GAP Adventures – Cambodia WestboundJune 11th, 2010 by Flight Centre Staff
Flight Centre’s Wes Farrar is back to take us on another vacation adventure; this time he guides us through the mysteries of the Orient on a GAP Adventures tour. Let’s join Wes as he shows us how to make the most out of an action packed 9 day tour of Asia with our friends GAP Adventures. Hit it Wes!
For anyone who’s ever wanted to see the sights and wonders of South East Asia but thought they needed a month to do it, I have personally experienced a trip that fits everything into 9 days.
Starting on March 15, 2007, my girlfriend and I enjoyed an amazing GAP Adventures trip that started in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon to some), ended in Bangkok and took in all the amazing sights along the way.
Our adventure began by flying from Toronto to Vancouver on WestJet, an amazing airline! Leather seats, great service, amazing staff, and I’d bet I’m not the only one who loves watching SportsCentre during my flight or a hockey game if it’s on. We arrived in Vancouver and had a few hours to kill before beginning our long haul to Vietnam. I loved the Vancouver airport; Great restaurants, very easy to get from the domestic to the international terminals (short walk which is night and day compared to Pearson in Toronto), and overall a beautiful airport. After our brief stopover and lunch at 9:30am Vancouver time (we’d already had breakfast at 5am EST) we boarded our Singapore Airlines flight and was impressed right from the word go; there’s a reason they’re rated the #1 airline in the world. Now, I have had quite a few long international flights but this was by far the most enjoyable and memorable. The service is second to none, food was outstanding, and the seats were more then comfortable. I’m 5’10″ and have felt cramped in a number of airline seats, as I’m sure several people have, however, the room in economy class allows anyone to stretch out and relax making that 10-12 hour flight very comfortable. Not to mention their in flight movie & entertainment on demand system features over 80 movies to choose from, TV shows, documentaries, and games (on the flight home my girlfriend and I were playing Battleship against each other). Easily the best flight I have been on, they brought the drink cart out twice before the plane was leveled out!
It was my second time in Vietnam and my girlfriend’s first time in Asia and upon our arrival in Vietnam and traveling to Ho Chi Minh City everything came flooding back to me. The immediate culture shock was entertaining for me, to say the least. Bartering for taxis and hotels is mandatory should you ever venture out that way. We found out how much a taxi should cost from the Saigon airport to Da Tham Street (the main travelers area) from the currency exchange counter and ventured to the taxis. Good tip, if they try for more tell them to use the meter for the cab ride, you’ll get your price. After spending the first day wandering the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and taking in a day trip to the Cuchi tunnels, which were used during the Vietnam War, we met up with our GAP Adventures group. Our first bit of sightseeing with our group was a cycle tour through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City which was one of my highlights of the entire trip.
From Ho Chi Minh we went west towards Cambodia. After a one night stop in Chau Doc we took a boat ride up the Mekong River to the Kingdom of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Pehn. For those who know Cambodia the recent history is less then a bright point, but does not reflect in the energy in this great city. This city is home to S21, which is the most famous of the prisons used by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge from 1975-79. Also a short distance from Phnom Pehn you will find the killing fields. It was my second time visiting these sites and I can tell you that the second time is not any easier. A little forewarning that it gets very emotional and detailed into the dark past of both of these sites.
After two nights in the capital we flew to what was my most anticipated destination, Siem Reap, to see the amazing temples of Angkor Wat. These jewels just missed the cut to be in the new 7 wonders of the world but they got my vote. Again, this was my second time seeing these impressive man made wonders but it didn’t stop me from being just as in awe as the first time. We spent three days in the town of Siem Reap seeing the markets and temples. This town has amazing restaurants and bars and nothing beats sitting on a patio of one of the street side restaurants enjoying a $3 pitcher of beer!! Another quick tip, the street merchants can be tough so be ready to barter for souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to price shop, there’s tons of everything you see!
After our time in Siem Reap we experienced the only down part of this entire trip, the bus ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok. The ride from Siem Reap to the Thailand border is a 4.5 hour bus ride on an unfinished road with no chance for stops along the way. Stock up on snacks and hit the bathroom before the ride begins. The drive from the Thai border to Bangkok is amazing compared to the ride just experienced; Smooth roads are such a luxury!
Arriving in Bangkok, for me, was like coming home after a long time away. It’s an amazing city and anyone looking for anything should head straight to the Koh San Road. Our tour officially ended that night, so we enjoyed a night out with some great Thai food and Singha beer with our GAP leader and our group of new friends.
We decided to extend our time in Bangkok to enjoy some of the sights. Here is a list of some of the tourist highlights while in Bangkok: floating market, night of Thai boxing, day trip to the bridge over the river Kwai, the royal palace, of course the Koh San Road for souvenir shopping (and a degree in Astro Physics if you feel like buying it).
As I said at the top of this blog, this is a great 9 day GAP Adventures trip that lets you see a number of highlights in this area, all in a short amount of time. We never felt rushed and our tour leader Jarred was awesome! Plenty of free time to explore, amazing restaurants recommended, and most of all it was a great vacation experience and adventure for my girlfriend’s first trip to Asia.
Bangkok is highlighted on the Flight Centre travel map.
Looking for more information on travelling Asia on a GAP Adventures vacation? Contact Wes Farrar, a Travel Consultant with Flight Centre based in Kitchener, Ontario who can be reached at 1 866 581 7766.