Our Awesome Siem Reap and Vietnamese Family Vacation

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted something new! Time sure does get away from you! So, we’re now firmly in the process of putting together the details for our next adventure down under later this year (Australia, for those of you who don’t know the lingo!) and I realized that I really need to write about our awesome Siem Reap and Vietnamese adventure from a few months ago.

For starters, I was the most nervous before departing than I have ever been while traveling with our two little ones (ages 3 and 5 at the time of travel) and would have loved a little more detail about trips taken by those adventurous souls who did something similar before us. But, alas, I found no such post, so I hope to give a little bit of that detail here.

As a reminder, we ended up choosing to travel to Siem Reap and Vietnam now based upon a mistake fare that allowed us to travel to Tuscany in February and then onto Bangkok in April (we connected ourselves to Siem Reap from there) for $180.20 per person. That didn’t get us two complete trips in terms of airfare, but it did get us from JFK to Milan and then Dublin to Bangkok for the whopping price of $180.20 per person. That was a price I couldn’t pass up. We did connect ourselves back from Florence to Boston in February using 30,000 United miles apiece. We also connected ourselves from Boston to Dublin for 12,500 British Airways Avios each for the two in coach and 25,000 British Airways Avios for the two in business (we split up 2 in business and 2 in coach because Aer Lingus only opens up two award seats per flight in each class). But even adding in those miles, we got two awesome vacations for very little out of pocket.

Back to Southeast Asia… While very safe in nature, it certainly was going to be the most exotic place my kids have ever been. Yes, they’ve been to several countries in Europe, the United Arab Emirates, and Costa Rica among others, but this was going to be different. Different culture, different landscape, different climate, different looking people… Who knew how they’d react. For those of you who are bored already and would rather skip to the punchline, they did amazing. And LOVED every minute of it.

Vacations like these reemphasize my passion for getting my kids out in the world at such young ages. They loved watching the monks praying while the monks watched them. They didn’t freak out when others touched them as is the cultural norm in Southeast Asia with kids and pale skin. My daughter made a 60 something year old friend at the Siem Reap airport when our flight was delayed who didn’t speak a word of English (they played for about an hour together). And they actually tried local food. With chopsticks. Whoa. Believe me, this last one is a pretty big deal. My son especially is not easy to please. It was awesome.

Not once did we fear for their safety (we did do guided tours in each of our destinations). The exposure to this culture is not something that they can get in a book or on TV. And the appreciation they are building not only for the daily lives of other people around the world but of their own blessings in their home warms my heart.

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One of the highlights of the trip for the kids was the Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap.  We went there first instead of the Angkor Wat temple which everyone usually visits for sunrise. As a result, we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. The kids were able to explore to their hearts content without having to contend with other visitors. One thing to keep in mind is that it was very, very hot in Siem Reap. Please remember to bring lots of water.

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Another highlight for them was a day trip to the Mekong Delta with a boat ride down the Mekong River. We learned how they make bricks and coconut candy. They were fascinated. The day ended with an exciting motorbike ride back to the river. That was the best part of their day!

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The highlight of their visit to Da Nang was the hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency and it was perfect. We had an afternoon of much needed down time on the beach and in the pool. But Hoi An (only 25 minutes away) was also amazing. Great little town on the river where we got to ride in handmade bamboo boats!

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They also got to experience their first overnight on a boat. We took the 1 night/2 day Paradise Luxury cruise in Halong Bay. The setting there is gorgeous and the kids loved the novelty of it.

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Our last stop before returning home was Hanoi. We got to experience a cyclo tour through the city (which isn’t for the faint of heart!) and we got to take a food tour. While some of the things they tried (egg hot chocolate, fried eel, etc.) sounded exotic, they were quite tasty and it was great to see them trying new things! They also loved the water puppet show (the adults did too)!

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So, if you’re contemplating a trip to Siem Reap or Vietnam with little ones, do it! Our kids may not remember all of the fun things that they did on this trip (or any trip, for that matter), but I know that the overall experiences they are having with their family in far off locales will stay with them forever.

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