Genuinely a Grand Tour, giving the opportunity not just to see some truly World-Class sights but also to have a really good introduction to the cultures and peoples of this fascinating region. The itinerary is packed for most of the 4 weeks, but with sufficient opportunities to kick back and re-charge your batteries. That said, those with the stamina may prefer to take up some of the many optional goodies available during “free” time. The local guides were good at laying out options that previous Exodus people had enjoyed, but also had the contacts to help sort out things on request. Best beaches, bars, restaurants, museums, cookery schools – something for everyone. So, everyone had a great time, gained as much education as they wanted, saw and experienced things they may never see again. Lots of “wow!”
Particular highlights for me included kayaking in Ha Long Bay, a morning’s cycle through the Vietnam countryside to a bustling local market, a splendid Lao cooking course by the Mekong in Luang Prabang and roaming around the ruins in Angkor, finding places where there were no other tourists, at least for some of the time. Oh, and the umpteen methods of transport we used, including hair-raising but fun cyclo-taxi rides through the madcap traffic in Hanoi and Saigon.
I was really pleased with the way that Exodus handled issues arising from visiting a region so recently devastated by war and the insanity of Pol Pot’s regime. Visits like the Genocide Memorial in Cambodia and museums of the Vietnam war can feel like an unpleasant form of voyeurism. Exodus helped us handle any misgivings by providing opportunities to direct some of our tourist dollars straight to the people that need it the most. Connections were made with restaurants, factories and charities that employed or supported victims. These were voluntary and none was awkward or intrusive, but made us feel we had been able to make a positive difference.
A few practical points, based on a trip Jan/Feb 2015. To get the most from the tour itself, you will want to take up most of the optional extra activities, so if you have the time and money, consider adding a few days to acclimatise before the trip and/or to relax at the end. As always, pack as light as you can. It is cheap and reliable to get clothes washed at many points along the way. And don’t bother taking your own cycle helmet as good quality ones were available at no extra cost for the organised ride.
Tempted? Then do go as soon as you can! Huge investments in tourism are being made throughout the area, so try to get there before it changes too much. Our group covered a wide range of ages, couples and singles, most well-travelled – and all agreed it to be one of the very best!