An endless stream of honking scooters, exotic looking fruit, and clammy heat that hits you right in the face. Welcome, you have arrived in backpacker’s paradise, better known as Asia. A part of the world where the beer is cheap, the culture abundant and your surroundings safe. This summer I had the honour of visiting this beautiful part of the world once again. On the itinerary this time, Cambodia and Vietnam.
breath taking views are a given in the north east of Vietnam. Rent a kayak and float on the emerald waters separating endless limestone islands. This place has something for absolutely everyone, from lazy beach bums to rock climbing scuba divers. An absolute must see.
An ancient town turned into a touristy hotspot. While much of the town is covered in souvenir shops, there are still some authentic alleyways left to be explored. For just one dollar you can rent a bike and cruise around town, hopping from local coffee shops to amazing beach restaurants. A perfect place to wind down for a while and meet a ton of other travellers.
Ho Chi Minh City:
talking about the hustle and bustle of the city, this place is a true experience. Visit the War Remnants museum to get a unique view on the Vietnam war, or visit the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts museum for a healthy dose of art. Definitely pay a visit to Bến Thành Market to get your hands on some souvenirs. Insider tip, visit the markets during the day since the prices skyrocket at night.
the south of Vietnam is an area that most people don’t seem to visit. Luckily, I’m here to steer you away from a similar fate. Since tourism hasn’t completely find its way into the Mekong Delta just yet you can get a unique glimpse into local life.
The most primitive looking restaurants serve you mind blowing dishes, and despite the lack of English the locals are extremely friendly and helpful. Make sure you get yourself on a boat to visit the floating markets to fully immerge in the local way of life.
The number one reason to visit Cambodia, and rightfully so. The wondrous temples of Angkor are simply breath-taking, both in size and in numbers. Hidden in the jungle, these architectural gems give you the feeling you walked right into an Indiana Jones movie.
While the stream of tourists grows larger each year, Angkor itself hasn’t turned into a tourist trap all too much. The neighbouring city of Siem Reap is also absolutely wonderful, so definitely give yourself enough time to discover the area.
The Killing fields/ S21:
Cambodia’s chaotic but strangely charming capital Phnom Penh, is home to some of recent history’s biggest horrors. The three year long Khmer Rouge rule has left grave scars. Choeung Ek, located just outside of the city centre, is one of several killing fields scattered among the country.
The traces of cruelty and death are clearly visible, similar to the Toul Sleng prison (S21). This former school building served as a prison during the regime, and is kept mostly in its original state. While a visit to both of these sites is confrontational, they are not to be missed.
A town in rural Cambodia filled with post-colonial architecture once built by the French. The town itself is relaxed and diverse, offering all kind of cafés and restaurants.
Some of my favourite memories of my trip originate here.From climbing a Buddhist mountain and coming face to face with the horrors of the Kmer Roughe regime to riding a bamboo train.This last one is incredibly touristy, but too fun not to do.
While it is always good to have an idea of what a country has to offer, I will urge you to go and explore yourself. The magic of travel lies in the immense freedom and endless possibilities.
Chat with locals, get out of your comfort zone and most importantly fully enjoy what comes your way. All of it, even the uncomfortable night trains and unavoidable food poisoning. It’s all part of the charm.