Smiling Lady, Vietnam

South East Asia – Through Local Eyes



16 Days

Prices Start from

£11,785pp (ex. flights)

This holiday through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand combines immersive and joyful encounters with local characters, with introductions to gastronomic delicacies and the chance to explore celebrated sites away from the crowds.

Journey from the temples, markets and paddy fields of Hanoi and Hoi An in Vietnam to the shores of the Mekong and the incredible temple complex of Angkor in Cambodia. Finally experience the unique buzz of Bangkok. Throughout, meeting local communities with a strong sense of identity and an open and engaging nature – experiencing their country from their perspective is a privilege and one of the joys of travelling in this part of the world.

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Street Vendor, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 1

Travel like a Local

Explore on foot, by ox cart, three wheeled cyclo, motorbike sidecar, tuk tuk, fishing boat and bamboo coracle.

Chef Nak, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 2

Custodians of Culture

Slow down and spend time with locals who are passionate about their country, their history and their traditions.

Aqua Mekong, Mekong River, Vietnam 3

A Sense of Place

Cruise the Mekong aboard the contemporary Aqua and stay in properties from the Raffles to an eclectic boutique hideaway.

Market, Vietnam 4

Forgotten Flavours

Sample incredible ingredients and dishes, from street food to traditional home cooked recipes.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Arrive Hanoi

  • Day 2


  • Day 3

    Hanoi - Danang - Hoi An

  • Day 4

    Hoi An

  • Day 5

    Hoi An - Danang - Ho Chi Minh

  • Day 6

    Ho Chi Minh

    Board your Mekong Cruise

  • Day 7

    Mekong River – Binh Thanh/ Sa Dec – My An Hung

  • Day 8

    Mekong River – Chau Doc – Vinh Xuong – Ka’Om Samnor Border

  • Day 9

    Mekong River – Koh Okhna Tey – Preah Prosop

  • Day 10

    Phnom Penh

  • Day 11

    Phnom Penh - Siem Reap

  • Day 12

    Siem Reap

  • Day 13

    Siem Reap

  • Day 14

    Siem Reap - Bangkok

  • Day 15


  • Day 16

    Depart Bangkok

Day 1

Arrive Hanoi

Arrive Hanoi and take a bespoke tour of the city. Attend a water puppet show in the private theatre of a local artisan before sampling street food in the Old Quarter.

Day 2


Visit Nom Village, spending time with villagers hearing their stories and exploring local markets and food stalls away from other tourists. Explore Hanoi at night by e-scooter.

Day 3

Hanoi - Danang - Hoi An

Fly to Danang and travel overland to Hoi An.

Day 4

Hoi An

Learn how to fish, farm and live as a Hoi An local, meeting with artisans and crafting communities. Explore Hoi An on foot, sampling Vietnamese snacks and visiting ancestral family homes and hidden pagodas.

Day 5

Hoi An - Danang - Ho Chi Minh

Fly to Ho Chi Minh and spend the afternoon in the company of a celebrated Vietnamese artist, hosted in his Hue inspired artist garden. Spend the evening sitting street-side chatting over Vietnamese grown coffee or locally brewed beer.

Day 6

Ho Chi Minh

Explore by three wheeled cyclo and sidecar with your guide and driver team for a different perspective of the city. Learn firsthand about the coffee making process in Vietnam, from berry to roasting to blending. This afternoon transfer to the marina to board the Aqua Mekong and begin your Mekong cruise.

Day 7

Mekong River – Binh Thanh/ Sa Dec – My An Hung

Begin today at Binh Thanh mat weaving village or opt to visit the vibrant market at Sa Dec. Afternoon visit to the traditional Mekong Delta village, My An Hung to walk through verdant plantations and join locals in their home.

Day 8

Mekong River – Chau Doc – Vinh Xuong – Ka’Om Samnor Border

Travel by skiff along Bassac Canal to Chau Doc floating market before visiting Long Son Pagoda atop Sam Mountain and spend time with the resident monks. Return via the bustling morning market or take a bike or rickshaw ride with the ships chef. Relax by the pool, while crossing the border into Cambodia.

