Vietnam and Indochina holidays are a charming combination of tradition and modernity that should be explored at a leisurely pace. By exploring Indochina (parts of Southeast Asia) it is possible to immerse yourself in completely different countries. Vietnam's cities are urban sprawls and frantic, yet still a friendly and safe destination to explore with plenty of French-style tranquillity. Laos is a country that is unspoiled and entrancing which has retained its old-fashioned charm with its French-Indochinese temple, riverside settlements, and stilted wooden huts. Cambodia is well known for its magnificent temples, including the famous Angkor Wat, while this country is also appreciated for its unforgettable spirit and extraordinary food. Thailand has a beautiful backdrop of ravine valleys and mountains with exceptionally hospitable old tribes and plenty of hidden beaches.
The Indochina travel packages make it possible to embark on a thrilling journey that lets you immerse yourself in astonishing sights, scenery and tradition. Why not take a look at our Indochina Travel Guide to really see what these Southeast Asian countries have to offer for a remarkable trip.
Best time to visit Southeast Asia
The best time to experience the Indochina tours is between November and February. Throughout this period the weather is slightly cooler, less humid and relatively dry. However, the weather can be quite cold in certain areas, such as Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. The weather system in Laos is quite easy to predict and usually dry during the period November to April, but the temperature can significantly increase for the period March to June when it can be unbearably hot for many tourists. In the south of Vietnam the temperature is generally warm and humid year-round, with October to December the preferred time to travel in North. In Cambodia it is possible to experience the lush paddy fields during the period June to October.
People and language
Vietnam's has 54 ethnic groups with the main language spoken being Vietnamese. Cambodia is unlike much of the rest of Southeast Asia and only has one ethnic group which is the Khmer and are mainly Buddhist. In Laos there are nearly 125 different tribes that are split into four different languages. The largest ethnic group is the Tai-Kadai while the least developed is the Sino-Tibetan who still hunts and gathers. In Thailand, the majority ethnic group is Thai which has descendents of Khmer, Lao, Burmese, Malaysian, Indian and Chinese tribes.
Enjoy the historic lure
Any traveller experiencing the Indochina tours is certain to appreciate the historic charm. From the ancient Vietnamese port town of Hoi An with its traditional wooden houses, silk tailor shops and lantern lined streets to Cambodia and the iconic site of Angkor Wat which is one of the largest religious monuments on the planet. The atmosphere of the Indochina tour is certain to bring many memories of yesteryear. When you reach Laos there are still many areas that are left untouched. It has the world Heritage site in Luang Prabang, which includes architecture from the French colonial era. Other attractive sites include The Plain of Jars at Phonsavan which showcases the early history of Southeast Asia.
Using the best transportation methods
Most of the tour itineraries for Vietnam and Indochina holidays are prepared so that the tourist is able to move from city to city in the fastest way possible. In most cases this is via internal flights which are significantly faster than attempting to travel most of the regions by road. In certain areas of Vietnam's for instance the road conditions are quite dreadful and can be uncomfortable to travel over the long distance. Other easy ways to travel include the Mekong River trips that will definitely speed up the process of getting from one location to the next. In certain regions it can take 6 to 7 hours to traverse by road, but this time is significantly reduced to about one hour on an internal flight. Also the bus rides can be extremely slow and take a day or two to arrive at the next destination, so are generally avoided. Even though with are often delays on the domestic airlines, this is still much more preferable to the slow road travel.
Citizens from most countries require a visa to travel to Vietnam. Although there are certain exceptions in place which make it possible to visit the country for a period of up to 15 or 30 days without needing to organize the relevant visa. The Visa is easily organized by Vietnam visa provider (www.vietnamvisaprovider.com) before arriving in the country or on arrival at certain airports or border crossings.
For the visitor to Cambodia it is necessary for citizens from virtually all countries to obtain the Visa, although this may not apply to citizens of ASEAN nations. The standard visa is usually valid for a period of up to 30 days. Also, it is not possible to apply for the multiple entry visas, so it is necessary to arrange a separate Visa for each entry into this country.
For the ongoing trip to Laos it is the same for citizens of most countries to obtain the relevant visa paperwork, although this may not apply to certain non-ASEAN nations like South Korea, Russia, Japan and China. The Visa has a valid period of 30 days and similar to Cambodia it is not possible to organize the multiple entry visa so separate visas are required for each entry into the country.
Even though the Visa application process can be more expensive to obtain in advance, this is still the most convenient option, and ensures you have the appropriate paperwork with you at all times. However, it is still relatively easy to get the Visa on arrival in the particular country.
