An introduction to Indochina

Here you’ll find everything you’ll need to know before taking a trip to the cultural and culinary heart of south-east Asia. Soak up the charming atmosphere of Luang Prabang. Have a cup of Vietnamese coffee in Ho Chi Minh city whilst getting a new wardrobe from a tailor or discover Cambodia’s modern history in Phnom Penh.

Luang Prabang Mekong, Laos

What is Indochina?

Indochina refers to three countries, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This trio’s cultural and historical connections are centuries-old, but have more recently been rooted in French colonialism.

Can you visit all three countries on one trip?

If you have three weeks to spare, it would certainly be possible to see the highlights of all three countries. One big bonus about Indochina is that it is easy to get around, with numerous flight options should the journey by road be too difficult.

If you have only two weeks, there are two possible approaches. Either just focus on Vietnam with its wide range of historic fishing towns, fine hotels and beautiful beaches.

Or for a more culture-rich experience, head first for the Golden Triangle in northern Thailand before boarding an overnight cruise on the Mekong River to Luang Prabang in Laos, then fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia to explore Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Where can you relax?

The South China Sea on Vietnam’s coastline is full of fabulous beaches and exclusive resorts.

The private island escape of Song Saa on Cambodia’s south coast works well with a trip to Luang Prabang and Siem Reap.

How easy is it to fly to Indochina? 

The easiest way is ti fly to Bangkok with Thai Airways, which then has good onward connections to all the main destinations. Vietnam Airlines also has direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, if you wish to visit just Vietnam.

Can you go river cruising?

Yes and this is highly recommended. Take a trip of varying duration on the Mekong aboard Pandaw or Heritage Line’s Jahan and Jayavarman. Although not strictly a cruise, an overnight stay on a traditional junk in Halong Bay is a fantastic experience.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Can you do self-drive?

You can, but we don’t advise it. we recommend our clients travel with a private guide/driver. This is safer, good value for money and more rewarding.

What’s the food like?

So good you’ll want to join one of the many cookery classes available!

Is there much wildlife to see?

This isn’t a part of the world famous for its wildlife, but birding can be good in some of the national parks.

When to go?

March is the single best month for exploring Indochina, you’ll miss the rains in central and south Vietnam, and it shouldn’t be too cold in the north. Generally, weather should be good from November to March.

Nick Van Gruisen is Managing Director of The Ultimate Travel Company.

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