The term ‘Indochina’ draws from historical reference to the geography and cultural influences of lands between the Indian Subcontinent and China. Today, its what avid travellers use to refer to the exotic route that spans Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Given the proximity of these 3 countries, many travelers find it rewarding to visit all 3 in one go.
There are many ways to go about it. We’ve marked out some of the most popular routes for a trip through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. No matter which route you choose, you are guaranteed awe-inspiring sights, the likes of which include the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the untouched raw beauty of Laos and not to mention, the energetic urban cities of Vietnam.
When you’re ready to take the leap and get down to booking your own journey, use the buttons to check out the latest flight prices and hotels loved by other travellers. Then book your ideal Indochina trip, your way. No fixed routes! Stay as long as you want in each city, fly where you want, choose only hotels in your budget, and stay close to the attractions you’re most interested in. Let’s go!
Grand Tour – 21 days – Vietnam Laos Cambodia
For bragging rights on conquering Indochina, embark on this grand, 21-day tour across the whole of Vietnam and parts of Cambodia and Laos. This trip will take you through Cambodia’s history under the Khmer Rouge, its famous temples, past royal palaces in Laos, under Vang Vieng’s caves and into Ho Chi Minh’s Cu Chi tunnels.
1) Luang Prabang – 3 Days
Well regarded as the root of the Laos culture, begin your Indochina journey at Luang Prabang. A UNESCO-preserved town, this former royal capital retains their reputation for being the hub for Buddhism in Laos. One of the more striking features of this place is the intricate architecture, from former palaces to more than 33 temples. Created by the European authorities in the 18th and 19th centuries, the buildings reflect an interesting mix of styles and influences from the Laos culture and the colonial era.
Start your morning at Golden City Temple, where you can observe the Alms Giving Ceremony where monks walk through the city in a procession to collect alms.
Following that, visit the cultural center of Luang Prabang, the Old Quarter. Surrounded by the Mekong River and the Namkhan River, it’s the perfect spot to go on a photo spree with picturesque temples, architecture, and brick alleys at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
30 minutes outside of the city lies the Kuang Si Waterfall, where the magnificent views will get you jumping into the mineral-rich waters in a heartbeat.
Just a four-hour drive away, you can explore Pakbeng, a quiet town that gives you a taste of backcountry life in Laos. Spend a night here in one of the rustic guesthouses and visit the hill tribes, as boats to and from Pakbeng are infrequent.
Take a boat from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
2) Vang Vieng – 2 Days
The next morning, take a speedboat to arrive at Luang Prabang. From there, you can either take a 6-hour bus or a 3-hour drive to your next destination, Vang Vieng.
Surrounded by limestone caves in Central Laos, it may be hard to envision this tranquil setting as a party town, yet that’s the reputation it’s earned over the years. In recent years, the town has grown popular with more activities including kayaking and ATV riding.
Vang Vieng is where you forget about sleep. At this town, you can take your pick on your favourite mode of exploring: tubing, kayaking, riding an ATV, or taking the hot air balloon – admire the majestic views of Vang Vieng from a bird’s-eye view as the sun rises over the mountains.
While you’re in Vang Vieng, visit one of the hundred over caves, such as Than Nam, a Water Cave made up of streams of rivers running down the mountainside. Rent a bicycle, and take in the spectacular Laos countryside en route to the Blue Lagoon. Explore some of the deepest, darkest parts of the cave in the mountain nearby.
Take a bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane
3) Vientiane – 1 Day
To get to Vientiane, an affordable option is by bus, which is a 4-hour ride away. The town is replete with beautiful French villas, which have been refurbished into hip restaurants and hotels. Apart from the golden ‘That Luang’ stupa and bustling local markets, you can’t miss the iconic Buddha Park, which covers more than 200 intricately designed sculptures and statues. Spot the 40 m high Buddha image too!
With such a laidback pace of living, you’ll definitely want to spend some time here to get a taste of traditional Laos culture. From the delicious coffee, pastries, and local food, or trying your hand at cooking a traditional Lao meal in a cooking class, there are plenty of ways to create your unique memories of this former French colonial city.
4) Phnom Penh – 3 Days
Take a domestic flight from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. A short 1.5 hours later, arrive at Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. This city has much to explore, from the Killing Fields to Kampot crab. An important slice of Phnom Penh’s gruesome history under the Khmer Rouge can also be found in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. For something more lighthearted, you can visit the lively markets and take in the sights, smells and sounds while testing your haggling skills when purchasing handicraft and souvenirs.
The next day, enrich the culture buff in you by taking a trip to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the Royal Palace.