Places to visit on a complete Indochina tour
To get the full experience of what Southeast Asia has to offer, a combination tour that includes the different Indochina countries is certain to be the most appealing option. The rural atmosphere and beauty of the Mekong Delta is easily combined with the vibrant lifestyle in Thailand, while in Cambodia you have the astounding culture, and in Laos you have the lackadaisical charm that can provide a truly captivating experience in these beautiful countries.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
One of the major reasons to visit Cambodia is the ability to explore Angkor Wat temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and visited by thousands of tourists on a daily basis. The jungle-clad ruins are easily explored in several different ways, including walking amongst the ruins or even having a local cruise to get an alternative view of these ancient artefacts.
Ratanakiri is a sparsely populated province that has a border with both Vietnam and Laos, and the relatively flat landscape of this country means it is rich in dense jungle, mountains, waterfalls and rolling hills. This is a dream destination for the adventurous, especially those that have an interest in kayaking or hiking. For a true cultural experience it is even possible to visit the local hill tribes which still to this day retain their own traditions and language.
Golden Triangle, Thailand
The Golden Triangle is a region of northern Thailand that converges with areas of Myanmar and Laos, where the Mekong River and Ruak join. On the Thai side, it is possible to explore the historic ruins and buildings that are dated as far back as the Lanna era. Also, by moving further into Laos it is possible to view the partially buried ruins of Souvanna Khomkham which dates back to the fifth century.
Chiang Rai, Thailand
Chiang Rai in Thailand has some very noteworthy sites to explore throughout its countryside which is perfect for spotting exotic wildlife and outdoor activities. Plus, it is also a great destination to experience some of the more traditional Thai life and visit the local clans who live in bamboo houses and each of the villages has its own distinct character.
Bangkok is the vibrant and crazy capital city of Thailand, which has the ability to combine traditional and cosmopolitan. This city is easy to explore on the river boat, tuk-tuk, or on foot. It has plenty of floating restaurants, palaces, temples and markets. Additionally, there are plenty of food stalls to enjoy the local cuisine, which can be easily recreated by attending one of the many cookery classes.
Even though Laos might not be on the top of the list of tourist sites to explore compared to its infamous neighbours, it is still able to offer a destination that is relatively untouched with seductive seclusion and old world charm. It would be an incredible opportunity missed to not explore this intriguing country on any Southeast Asian tour.
Luang Prabang, Laos
One of the most pleasing sights to explore in Laos is Luang Prabang, which is rich in French-Indochinese architecture, enrobed monks chanting and plenty of burnt orange colonial houses. This area is mostly protected as a World Heritage site that is certain to appeal to those interested in the history and culture of this country.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a great way to experience the urban Vietnamese life with its roaring motors, temples, and lively markets. This is one part of Vietnam that can be experienced over several days with excellent places to explore, including the Taoist temples, Chinatown, War Remnants Museum and the Ben Thanh Market. Plus, there is plenty of variety with the street food which is not only delicious but also unbelievably cheap.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
One of the most distinctive sights in Vietnam is Halong Bay which is a UNESCO site and offers the largest marine karst landscape in the world. There are nearly 2000 limestone rocks that have risen from the depths of the emerald waters. There is plenty of opportunity to experience a cruise on one of the classic wooden junks that make it possible to explore the secluded caves that are scattered throughout the local area.
Con Dao Archipelago, Vietnam
Con Dao Archipelago in Vietnam was once an island prison, but is now part of a national park that is rich in endemic species, thriving reefs, primary rainforests and a shelter for nesting sea turtles. This is a relatively remote area that hasn't seen much development, but is starting to attract the attention of the tourist and hotel chains.
Tips for travelling in Indochina
Even though the Indochina package tour isn't likely to include a lot of hard walking or trekking, it can still benefit to be relatively fit in order to climb the temples or mountainside steps, as well as move through some of the tunnel systems.
Try to travel as light as possible. The basic money belt is a practical option for storing the mobile, passport and money at all times.
The Indochina travel is that much more enjoyable if able to fully embrace the experience with an open mind and appreciate the different culture, food and bargaining.
If planning the complete travel Indochina experience it can benefit to take along a fleece and a couple of sweaters. Even though it may be warm in Laos during the day, the nights can be cold in North. This is completely different to Cambodia and Thailand where the weather is generally warm enough during the day and evening without needing to wear extra layers.
The countries that make up Indochina are deeply religious and therefore it is essential to fully appreciate their way of life. When visiting the temples or other religious buildings it is essential to keep the upper arms and knees covered, so long-sleeved tops and pants are desirable. Plus, it is appropriate to remove the shoes before entering these buildings.