Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group. All accommodation is based on twin share. If you are a solo traveller you will share with another solo traveller of the same sex. Single supplements are available on some trips. If you are interested in booking a single supplement please contact us to check availability.
From the cool calm of rural villages to the steaming chaos of thriving cities, experience the diversity of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Along the way, revel in the sheer beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the locals and the intriguing ancient traditions that give each country its unique flavour.
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage?
Explore the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)
It's a long drive from Bangkok to Siem Reap (approx. 8-9 hours by private bus, including border crossing and lunch)
The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. It's markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Visit the world-famous Angkor complex. These temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day - watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so you'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Depending on the season there may be a chance to visit Tonle Sap Lake for a look at local life.
If you feel like some adventure you could do the optional flight of the Gibbon which is a ziplining course which gives you a birds eye view of the rainforest with an adrenalin rush thrown in.
Accommodation: Hotel (3 nts)
Travel by public bus to Kompong Cham (approx 4 hrs).
This peaceful town was once an important trading hub and is now a great opportunity to experience life in small-town Cambodia.
Explore the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor.
Hire a bike to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, linked to Kompong Cham by an elaborate bamboo bridge (passable only in the dry season, take a ferry in the wet). The locals here make their living fishing, growing tobacco and sesame so it's a good place to go for a closer look at Cambodia's cottage industry.
A little further afield are the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)
Catch a public bus to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approx 3 hrs).
Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture.
Head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields. This was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng and standing in this peaceful setting it's almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area.
Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
Explore Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. According to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill.
Check out the National Museum. Housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship.
Take in the sites by cyclo! Tours generally take in the following: central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument, finishing at the Royal Palace.
If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art deco-designed Psar Thmei (Central Market) which is a great place for browsing, or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)
Travel by private bus into rural Cambodia (approx 3 hrs).
Our homestay is a wonderful opportunity to witness everyday Cambodian life and in the evening we enjoy a traditional-style dinner. Facilities are basic and multishare with mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets all provided.
Accommodation: Homestay (1 nt)
A private bus takes us to Sihanoukville (approx 3 hrs).
Named for the Cambodian royal family, Sihanoukville has miles of beaches and warm, welcoming people.
Take a boat to one of the nearby islands, where you're free to enjoy a barbecue lunch and relax among swaying palms, white sands and blue waters.
Make a trip out to the Ream National Park - 21 hectares of coastal mangrove forest, which hosts a great variety of animal and bird species.
Accommodation: Hotel (2 nts)
Take a local bus to Phnom Penh (approx 4 hrs).
Why not indulge in a traditional massage at the Seeing Hands Massage parlours - they are some of the best in the city and your patronage supports the visually impaired masseurs, whose years of training are sure to work wonders on muscle aches and pains.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)
It's a long journey by local bus to Ho Chi Minh City (approx 6-7 hrs)
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt), Hong Thien Loc 2 hotel or similar (1 nt)
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. Then head to our overnight homestay along the water. We'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms with all meals included. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Accommodation: Homestay (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Arrive in Nha Trang at approx. 5am and transfer to your hotel.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
Spend your days here soaking up the sun on a lovely beach, exploring the local markets or checking out the ancient Cham Towers nearby. Make sure you try some of the excellent seafood restaurants.
Board an overnight train bound for Danang (approx. 8 hours) late evening on Day 5.
Accommodation: Cuong Long hotel Nha Trang or similar (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. Your leader will take you to places few tourists get the chance to see, past green rice paddies and small creeks, this is a true insight into country living in Vietnam.
Accommodation: Hai Yen hotel or similar (3 nts)
Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
You have a free day to explore. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
Board an overnight train bound for Hanoi (approx. 12 hours).
Accommodation: Victory Hotel Hue or similar (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Arrive in Hanoi very early (approx. 4am) and transfer to the hotel.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake.
Accommodation: Van Mieu Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stopping en route for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people.
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our boat and cruise the breathtaking bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters. We enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months.
Stay overnight in a hotel in Halong City (Bai Chay).
Accommodation: Entity hotel, Halong or similar (1 nt)
Take the ferry, followed by a bus back to Hanoi (approx. 3 hours) for some free time and a optional final group dinner.
The trip ends in the morning on Day 26
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation: Van Mieu Hotel or similar (1 nt)
CAMBODIAN FESTIVALS & HOLIDAYS:
During public holidays and festival periods in Cambodia many businesses may close, transport may be extremely busy and travel times may increase. During these times please be patient and consider these moments as an opportunity to interact with the locals. Particularly worth noting are Khmer New Year (3 days in mid-April), Pchum Ben (3 days in early October) and Water Festival (3 days in late November).
Tet is Vietnam's New Year festival, held annually in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. While this can be a fascinating time to travel and experience this event, expect some shop closures and busier than usual local transport. Opening hours at some tourist sites may also be affected or closed. Although we make all reasonable efforts to avoid disruption, a flexible approach from the traveller is appreciated.
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
The Cambodia/Thailand land border is occasionally closed due to flooding. If this is the case, we may need to alter the itinerary and fly - at the travellers expense.
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
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