/ Fly or Take a bus or car from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
5) Siem Reap – 2 Days
From Phnom Penh, you can either fly, take a ferry, bus or hire a taxi to Siem Reap, depending on your time availability and budget. Welcome to temple heaven! Siem Reap is a beguiling mix of culture and colonial grandeur as well as modern influences, having developed rapidly to include an airport, international hotel chains, and golf courses.
Siem Reap’s temples are what you would rise early for, to witness the grandiosity of Angkor Wat set on a backdrop of the rising sun. Apart from Angkor Wat temple, explore beyond Angkor National Park, a UNESCO heritage site. Uncover temples such as Ta Prohm (made famous by the “Tomb Raider” film), and over 400 other temple ruins.
Wind the day down visiting the old market, the first of many to sprout in this city. Find everything you can think of here. When night falls, visit the Angkor Night Market. Admire the Khmer artwork, local handicrafts, and delectable street food. Once you’ve filled your tummy, it’s round 2 at Pub Street, a 2-minute walk away. End the night at a party on Pub Street!
6) Ho Chi Minh – 2 Days
A short flight from Siem Reap lies the capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. A growing metropolis, two days is barely enough for you to speed through all that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.
Let’s start with the marketplace – Ben Thanh Market and Binh Tay Market are markets you cannot miss. Find everything from clothes, food, toys, accessories to souvenirs at these amazing markets. The Gothic-styled Saigon Central Post and the neo-Romanesque Notre-Dame cathedral on its opposite are another two iconic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh. History buffs will not want to miss the War Remnants Museum, which highlights the story of the Vietnam War. It is truly a place worth visiting to understand a bit more about the country’s gripping history.
Of course, the Cu Chi tunnels, a complicated network of interconnecting underground tunnels, some 30 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City is another top attraction in Ho Chi Minh you should visit at least once in your lifetime. A trip to the underground tunnels can open your eyes to Vietnam’s rich history. Discover how poor peasants defeated one of most advanced armies of its time as you imagine the scenes from the Vietnam War.
/ Fly or take a bus from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang
7) Nha Trang – 2 Days
From Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang, you can either fly (3 hours) or take a bus (7 hours). Known as the Riviera of The East Sea, Nha Trang, which translates to “white sand” in Vietnamese, it’s no surprise how that name came about. Nha Trang’s sweeping coastline comprising white sandy beaches, beguiling mountains and untouched beauty stretches till as far as the eye can see.
The magnificent waterfalls is a must visit for all travelers. Prepare a pair of good walking shoes and water and explore the famous Ba Ho waterfall and Fairy Spring waterfalls with a bunch of friends. Ba Ho is situated an hour away from Nha Trang’s centre, and is made up of three impressive waterfalls. Cool down from the heat by swimming in one of the waterfalls. If you still have the energy for another trip, consider joining a bike tour.
Taxi transfer to Hoi An
8) Hoi An – 2 Days
A 45-minute shuttle from Nha Trang to the airport later, board a 1-hour flight to Danang, followed by a half hour cab ride to Hoi An. Soak in the sights and sounds of the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. Due to its position as a trading port, the historic quarter is now a charismatic street scene of old Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese houses that were once occupied by merchants. Their homes and shophouses have now been converted into galleries, antique stores, restaurants, and bars. You may also chance upon tailors who can make some custom shirts or dresses for you while you’re there.
/ / Take a train, bus or car from Hoi An to Hue
9) Hue – 2 Days
Follow the east coast of Vietnam by train, bus or car, to reach Hue. History buffs would love exploring this former national capital when it was under the Nguyen Dynasty rule. This is apparent from its recognition as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Dedicate a whole day to visit the massive complex north of Perfume River, known as the Capital City. Then, roam around pagodas such as the Thien Mu Pagoda, Tu Dam, Tu Hieu and Huyen Khong. Before you leave, relax at their mineral hot springs, like Thanh Tan in Phong An and Phong Die.
/ Take a train or a flight from Hue to Hanoi
10) Hanoi – 2 Days
All too soon, you’ve reached the final destination of The Grand Tour – Hanoi. You can either fly to Hanoi under 3 hours or take a 13.5-hour train to the city. The second largest city after Ho Chi Minh, expect to find more traditional Vietnamese elements in Hanoi, yet you will also enjoy a multi-faceted experience roaming about Hanoi.
One thing you may notice is the number of museums in Hanoi, from the Women’s Museum, the Police Museum, Museum of Ethnology, to the Vietnam Military History Museum. The city is also known for its natural scenery. Hoan Kiem Lake, for one, is the focal point of Hanoi. Not only is it scenic, Ngoc Son Temple sits on the lake. Temple of Jade Mountain is another temple that is popular among tourists.
