February 2016. The Sun Group has announced that they will open the cable car in 2nd Feb 2016. Be the first to experience the cable.
Start: 7:30 A.M
Date to start: 2nd Febururay 2016
Adult and child (taller than 1,3 m): US$ 33.00/person/ one way
Child: US$ 22.00/person/ one way
HOW TO GET TO SAPA STATION
Taxi: From the town center (Sapa Church), the Fansipan Legend is about 3 km, it costs US$ 3 to travel by taxi
Walk: please go to Thac Bac Street and go straight about 1 km, then turn left onto Nguyen Chi Thanh Street for 1,7 km more
Sapa Station area includes the station, Van Sam Buffet restaurant, Hoa Dao restaurant, Moc La cafe, shopping center and pagoda Thien Tu
Fansipan Station area includes the station, shopping center, Do Quyen restaurant, Pagoda Thanh Phong and the Fansipan peak
It normally takes people one or two days to reach the peak of Fansipan mountain on foot. The three-rope cable car system, invested by SunGroup, will carry passengers from the bottom to the highest point of the mountain in 15-20 minutes. It will come into operation on Vietnam Tet Holiday 2016
The world’s longest three-rope cable car system, extending from the northern Lao Cai Province’s Sapa Town to Fansipan peak, will open for passengers in February 2016.
The project’s investor SunGroup announced this at a recent meeting with the leaders of Lao Cai Province and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV).
The construction of the cable car is being carried out in the first phase of the Fansipan Sapa tourism complex.
The construction began on November 2, 2013 and is expected to be complete by National Day (September 2) in 2015. The cable car can carry a maximum of 2,000 passengers per hour, with each cabin accommodating 35 passengers.
The cable car will transport passengers from the base of the 3,143-metre Fansipan mountain to its highest point within 15 to 20 minutes. Currently, it takes one to two days to trek to the top of the mountain.
WHERE TO BOOK
Please contact Sapa Travel to have the cable car tickets to Fansipan in 2016
Office in Hanoi: representative by First Choice Travel– 18 Lane 32, Chua Ha Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Vietnam
Mobile: (+84) 912217448
Booking office telephone: 0203818888
The participants from 45 countries have join the Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa by Topas Travel & Denmark Embassy in Hanoi.
Sanya Khanchai (from Thailand) and Samantha Young (from USA) are the male & female winners for the 70-km racers.
We proudly welcome Mr. Sanya Khanchai to VMM 70km.
The ultra-champion of Thailand, now signed up for Vietnam Mountain Marathon ready to race to his limits.
Vietnam Mountain Marathon
24-27nd of September 2015. (Race day 26th of September)
Welcome to the hardest run in Vietnam! VMM is Unique trail running of 10km, 21km, 42km or 70km in a spectacular mountain region of north Vietnam.
Welcome to the mountains of Vietnam to thousands of yellow rice fields, water buffaloes and colorful ethnic minority groups. The small dirt roads and narrow trails will take you through the majestic mountains and valleys that are only used by locals. Each route will encompass challenging climbs, exhilarating descents and a true glimpse of local life through the rice fields and ethnic minority villages.
The trails – with cumulative positive vertical meters ranging from around 1000m (21km) to round 3000 meters (70km) – will be on a marked route, tagged at crucial navigational points. Water and fruit will be available at aid stations every 10-15km. Runners doing the marathon or the ultra-distance must bring their own additional energy bars, gel or personal food and other important mandatory equipment (see equipment). Given the altitude and general hard conditions this cannot be your first Full or Ultra Marathon.
Very strong sun or heavy rain is always a possibility in the mountains. Any participation in this unique event is completely at your own risk and you will be required to sign a waiver in order to participate.
After the race we will enjoy the very special social life of mountain runners and a good meal around a big bonfire where we can share our running experiences, the mountains and the twinkling stars above. Bring your family, your friends or join this unique event on your own. You don’t have to be a fast runner, but you better be tough and looking for a unique adventure of hiking or running.
You can also extend the journey and make the race a part of a longer active adventure in Vietnam.
How to get to Sapa:
We recommend all runners to buy a 3 or 4 days runners package from Hanoi, to the mountains and back to Hanoi.
From Hanoi International Airport
In order to reach the Bus Stop for your journey from Hanoi to the mountains, you need to calculate emigration at the airport, maybe 30min, plus 1 hour of driving from the airport to the Bus Stop. We can arrange your airport pickup to the Bus Stop or to your hotel in Hanoi center at the price of 15US$ per person.
Take the VMM bus to the mountains, packages runners only.
