Monks in Luang Prabang

A Bucket List for Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos

02 May 2017

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In every destination there are sights that are unique to the location, or moments that you can only experience in their fullest sense in that part of the world. Some of these bucket list items may be subjective, but there is always a list of highly recommended “musts” that every traveller should embrace.

When navigating the intriguing lands of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, add these items to your itinerary to guarantee a truly inspiring experience of Indochina. 

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Ta Nei temple Siem Reap
While exploring Ta Nei, look out for the unusual stone carvings of flying figures carrying parasols

Guided tour of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Naturally you won’t miss a visit to the mystical spires of Angkor Wat, but if you only book a guide once in your life, let it be amongst the mysterious stupas and endless ruins of the world’s largest religious monument. Temples that all look the same will suddenly each have a story to tell, carvings will come to life, and the best photo ops will be yours to enjoy with the help of your guide. 

Ta Phrom, Ta Nei and Ta Keo, Cambodia

Angkor Wat isn’t the only jaw-dropper in Siem Reap; the vine shrouded ruins of Ta Phrom will lure out the romantic in anyone. Ta Nei is so off-the-beaten-path that it is slowly being absorbed back into the jungle, and the towers and overlapping terraces of Ta Keo invite you to wander up and down ancient steps that ooze of history.

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Cu Chi Tunnels Vietnam
The Cu Chi tunnel network spans over 250 kms, most of which was dug by hand or with rudimentary tools

Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

During the American occupation of Vietnam, the Viet Cong went literally underground. Their ingenious network of tunnels was key in evading the American forces, and both soldiers and families hid in spaces so tiny that you won’t believe it until you’ve seen it for yourself.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Known as ‘the rice bowl of Vietnam’, the Mekong Delta is a wonder of floating markets, quaint riverside villages and busy waterways. Take a tour through these verdant wetlands, barter for fruit from a floating vendor, and see coconut farmers, fisherman and brick makers going about a daily lifestyle that has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. 

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Ancient gate at Hue citadel
Hue's Citadel covers over 500 hectares and was the home of Vietnam's last emperor, Bao Dai

Hue Imperial Citadel, Vietnam

The majestic ruins of Hue’s Imperial Citadel hint at the opulent court of historic Vietnam, and the vast scale of the complex alone is staggering to behold. While many of the buildings were destroyed in the Vietnam War, a wander through those that remain can still give you goose bumps with a little help from your imagination. For the best experience, book a private tour so you can explore this UNESCO World Heritage site before it opens to the public.


Dive deeper into rural Vietnam: A Taste of Village Life in the North

More on Laos' most famous city: Luang Prabang: The City of Gold


Hoi An, Vietnam

Cobbled streets, floating lanterns and picturesque monuments ensure that Hoi An is the most romantic city in Vietnam. Enjoy a sunset kayak down the Thu Bon River, admire the famous Japanese covered bridge, or browse market stalls that overflow with authentic local specialities. Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops, so be sure to leave enough time to order a custom-designed outfit.

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Halong Bay
Halong Bay means 'descending dragon bay'. The islands are said to be jewels dropped from the dragon's mouth

Halong Bay, Vietnam

The stunning windswept islands and pristine emerald water of the Gulf of Tonkin have earned Halong Bay a place on Vietnam’s list of World Heritage sites. Set sail from Halong City and visit the mysterious Tien Ong Cave and Cua Van floating village before relaxing on the deck and watching twilight descend on the iconic limestone formations.

Hanoi water puppets, Vietnam

An ancient tradition that originated in rice paddies, water puppetry is now a celebrated local custom of Hanoi. A visit with a local puppet maker reveals insights to this intriguing facet of Vietnamese history and will help you to fully appreciate each symbolic gesture of the exquisite puppets.

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Vietnamese street food
Rice paper tacos filled with pork mince, egg and vegetables, are just another tasty street food from Vietnam

Vietnamese street food

Walk the streets with a local guide and prepare for a flavour overload; the street food of Vietnam is truly sensational. Go beyond the stereotypical favourites and eat the dishes that the locals love; crab spring rolls and egg coffee are just the beginning. 

Mount Phousi, Laos

Climb the 329 steps to the top of Mount Phousi, where you’ll need to choose between gazing up at the 24 m high gilded stupa or taking in the spectacular views of the city. Mount Phousi is just one marvel of Luang Prabang, a revered Lao town filled with glittering temples, cascading waterfalls and vibrant markets. 

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Monks Luang Prabang
The Buddhist monks form a procession through the village to collect alms for their one meal of the day

Alms ceremony, Laos

Every morning at dawn, the locals of Luang Prabang prepare for Tak Bat. They line the pavements with their rice, fresh fruit and traditional sweet treats in hand to pass to the procession of orange-clad Buddhist monks who make their way down the streets in a ceremony that dates back to the 1300s. Visitors are encouraged to participate, but urged to maintain the proper levels of respect to preserve this ancient tradition in all its beauty. 


All these bucket list moments are included in your Inspiring Indochina Tour with Insight Vacations, a tour provider who invites you to truly immerse yourself in each destination. Get in touch with your local Travel Associates Expert to start planning a trip filled with life-changing moments!

Emma Lee

Emma is a travel writer and blogger living in Brisbane, Australia. She followed the snow around the world for many years, and still considers Lake Louise her happy place. Emma's other passion is food; a love that has led her down many sketchy looking alleys in Asia, South America and Europe.