I write this review the morning after returning from a fantastic and highly memorable 12 day / 11 night trip to Vietnam and Cambodia planned and supported by this travel company. I was incredibly impressed by this company. I would use them again, and plan to recommend them to all of my friends and family. So what made the experience great? Let me count the ways...
As noted above, there were 3 special activities that our travel company helped to coordinate that really made an impression on my wife and I.
1) In the city of Hue, after visiting the ancient capital of the Nguyen dynasty, we drove through windy, narrow streets to the house of an ancient Mandarin (member of the royal court). We met the owner of the home, whose great grandfather had been a Mandarin, and he gave us a tour of the grounds (which featured multiple open-air buildings) and told us about how each was deliberately designed according to Fung Shui principles. Then, we had a private lunch in the guest house with delicious food and selection of beer and BOTTLES of wine of our choice, all already paid for by our travel company package.
2) In Siem Reap, Cambodia, after visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples, we drove about 20 minutes into the country where we went down a very long, very bumpy dirt road (our driver actually missed it the first time) until we reached a hidden Buddhist temple. We had an amazing foot massage and delicious picnic lunch in the shade of tall trees outside the temple, which we then explored after lunch. There weren't any other tourists around for miles. Truly a magical and memorable experience. One of my lasting memories will be lying on the picnic blanket looking up into the trees and listening to them rustle in the wind with complete quiet all around.
3) Also in Siem Reap, we ventured deep into the country side by boat to visit a bird sanctuary. We passed through a floating village, which is home to some of Cambodia's poorest (and friendliest) residents, and changed from our transit boat to a tiny fishing boat with local villager guides (our main guide stayed with us as well). We then ventured deep into the bird sanctuary, where we saw thousands of sea birds including pelicans, storks, herons, and many other varieties I can't name. As we rode through the marsh, our boat would send birds into flight from the surrounding reeds and we saw huge flocks take flight. In the middle of the marsh, we disembarked to climb a bamboo-and-rope ladder / staircase built by the villagers to reach a small platform at the top of a large tree (harrowing, but fun for us). Once on top of the tree, we were treated to beautiful 360 views of the sanctuary, along with a telescope to view the bird's breeding grounds. As we headed back to town, we saw hundreds of birds swirling around thermal air columns, at one point passing right over our heads.
We would have spent even more time in Cambodia. We spent 8 days in Vietnam and 3 in Cambodia; we really could have use 8 days in each country.
Given our time constraints, we chose (at the recommendation of our travel planner) to go to Siem Reap over Ho Chi Minh City. This was totally the right call, and I would recommend it for others that are looking to book a trip on a 2-week timeline that still allows time to recover from jet lag before heading back to work.
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