If you arrive during the morning/noon, you can leave your luggage at our VMM meeting point for free.
The meeting point is SumVilla Restaurant, which has 2 address:
– For motorbike or vehicles less than 29 seats: 100 Quang An street, Tay Ho Dist. Hanoi;
– For all kind of vehicles: Address: Ho Tay Villa, 10 Dang Thai Mai St., Tay Ho Dist. Hanoi.
From here you will pick up your departure at 1:00 PM
Hotel in Hanoi
Sapa Travel is a co-organizer of VMM and are happy to assist you in finding the best hotel for your budget. www.travelsapa.com
Traveling on your own to Hanoi/Sapa by bus or train
If you just want to buy the run and nothing more, we recommend that you buy your train ticket and hotel room minimum one month prior to the race and your bus ticket minimum one week before. Look out for bad dealers/buses/trains. Train Route: Hanoi- Lao Cai- Hanoi. Mini buses are running from Lao Cai Station to Sapa, be aware of bad mountain driving and high prices. We often hear that the total price are higher then when buying a package. Buses do drive directly from Hanoi to Sapa but they will stop many times and pick up other travelers along the road.
Arrive in Sapa and participate in VMM
Once you are in Sapa town, travelling on your own, we will take care of your transfer to the start and back to Sapa after finish. See the program pages
Then, from Hanoi, we recommend to get a short flight from Noi Bai Airport to Cam Ranh Airport. Check the flights at VietnamAirlines.com or VietJetAir.com
Indeed Nha Trang Bay is a natural world of sparkling sea, marine life and islands waiting to be explored in style. Emperor Cruises combines oriental style with contemporary luxury. Together these create the perfect recipe for exploration, luxury adventures, enchantment, relaxation and memorable experiences.
The official site: http://emperorcruises.com
The first luxury cruise operator to offer five-star experiential travel in Nha Trang Bay, the Emperor Cruises fleet is designed to be a sanctuary to ensure that every moment counts for the guests.
The benefit of a luxury cruise with Emperor Cruises is that, apart from being small ships with personalized service and outstanding facilities, on an all-inclusive basis often there is no bill to pay at the end whether on a two- or three-day cruise.
With Emperor Cruises, luxury doesn’t mean there won’t be adventure! Guests spend their time watching wildlife, scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, kayaking, embracing Mother Nature, and passing the time with their fellow passengers and crew.
Your clients will be some of the privileged few who have discovered the huge difference that a small luxury ship with truly personalized service can make. Anything that is required, Emperor Cruises staff will make it happen.
Emperor Cruises has been designed as a traditional ship but using high-quality materials with an exquisite gold-plated motif, fine silk, velvet and other luxury items such as brass, crystal and gem stones. Works of art commissioned from well-known Vietnamese artists will adorn the walls.
This masterpiece will be a place for the most sophisticated travelers to enjoy Vietnamese culture, history and gourmet cuisine, and where royal glamour and heritage will combine to create the epitome of elegance. Each VIP customer will be treated like an emperor and experience the best of the best, in privacy, and with every detail attended to.
Everything is designed in accordance with the particular requirements and preferences of individual travelers in mind. The private butler and reception services will be available round the clock.
During the day there is a choice of activities or just relaxation; in the evening there is time to socialize, indulge at the spa or enjoy the ‘Movies Under the Stars’ shown on the sundeck. Guests can even go fishing for squid if the weather permits.
On our luxury cruise there are only 16 passengers on board. Such small, boutique ships means they can slip into more exotic, unique and remote places in the bay.
All cabins are en-suite with ocean views and with private balconies. Meals and drinks can be taken anytime, anywhere.
The mini-bar is filled with complimentary drinks, including spirits. Guests also enjoy unlimited spa treatments and tai chi in the morning.
Emperor Cruises provide daily luxury return transfers by Mercedes Benz limousine service to and from Cam Ranh airport or a pick-up and drop-off service from hotels and resorts in Nha Trang. Upon request, we can arrange private charter airplanes, helicopters or sea planes to Nha Trang Bay.
The boats are available for FITs, GITS, and Charters. We recommend this special experience for seasoned leisure travelers, luxury adventurers, honeymooners, families, and special interest travelers, nature lovers, active travelers and photographers, groups of friends, VIPs and celebrities.
You can Sapa Travel to have the best rate for Emperor Cruise in Nha Trang
Sapa – What to Bring
Bring as little as possible but bring everything you need. Travelling light is much less of a hassle, so do not bring things you can do without.