Day 9

Mekong River – Koh Okhna Tey – Preah Prosop

Witness dexterous Khmer artisans dyeing and weaving kroma, the ubiquitous fabric no Khmer lives without. Explore the riverbank on two wheels and board skiffs to visit the remote village of Preah Prosop.

Day 10

Phnom Penh

Disembark in Phnom Penh and explore the Cambodian capital. Visit the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and meet with one of the few survivors of Toul Sleng. Venture into the surrounding countryside, take a slow-paced cycle tour, learning more about local life before spending the afternoon with celebrated gourmand Chef Nak in her home on the banks of the Mekong.

Day 11

Phnom Penh - Siem Reap

Travel overland to Siem Reap, a journey of around 5 hours. Spend the evening at the Cambodian Circus, where tightrope walkers, contortionists and acrobats take to the stage for a dynamic, artistic spectacle.

Day 12

Siem Reap

Visit Angkor Wat. Take the road to Srah Srang and then to Ta Prohm and spend time walking through the temple from west to east exploring little known temples in the early morning light. In the afternoon head into the depths of the temples in the company of renowned Cambodian archaeologist Mr Khin Po-Thail.

Day 13

Siem Reap

See the sun rise over the iconic lotus towers of Angkor Wat with a pre-dawn sunrise tour. In the afternoon, discover rural landscapes that are generally inaccessible to visitors. Weave between rice paddies, woodland and back garden, learn about Buddhism and seek a blessing from the monks.

Day 14

Siem Reap - Bangkok

Fly to Bangkok and spend the morning exploring the Grand Palace.

Day 15


Walk through the old neighbourhood on the west bank of Chao Phraya river. Visit a Thai aristocratic family who have lived here for five generations and gain a deep understanding of Thai culture through the personal stories – a unique perspective of Bangkok. Dine at one of the rooftop restaurants overlooking Bangkok’s skyline.

Day 16

Depart Bangkok

Transfer to the airport for onward travel.

Our travel experts can tailor this itinerary to suit you.

More Details

Local cycling in Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam

Di Vong Vong*

Vietnam is a bustling country, and cities like Ho Chi Minh are great fun but can be intimidating. Vietnamese people live their lives outdoors, dining and socialising on the streets and the best way to experience this is by joining them, using local transportation. We have included guided experiences on foot, by old fashioned cyclo, and even motorcycle sidecar for an immersion into real day to day life, from the chaotic to quiet back streets, markets and hidden temples, taking time to pause for coffee, art exploration and other food experiences. With first class guides and drivers by your side it is a fun and easy way to explore.
*Spending time out and about with family and friends.

Chef Nak, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Chef Nak, Cambodia

Cooking with Chef Nak

This holiday is all about the people and Chef Nak is one of those special people. Renowned cook and food writer, she is dedicated to saving and celebrating traditional Khmer recipes and ingredients. Venture out of Phnom Penh where she will welcome you into her home on the banks of the Mekong and take you on a culinary journey through Cambodia. After sourcing the fresh ingredients needed from a local market, an adventure in itself, you will join her to prepare and cook a feast of forgotten flavours. After dining, take time to relax around the pool.

Mr Kin Po Thai, Angkor Expert guides, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Mr Kin Po Thai, Cambodia
aerial view of Angkor Wat Temple complex
Aerial view of Ankgor Temple complex in Cambodia

In the Company of Experts

An expert guide can be the difference between a great holiday and an amazing one. Mr Po-Thai is just that, a local Cambodian and one of the country’s top archaeologists. Working alongside organisations such as the World Monument Fund and other esteemed archaeologists for over 20 years, he has also featured in documentaries by the BBC and National Geographic as an expert on the temples of Angkor. Spend a day exploring Angkor with him which will surely be a highlight of your holiday.

Close up of colourful decorative faces adorning the grand palace.
The Grand Palace, Bangkok

A Walk of Five Generations

Wander through the old neighbourhood on the west bank of Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and spend a morning with a Thai aristocratic family. Residents here for five generations, they will share stories and personal perspectives, offering insight into the past and present of this city, its communities and their lives. An introduction to Bangkok that can only be found in the memories of the locals.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we have recommended for this journey.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi £££££

  • Vietnam
  • City

The Sofitel Metropole, a French colonial building, has stood proudly in the heart of Hanoi since 1901.

