Ho Chi Minh to BangkokVietnam - Cambodia - Thailand
Southeast Asia is often at the top of many travel bucket lists, but it can be difficult to discern where to start. Luckily for you, we have created an interesting itinerary to explore three countries, multiple cities, and an island!
As you travel through the countries, you will have the chance to see beautiful green mountainsides, inviting jungles with monkeys leaping from trees, and little floating villages full of life. Read more about the stops, things to see, and to do on the following Southeast Asia travel route.
Rail Passes: –
Price Range: $
Recommended Days: 2-3 Weeks
Riding Hours: Approx. 23.5 hr
Distance: 1,450 km
Transportation: Train, Bus, Ferry
Ho Chi Minh City: History, Art, Food, And Party
Ho Chi Minh City is one of the famous places to visit in Vietnam. It is a great spot for history, art, food, and culture lovers. It is also a great spot for nightlife with warm and inviting energy. You can enjoy riverboat tours to get an interesting view of the city or head to the museum that portrays the horrors of the Vietnam War. Head to the local markets and try some of the delicacies from the street food vendors.
The Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral shines a light on the elegance of the city that is often overlooked. The cathedral is set next to the 30-4 park and is a great spot for venturing to some of the other sites in the city. For those that love history, the Independence Palace is a great place to visit. When you head inside of the building you will go back in time with its design and structure. You have the chance to explore the bomb bunker within the basement and see the original maps on the walls that were hung during the war.
A great way to see the city is through the motorbike tour where you will have the chance to feel the vitality of the city and become like a local. There are many tour operators that will take you along the Saigon River and to the many historical spots that are dotted throughout the city. It is a great sightseeing trip in a short amount of time.
Ho Chi Minh – Sinh Tourist Office → Phnom Penh – Sing Tourist Office | Duration: 6:00 h | Transfers: 0-1
The first mode of transportation is by bus as there are no connecting trains between Vietnam and Cambodia. Buses operate regularly between these two metropolises and wait for you while crossing the border and going through customs. Sometimes you may switch to a different bus after crossing the border but this will all be explained to you on your journey if you do or do not need to transfer buses. Book ticket through a tourist office in Ho Chi Minh City, there are several offering this connection to Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh: Cultural Hub Of Cambodia
You have made your way across the border into Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. A vibrant and lively city that won’t take you long to get used to. Phnom Penh, a cultural hub of Cambodia, displays markets full of color, options of plenty of exciting things to do, and local food to try.
The Royal Palace is an impressive structure within the city that is the official residence of the King. Visitors can explore sections of the palace like the gardens, the temples’ libraries, and also the galleries that are dotted throughout the palace grounds. Another impressive structure in the city is the National Museum of Cambodia that houses artifacts of the Angkorian period. You will find rare artifacts including an 11th-century bronze Vishnu statue.
Between the years 1975 and 1979, millions of Cambodians died and the Killing Fields is the mass gravesite home of more than one million bodies. Visitors pay their respects when visiting the fields and the memorial site to educate about the horrors of what happened and commemorate those that were lost. To learn more about this time in Cambodia’s history, tour Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is also known as the S21 Prison.
Phnom Penh Station → Kampot Station | Duration: 4:40 h | Transfers: 0
These trains operate three times a week, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only once daily so plan your journey accordingly. As you head from the capital of Cambodia, you will travel past mountain ranges and lush rice fields before making your way to Kampot. Depending on where your hotel is, you may need to get a taxi or tuk-tuk from the train station to your hotel. Arrange this with your hotel or get one outside of the train station. Confirm the current rail schedule before you travel and book your tickets at the train station. If travelling on other days of the week, there are also buses available. Book bus tickets with 12Go.
Kampot: Riverside Town
Kampot, the riverside town, has become a popular watersports playground for tourists along this Southeast Asia travel route. Surrounded by lush green scenery and authentic cuisine to try, there is a lot to be enjoyed when visiting the rambunctious town of Kampot.
To have a different vantage point of the scenery head out onto the Crab Shuttle and see the unspoiled Cambodia coastline. Enjoy the relaxing waves of the coast, watch the fish swim through the ocean, and then delve into some of Cambodia’s delicious cuisine along the coast.
Cambodia is home to many of the Buddhist temples in Cambodia, but nearby Kampot is the Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple, the only cave temple in all of the country. The hidden cave greets you with elephant-shaped statues and views over the town.
Kampot Station → Sihanoukville Station | Duration: 2:10 h | Transfers: 0
Just like from Phnom Penh to Kampot, these trains operate three times a week to Sihanoukville, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only once daily so plan your journey accordingly. Confirm the current rail schedule before you travel and book your tickets at the train station. If travelling on other days of the week, there are also buses available. Book bus tickets with 12Go.
As you head down to the next stop, you will see how landlocked Cambodia changes from green to blue as you head to the coast.
Sihanoukville: Untouched Beaches
The seaside city, Sihanoukville is a popular destination within Cambodia due to the country being landlocked. This destination has untouched beaches that are worth a visit, a wide selection of international food, exciting nightlife, thrilling watersports, and inviting beach bars.
Just because you are set up beachside, doesn’t mean that you will be missing out on seeing Buddhist temples. The Wat Leu Temple closely resembles a pagoda and is very different from the famous Angkor Wat temple. Here you will find gold decorations that contrast against the black Buddha statue and keep an eye out for the three-headed carved white elephant.
Sihanoukville is widely known for its beaches, so of course, these are a must-visit. Each beach has white sand that leads into the azure waters and offers views of the Gulf of Thailand. Some beaches that are worth a visit are Serendipity or even Otres beach.