Thanks to its geographic condition, Sapa has one of the most favourable climates in Vietnam. The temperature remains stably cool throughout the year though winter may see more severe changes, with frost and even snow (mostly from mid-December to mid-January).
Trying to predict the weather in Sapa is almost impossible. However, here is our best attempt:
Sapa weather is characterized by sub-tropical climate. However, as a result of the high latitude, weather in Sapa is cool all year round. In summer, Sapa does not suffer the harsh heat like that in coastal plains. Temperature in summer fluctuates from 10 – 18 °C at night time and 20 – 32°C during the day. When the sun shines it can be harsh and even on cloudy days, expect to need sun protection. Rain and fog is possible throughout the year.
In winter, Sapa Town is often blanketed by fog and cold air. Temperature may fall to below zero Celsius.
Luggage and bags: Most hotels in Sapa have temporary room for trekkers to wash up on arrival or departing from/to Hanoi. Most trekkers leave their main luggage in the room and take a lighter backpack for treks and homestays. A day pack to bring on your treks is a good idea. These can be bought in Sapa. ETHOS can store luggage securely should you require.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring clothes to suit the local weather. Always keep your spare clothes in a watertight bag to ensure they stay dry if there is a sudden downpour. The Sapa climate is totally unlike the rest of Vietnam. Essential items to have for the trek are some layers of warm & light clothing (morning can be cold but get pretty warm during the day as you trek). A pair of sturdy trekking shoes is essential. In January to March it can be quite cold, foggy and rainy. A fleece and raincoat/poncho is advisable. These items are available in Sapa at good prices.
Photo Equipment: Bring your camera. Any camera will do. You will regret it if not bringing one!
Recommended Kit list for homestays:
Long-Sleeved Shirt / T-Shirt Yes
Fleece for evenings Yes
Trousers (Such As Lightweight Cargo Trousers, Avoid Jeans) Yes
Lightweight Water & Wind Proof (Jacket & Trousers) Yes
Walking Shoes (Sturdy, with good grip) Yes
Sun Hat Yes
Toothbrush & Toothpaste: Yes
Travel Towel Yes
Insect Repellent Recommended
Sun Protection: Yes
Travel Insurance: Yes
Ear Plugs & Eye Mask Optional
For our Mountain Riders motorbike trips, long sleeves, long trousers and strong shoes are essential.
A common question is that how many H’mong porters to assist you in the tour to Fansipan Mount.
The Answer from Sapa Travel is that the ratio should be 1:2 for porters/passengers. If your group is 2 pax, you need one porter to carry the food. If you are 10 trekkers, we will have 5 H’mong porters to help you to trek to the peak.
Don’t ask for more porters to carry to luggage. Just bring with you the light backpack.
The Hmong are a proud people and utilising them in a way you are proposing is something we are not aligned to as an organisation that wants to promote social equality and positive cultural exchanges.
Nam Cang commune is the most remote region of Sapa district, situated 36 km from Sapa town. The village is inhabited by the Red Dao & Black Hmong minority people. The commune includes 267 households with round 1,578 persons. Before year 2000, nearly 80% of households were in hunger and poverty and over 70% of the population were illiterate, but due to a local development plan the and investments in education and farming the population is now living under much better conditions however still poor.
As part of the development strategy the growth of cardamom was initially a pilot project in two households in the commune. But as the result with high economic outcome quickly change the numbers of farmers. Now, Nam Cang farmers grow around 600 hectares of cardamom deep in the forest with an important income in return. But still the biggest croup is rice, whish is somehow the foundation of all livelihood in the mountainous area.
During your stay you are welcome to participate in daily traditional activities of Nam Cang people: rice planting or harvesting, fishing, archery, silver smith, bamboo paper making.
Nowaday, the Topas Travel has built a community-based home stay for travellers. It is called Nam Cang Riverside Lodge. Located deep in the remote Sapa Valley with a beautiful river running in front of the lodge and green forest just behind you don’t find a better location for staying overnight in an old traditional minority village, in the heart of the Vietnamese mountains. This new lodge is built and owned by a Red Dao minority family and operated in partnership with Sapa Travel and opened in the end of 2013.
The area is brand new to visitors so prepare to whiteness the real and remote Vietnam when we go beyond the normal tourist routes, the surprised but friendly looks of local minority people, the children who swim in the river next to your lodge and to be welcomed to private homes as the local mountainous hospitality is unique.
We hope you would like to share our interest in unique experiences and welcome you a remote stay but in comfortable rooms combined with good food and service.
To book the package to Nam Cang Home Stay, contact our travel expert, Mr. Tran Quoc Long
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Sapa Travel Website