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From the remarkable beauty of Sam Mountain and Halong Bay to the numerous sacred temples and pagodas, Vietnam has a lot to offer. It is a country that features everything from exotic culinary delights to breathtaking scenery. Seemingly endless, tranquil rice paddies stand in stark contrast to bustling cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi which embrace all the technology and conveniences that the modern world has to offer. The well-preserved colonial buildings of Hoi An play host to a slew of charming boutiques and tempting cafes while, further north, the local hill-tribe people of Sapa sell a wide variety of exquisite crafts and handmade trinkets. Beyond the urban areas, this diverse country is characterised by vast, verdant jungles and lush mountainous regions as well as an enticing coastline peppered with golden sand, palm-lined beaches.
Vietnamese cooking is varied and usually superb, as the profusion of Vietnamese restaurants in New York, London and Berlin contest. It is a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and French traditions, with a plethora of regional variations. As in all countries of the region, rice or noodles usually provide the basis of a meal. Not surprisingly, fish is plentiful. Pride is taken in the fact that the freshest of vegetables are used and the vegetables and fruit served is seasonal.
Because of its geography, the climate in Vietnam varies greatly from north to south with three distinct climatic zones. Tropical monsoons occur from October to April in the centre and from May to September in the north and south. It is almost totally dry throughout the rest of the year. It can get exceptionally hot, however, all year round, but the north has a cooler time between October and April. Temperatures around the country can reach up to 40C in the height of the hot and rainy season (May to September), but the northern highlands and Hanoi can often seem chilly and damp in the winter.
There is no one ideal time to visit Vietnam as a whole but at any time of year there will be sun somewhere. The high season is from September to March but bad weather can disrupt travel in the centre of the country during this period, particularly from September to December. For the beaches in the centre of Vietnam, Danang, Hoi An and Nha Trang, it is best to go between May and August. The autumn is the best time to visit Halong Bay when there should be clear skies.
Wedged between a number of larger neighbouring countries, Laos is often overlooked in favour of tourism giants such as Thailand and Vietnam. But these travellers are missing out on an extraordinarily scenic and culturally rich destination. Laos boasts a reputation as the least visited, least Westernised, and the most untouched of all Indochinese nations. Only time will tell how long this will last but, while it does, visitors who chose to explore this nation’s remote areas will be richly rewarded. Laos’ primary drawcard is undoubtedly the mighty Mekong River which traverses the length of the country and is considered the second most biodiverse river in the world. In the north, the landscape is characterised by little explored jungle-clad mountainous areas where visitors can witness the intriguing cultures of the various hill tribes that populate this region. Travellers on the hunt for cultural interest should head for the bustling capital of Vientiane with its innumerable temples and Buddhist monuments. It is this variety of exotic wildlife, remote wilderness and remarkable cultural treasures that make Laos a truly unique and unforgettable holiday destination.
Laotian cuisine shows the clear influence of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cooking, with its widespread use of chilli, fish sauce, soy and Asian herbs like lemongrass, ginger, galangal and Asian basil. There’s also a subtle French influence dating back to the colonial administration, most obvious in the baguette sandwiches sold on the streets of Vientiane.
Throughout the country, the climate is hot and tropical, with the rainy season between May and October when temperatures are at their highest, up to 35°C. The weather is very similar to that of northern Vietnam. The dry season runs from November to April, which is the best time to visit as the temperature is at its most comfortable. However, the mountainous areas can be very cold at this time, down to around 5°C. As a guide, the average rainfall in the capital Vientiane is about 1,700 mm, although in the north of Laos and the highlands it is far wetter, with more than 3,000 mm each year.
Since Cambodia reopened its borders to tourists in the early 1990s, visitors from around the world have flocked to this intriguing Southeast Asian country to experience its fascinating cultural heritage, to engage with the wonderfully welcoming locals, and to marvel at the numerous spectacular natural wonders Cambodia has to offer. Phnom Penh, the nation’s bustling capital, is home to a slew of excellent restaurants, lively outdoor markets and a boisterous nightlife. However, most of Cambodia’s most popular attractions are located beyond the capital. Tourist favourites include: the sleepy French-influenced town of Kampot with its lovely promenade dotted with gorgeous French villas and charming riverside cafes; the breath-taking waterfalls of the lush jungle-clad Cardamon Mountains; and, of course, the awe-inspiring ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat – the world’s largest and arguably most impressive religious structure. Cambodia serves travellers of all sensitivities, whether they’re seeking adventurous jungle excursions, exquisite golden-sand beaches, luxury resorts or sumptuous exotic cuisine, Cambodia truly does have it all.
As is the case elsewhere in South East Asia, the quality of the food is a draw in its own right. Khmer cuisine shares much with that of both Thailand and China, although it tends to steer clear of excessive use of spices. Quality restaurants are found in all areas that see mainstream tourism, while cheap but tasty food stalls are ubiquitous around the country. Most meals are rice-based.
Cambodia is blessed with one of Asia’s simpler weather systems and despite having two distinct weather seasons you can travel in Cambodia all-year-round. In general, the entire country is subject to the same weather patterns, mainly due to the relatively uniform altitude and latitude throughout Cambodia.
There are two distinct seasons – dry (October to late April) and wet (May to late September). Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the final few dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early months of the wet season (May and June) usually being the hottest of the year with temperatures in excess of 35°C at times.
Humidity is at its height during March and April whilst the coolest months of the year tend to between October and December, however this is cool for Cambodia but far from chilly (avg temperatures 24°C – 26°C).
Time To Rediscover The World
Highlights of Vietnam
- Explore Vietnam from north to south
- Vibrant waterways, Unesco World Heritage Sites
- Embrace the modern energy of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Sensational Vietnam & Laos
- Luxury Small Group Tour
- Truly spectacular landscapes from bustling Saigon to ancient Luang Prabang
- Overnight stay in Halong Bay aboard a deluxe junk boat
Essential Cambodia & Vietnam
- Explore the Temples of Angkor
- Cruise Halong Bay
- Explore the Mekong River