And fear not, there are plenty of beach bars nearby to satiate your thirst. Whilst you are enjoying the sounds of the ocean, why not head out into the blue waters for a bit of water sports fun. The surrounding waters are a haven for coral and interesting sea creatures so try your hand at some scuba diving or even snorkeling. You may even have the chance to enjoy kayaking or windsurfing if that’s more up your alley.
Sihanoukville Port → Koh Rong /Koh Rong Samloem | Duration: 0:30-0:50 h | Transfers: 0
To reach the island of Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem, you will need to take a speedboat. This journey takes anywhere from 30-50 minutes depending on which island you will be staying on. These tickets can be bought ahead of time from 12Go.
Koh Rong: Cambodia’s Tropical Island
Just off of Sihanoukville are several remote tropical paradise islands that can be visited. Koh Rong and its sister island Koh Rong Samloem are great for tourists. Having previously been fishing village islands, these islands are now top destinations for tourists when visiting Cambodia. You can pick up souvenirs, head to lively bars, and enjoy delicious delicacies before relaxing on the white, soft sandy beaches. We recommend choosing where you want to stay accordingly, as Koh Rong is more of a party island while Koh Rong Somloem is more of a quieter island.
No worries about which island you’ll stay on, as obvious pastimes for both Koh Rong and its sister island is to enjoy some beach time. You can spend your days on the powdery sand beaches that lead into the turquoise waters. You can find the perfect spot to catch the sun and then cool yourself off in the waters. Due to how clear the waters surrounding the islands are, snorkeling is perfect to enjoy. You will have the chance to explore the life that lives in the surrounding waters.
Why not take a bioluminescence tour; these are often being sold along the beach. Something special about Koh Rong Island is that it has bioluminescent plankton and on your tour, you will be taken to the areas with the least amount of light pollution so that you will have the chance to see this breathtaking sight.
Sihanoukville → Siem Reap | Duration: 1:17 h* | Transfers: 2 | (Taxi & Plane
* Take into account the ferry journey from Koh Rong/ Koh Rong Samloem, as well as extra time for pre-flight check-in. See below for other transfer options.
Traveling to Siem Reap from Koh Rong can be done in a number of ways. You can catch a 30-50 minute ferry back to Sihanoukville and then catch a flight from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap which is a rather time-effective and efficient route. Book your flight tickets here. If you want a more scenic route, catch either a day or night bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh (book bus ticket here). After that, you will take a speedboat to Siem Reap where you will pass by floating villages. However, depending on the time of year and the water levels when you arrive in Phnom Penh you may have to be patient as you may not be able to travel on your chosen day to Siem Reap.
And the final option would be to organize a sleeper night bus to Siem Reap that may have a transfer option in Phnom Penh (book bus ticket here). If you choose this option, make sure to check the sleeping arrangements as you may end up having to share a bed with a stranger. A great way for this to not happen would be to purchase the seat/bed next to you so that you will have the bed to yourself.
Siem Reap – Temples Galore
Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor Wat temple, lures visitors from all across the world. However, it is also an exciting town to be explored and has beautiful surroundings and adventure. Take a trip to a nearby waterfall and have a swim, zip line amongst the gibbons that live in the forest, and enjoy delicious foods that are just waiting to be tasted.
Probably the most famous place to visit in Siem Reap is to visit Angkor Wat. But why not head there in style by hiring a tuk-tuk for the day. As they lead you through the town to the complex, you may even be given an interesting history lesson on the temples for a fun perspective. Or rent some bicycles at the entrance and get your exercise biking around the 162-hectare (402-acre) complex. For a different vantage point, enjoy Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples for a sunrise hot air balloon ride.
Every night you will have the chance to witness Phare the Cambodian Circus where you will see Cirque du Soleil-styled performances that have a very obvious Cambodian theme with the storytelling. There are many interesting cuisines to be tried in Siem Reap, one being a tarantula. Often found at the night markets, you will find these eight-legged bodies deeply fried and served in chili giving it a fiery flavor.
Siem Reap Station → Bangkok Khao San Road | Duration: 8:30h | Transfers: 1
There are a couple of options to get to Bangkok from Siem Reap. Take a bus or private taxi from Siem Reap to Poipet (if taking the bus, take the early morning option to allow for enough time). Book bus ticket here. Poipet is the border town on the Cambodian side of the Thai-Cambodian border. From there go through the border crossings (Cambodian and Thai), get your passports stamped and fingerprints are taken all of which takes 25 minutes in total or up to 2 hours during a busy day, Between the two buildings of each country, you will need to walk a short distance. When finished with border control, on the Thai side of the border the Ban Klong Luk train station is a short walk away and a train service leaves daily (around 9:30 am) to Bangkok. Book this ticket at the train station. There are also mini-buses available to take to Bangkok if the train has already left, book mini-bus ticket here.
Bangkok: Get Lost…
Bangkok is truly a city that never sleeps, constantly bustling, this metropolis offers something for everyone and at whatever time of day. Whether it is the amazing temples smack dab in the middle of the city, the street food that makes your mouth water, or the crazy nightlife that people rave about.
Whilst in Thailand’s capital, check out Wat Pho, home to the enormous Reclining Buddha. Sizing at 46 meters long and 15 meters high, you will be astounded by its size and beauty. The statue is the main attraction to the temple, but within you will also find murals with 400 Buddhas. You will also find a traditional Thai massage school within the temple. In addition to Wat Pho, several other temples are scattered along the Chao Phraya River, which is easily accessible by little boats* that regularly service the area (*you can buy these tickets at the docks).
Something you don’t get a see every day is the Maeklong Railway Market, a market that sits on an operating train track. As the train blows its horn, the vendors swiftly pack up and step aside as the train whizzes over where goods were sold just moments before, once the train has passed, normal market activities resume as if nothing even happened.