When in Hanoi, you must also visit its Old Quarter. Meander through the myriad of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and temples. Souvenir shopping can be done at Dong Xuan Market, the largest and most central market in Hanoi. Don’t forget to try a good ol’ Vietnamese iced coffee. After dark, flock to Hoan Kiem Bia Hoi, where you can indulge in local beer at any of the bia hoi corners and be part of the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Best of Indochina
Best of Indochina – 15 days – Laos Vietnam Cambodia Itinerary
Get into the heart of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, by paying a visit to the capitals of these countries. This best of Indochina tour will give you an insight into each culture. This itinerary is a condensed version of the Grand Tour, for travellers who want to see loads in less time.
1) Ho Chi Minh – 3 Days
An up and coming metropolitan city, visitors can easily spend 3 days roaming about Ho Chi Minh City. Ben Thanh Market and Binh Tay Market are markets you cannot miss. Find everything from clothes to souvenirs. The Gothic-styled Saigon Central Post and the neo-Romanesque Notre-Dame cathedral on its opposite are another two iconic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh. For culture buffs, the War Remnants Museum, which highlights the story of the Vietnam War is worth paying a visit.
Take a few hours off to experience the Cu Chi tunnels. This complicated network of interconnecting underground tunnels, some 30 km from Ho Chi Minh City is another top attraction in Ho Chi Minh. A trip to the underground tunnels can open your eyes to Vietnam’s rich history and allow you to imagine how poor peasants defeated one of most advanced armies of its time.
2) Hanoi – 3 Days
Fly to Hanoi on a 4.5-hour journey. The second largest city after Ho Chi Minh, expect to find more traditional Vietnamese elements in Hanoi, yet you will also enjoy a multi-faceted experience roaming about Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake, for one, is the focal point of Hanoi. Not only is it scenic, Ngoc Son Temple sits on the lake. Temple of Jade Mountain is another temple that is popular among tourists.
When in Hanoi, you must also visit its Old Quarter. Meander through the myriad of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and temples. Souvenir shopping can be done at Dong Xuan Market, the largest and most central market in Hanoi. While you’re at that, have a good ol’ Vietnamese iced coffee. Come night, flock to Hoan Kiem Bia Hoi, where you can witness a vibrant local street beer scene and get wasted.
While you’re in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, of course, can’t be missed. Famous for its numerous grandiose limestone islands (over 1,600 of them!), hop on one of the junk boat tours or sea kayak expeditions that will bring you around the bay. Visit caves, floating villages and more islands. Activities you can do here include scuba diving, rock climbing, and hiking, around Cát Bà National Park.
3) Luang Prabang – 3 Days
Return to Hanoi and take a 4-hour flight to Luang Prabang. Well regarded as the root of the Laotian culture, this former Royal capital retains their reputation for being the hub for those who are interested to learn about Buddhism. Find everything from former royal palaces to over 33 temples in this historical town.
Start your morning at Golden City Temple where monks in a procession walk through the city to collect alms, also known as the Alms Giving Ceremony. Following that, visit the cultural center of Luang Prabang, the Old Quarter. Go on a photo spree with picturesque temples, architecture and brick alleys at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 30 minutes outside of the city lies Kuang Si Waterfall, another view worth catching.
4) Vientiane – 1 Day
Make a short 1-hour flight to visit Vientiane next. Apart from the golden That Luang stupa and the happening local markets, you can’t miss the iconic Buddha Park, which covers more than 200 intricately-designed sculptures and statues. Spot the 40-metre high Buddha image too!
That evening, hang around the market to learn about the fresh ingredients the Laotians use for cooking. Stop to get a taste of traditional Laos coffee, but not before taking a cooking class to learn how to cook a traditional Laotian meal.
5) Siem Reap – 2 Days
From Vientiane, fly to the land of temples. Siem Reap is a beguiling mix of culture and colonial grandeur.
If there is ever a good reason to wake up before the sunrise, it would be to witness the grandiosity of Angkor Wat set on a backdrop of the rising sun. Apart from Angkor Wat temple, explore beyond Angkor National Park, a UNESCO heritage site. Uncover temples such as Ta Prohm – the location featured in Tomb Raider and over 400 other temple ruins.
Wind the day down by visiting the old market, the first of many to sprout in this city. Find everything you can think of here. Come night, Angkor Night Market comes alive. Be impressed with Khmer artwork, local handicrafts, and delectable street food. Once you’ve filled your tummy, it’s time for round 2 at Pub Street, just a 2-minute walk away. End the night partying on Pub Street!