View Property

Four Seasons – The Nam Hai £££££

  • Vietnam
  • Beach and Island Escapes

The Four Seasons Resort – Nam Hai is situated on a private kilometre stretch of China Beach, once voted by Forbes as one of the best beaches in the world.

View Property

Aqua Mekong £££££

  • Cambodia

Aqua Mekong is an all suite contemporary boat with Michelin standard cuisine and a staff to guest ratio of 1:1.

View Boat

Raffles Hotel Le Royal £££££

  • Cambodia
  • City

Raffles Hotel Le Royal brims with history. First established in 1929 guests at the hotel have included Jackie Kennedy and today it effortlessly combines Khmer, Art Deco and French colonial styles.

View Property

Shinta Mani Angkor £££££

  • Cambodia
  • City

Shinta Mani Angkor is an eclectic and contemporary boutique hotel created by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley.

View Property

The Siam £££££

  • Thailand
  • City

The Siam is nestled amongst Bangkok’s historic palaces, temples and museums offering a relaxed and peaceful retreat from the city.

View Property

How does this holiday make a positive impact?

Vietnam is a major coffee producer and a growing industry. Included in this itinerary is the chance to learn about coffee production from barista experts, the process from berry to roasting, hear how climate change is affecting the industry and how farmers cooperate.

Aqua Expeditions care deeply about setting a standard in responsible travel in the destinations they operate. Your stay onboard will support ongoing projects, the funds from which have so far helped establish a library in Vietnam’s Vinh Dai Primary School and supported Cambodian Girls’ Education Program, Room to Read.

The Siam in Bangkok has eliminated all single use plastic bottles. As part of this initiative they are one of the first hotels in Thailand to sign up to the RefillNotLandfill program which encourages use of refillable water containers.

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It all starts here

Let’s put that once-in-a-lifetime trip in your hands. Get in touch with the team and we will work with you at every step to make sure that it’s extraordinary.

01285 880 980

Get in touch with our travel experts to start
creating your tailor-made holiday.

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A note on price

Prices will vary depending on the time of year you are travelling. Prices do not include international flights. Please ask one of our Travel Experts for an accurate quote. Flights purchased through Steppes Travel departing from the UK are ATOL protected.

This Itinerary
From £11,785 Per person

When to travel

Vietnam in January

Dry and warm weather prevails throughout the majority of the country. The only exception is in the northern alpine regions, where it can be surprisingly chilly. Halong Bay can be quite hazy so you may not get the best views at this time.

Vietnam in February

Dry and warm weather continues across the majority of the country, but the alpine north remains much colder. Experience the Lunar New Year, the biggest festival of the year, with colourful red and yellow in the streets.

Vietnam in March

The busiest month, but for good reason. All regions experience good weather and the ideal time to see Halong Bay with clear skies.

Vietnam in April

Also peak season, as the great weather continues across the country, and the beaches warm up. The chilly mornings are gone in the alpine north but showers become a little more frequent.

Vietnam in May

Countrywide, temperatures are soaring, and the chances of a shower are increasing. A great time to explore the varied central region which remains hot and dry.

Vietnam in June

Central Vietnam is the place to be, as there is plenty of sunshine and warmth. Showers are possible in the south and north, but there will be fewer tourists in general.

Vietnam in July

The fine weather continues in central regions, with plenty of sunshine and little rain. The northern alpine regions are at their warmest, but there is a good chance of a shower.

Vietnam in August

Temperatures peak across the country, with central Vietnam continuing to enjoy the best weather. The most frequent showery month for many other regions.

Vietnam in September

The tables turn, with the central regions becoming wetter, whilst the other regions become drier. A good time to return to the alpine regions of the north, and Halong Bay.

Vietnam in October

A fantastic time to explore the alpine north. Trek in Sapa or get off the tourist trail in Ha Giang. It’s a quieter time in general as the central regions have their wettest months.

Vietnam in November

The start of the high season, with the northern alpine regions remaining good for hiking if a little cooler. The central region is still wet, but the rest of the country will generally be hot and dry.

Vietnam in December

The season gets into full swing, especially as Christmas approaches. Beaches open up as the central region starts to dry out, and the majority of the country is hot and dry.

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