6) Phnom Penh – 3 Days
2 hours later, you will arrive at Phnom Penh after a domestic flight. This city has much to explore, from the Killing Fields to Kampot crab. An important slice of Phnom Penh’s gruesome history under the Khmer Rouge can also be found in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Switch up the mood in the evening by visitng the lively markets and take in the sights, smells and sounds while testing your haggling skills when purchasing handicraft and souvenirs.
The next day, enrich the culture buff in you by taking a trip to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the Royal Palace. Finally, bid goodbye to the land of temples and return to Singapore.
Off the beaten track
Off the Beaten Track in Indochina – 15 days – Laos Vietnam Cambodia Itinerary
The real reward in underexplored Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, is to venture off the beaten track. This itinerary takes you from islands to highlands through this exotic part of the world. Take the path less traveled and be rewarded with experiences that are unique and unforgettable.
1) Phu Quoc – 2 Days
After you’ve arrived at beach town Phu Quoc, get ready for the seafood feast of a lifetime at the Ham Ninh Fishing Village. While the fishing village is a sight on its own, you should also head to the pier for unending views of the mountains and coastline.
The next day, trek up to Suoi Tranh Waterfall. Visit Phu Quoc’s pepper plantation to observe how the local’s famous pepper mix is made. Before the evening ends, make a stop at Phu Quoc Prison, or unwind to the sounds of waves crashing at Sao Beach.
Take a ferry from Phu Quoc
Transfer by taxi a bus and a ferry to Koh Rong Samloem
2) Koh Rong Samloem – 2 Days
From Phu Quoc, take a 1.5-hour ferry ride from Ham Ninh to Ha Tien. Transfer by taxi to Kampot, where you will board a 3-hour bus ride to Sihanoukville. At Sihanoukville, board the ferry at the pier and in an hour, you will finally arrive at Koh Rong Samloem.
Entirely worth the arduous journey, Koh Rong Samloem is a peaceful hideout, away from most of the city’s development. Some consider this an “off-the-grid destination”, while others call it rustic living when you are here. After a lengthy journey to Koh Rong Samloem, relax at one of the villas. Koh Rong Samloem is also popular for divers.
Take a ferry to Sihanoukville
3) Beng Mealea – 2 Days
Return inland by ferry again, and take a short domestic flight from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. An hour’s drive from Siem Reap will get you to Beng Mealea. Beng Mealea is a temple that is rich with thousand years of history. As it has neither been fortified nor rehabilitated, it is a temple in its own element, overgrown with flora and fauna. As it can be complicated navigating around this massive temple, you can hire temple guides who will take you around and show you the best hideouts within the temple.
4) Pakse – 3 Days
Return to Siem Reap and fly to Pakse on a short 1-hour flight. Pakse translates to ‘Mouth of the River Se’, as it’s situated at the mouth of the rivers Xedong and Mekong.
The former Palace of Prince Boun Oum Na Champassak, which is now the Champasak Palace Hotel, is a building full of stories. Take a lesson on local history at the Champasak Provincial Museum, where you can also find artifacts on display and ancient pottery. There are also numerous Buddhist temples around the town. Of them, Wat Luang is one of more picturesque temples to visit. You can also find Wat Phabad, the Buddhist Monk School here.
The next day, hop on an elephant to reach a mountain, Mount Phou Asa. Find breathtaking temple ruins amidst the vast green plains.
Ride a bike from Pakse to Bolaven Plateau
5) Bolaven Plateau – 5 Days
Waterfalls and coffee make up the Bolaven Plateau. The best way to explore this impressive highland that sits at the foot of an extinct volcano is to rent a bike early in the morning from Pakse and explore waterfalls such as Tad Pasuam waterfall, Tad Yuang waterfall, and Tad Gneuang waterfall.
Spend 2 nights at Tat Lo so you can enjoy a day trek with a guide to all three waterfalls and the four tribal villages nearby at a leisurely pace. Tat Lo is perfect to base yourself in to explore the Salavan province.
The next day, head on over to Paksong, the main hub of the Bolaven Plateau and known as the coffee capital of Laos. Apart from the 4 waterfalls, make a pitstop at Jhai Coffee House and more. All the money earned at Jhai is for a greater cause, as it helps provide water filters to the local schools.
Ride a bike from Bolaven Plateau to Pakse
6) Pakse – 1 Day
Return to Pakse and catch your flight back home. What a whirlwind of an adventure this has been!