Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and to celebrate the beginning of the festive season, we’re bringing you the “Mercury Holidays’ 12 Destinations Advent Calendar” – every day we’ll be taking a look at a top destination and what makes it the perfect place to visit with family, friends or enjoy a little you time.

So, let’s take a look at what’s behind door number 4…

Vietnam and Cambodia – Mercury Holidays’ Escorted Tours

Located in Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia are both immensely popular destinations for travellers around the world; with incredible cultural sites such as Ho Chi Minh City and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay in Vietnam, to the historic importance of Phnom Penh and the exotic offerings of Siem Reap in Cambodia – a holiday to these locations isn’t just a trip away; it’s an experience that creates life-long memories.  

Advent Calendar Fact: Legends state that the people of Vietnam originated from a union between an immortal Chinese princess and ‘The Dragon Lord of the Seas’.

Ho Chi Monh City - VietnamNamed after the man that declared Vietnam’s independence from France in 1945, Ho Chi Minh City offers its visitors a plethora of sites to discover and learn about. Starting with the eerie Reunification Palace, this building has essentially been frozen in time since the North Vietnamese Army spectacularly stormed the gates in 1975 and ended the Vietnam War. When visiting this iconic location, tourists can walk around five levels, each containing rooms full of history. The basement features tunnels, a war room and telecommunications centre; there are also adjoining rooms that display war propaganda and the war command room still has original maps on the walls.

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

The people of Vietnam largely practice the religion of Buddhism, however, the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral built in the late 1800’s by French Colonists, is one of the few remaining icons of Catholicism within the city. The Cathedral is a popular spot on the tourist trail and the statue of the Virgin Mary outside is said to have cried real tears in 2005! This has been publicly refuted by the Catholic Church of Vietnam; however, thousands of people still flock to the statue in the belief they’ll witness something miraculous.

Advent Calendar Fact: The musical ‘Miss Saigon’ has been produced in 25 countries, 12 languages and 256 cities, but never in Vietnam.  


Next on the list of incredible sights to see in Ho Chi Minh is the Jade Emperor Pagoda; originally built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants and one of the most revered temples in the city; it now welcomes Buddhist worshipping. This peaceful sanctuary exudes a wonderful atmosphere with incense swirling in the air, plus beautiful intricate carvings and statues of Gods and Goddesses adorn the interior and exterior of this city highlight.

When visiting Vietnam, tourists are faced with numerous cities and towns to visit, however, one of the most breath-taking places to visit is Halong Bay. With its ethereal beauty, 1,600 intricate limestone islands and wave-eroded grottoes, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a firm favourite with tourists and considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

There are a range of different activities you can enjoy whilst visiting Halong Bay, from trekking and cycling to swimming and sunbathing. When you book our Vietnam and Cambodia Odyssey Escorted Tour, you begin your experience in Halong Bay with a visit to Vung Vieng Fishing village by rowing boat. You’re also given some time to relax on the sandy shores of Ban Chan beach or enjoy a swim in the stunning water before continuing your journey to Cong Do where the boat will anchor overnight.

Advent Calendar Fact: Legend has it that the bay was formed when the gods sent down dragons to protect the people of Vietnam from invaders. It’s believed that the dragons dropped jewels from their mouths into the bay, creating the islands and a barrier against invading ships. Instead of retreating back to the heavens, the dragons descended into the bay and now reside in its waters. Halong Bay roughly translates into “where the dragon descends into the sea”.

Royal Palace - CambodiaWhether your part of our escorted tour or visiting this part of the world on a self-organised trip, heading into neighbouring Cambodia is a must. Starting in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh is a city full of culture, history and stunning architecture; from the beautiful red-tiled façade of the National Museum of Cambodia and the Khmer roofs of the Royal Palace, to the haunting Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the extravagant Silver Pagoda, Phnom Penh provides tourists with a real insight into the country.

Starting with the National Museum of Cambodia, this striking building was constructed between 1917 – 1924 and is home to over 5,000 artefacts, dating back to the ancient Angkorian period. There are numerous rooms displaying rare statues, lingas and other items; including the Leper King from Siem Reap and a massive 11th Century bronze of Vishnu, the Hindu god.

Situated close to the National Museum of Cambodia is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, although this isn’t a pleasant experience, understanding the history and the cultural ramifications of this period of time for Cambodia is an important exercise that should be undertaken when visiting the city. The sobering visit to the former high school depicts the horrific role it played during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 – 1979; used as a political prisoners’ camp and known as Security Prison 21 (S-21), this complex saw thousands of people enter but tragically only seven survived.

Advent Calendar Fact: Cambodia is home to several endangered species, including the Irrawaddy dolphin which can be spotted in a section of the Mekong River.   

Vietnam Fact File:

Map of Vietnam

Geographical size – 127,247 square miles

Population – 95.45 million

Number of religious buildings – 17,000

Average temperature – December to March 18 degrees, April to November 27 degrees




Cambodia Fact file:

Map of CambodiaGeographical size – 181,035 square miles

Population – 16.01 million

Number of motorbikes – 2.7 million

Average temperature – November to March 22 degrees, April to December 30 degrees




Escorted Tour of The Day:

Vietnam and Cambodia Odyssey

Halong Bay - Vietnam and CambodiaAn incredible 20-day tour where guests travel from the mountainous and humid north of Vietnam through to the wealthier colonial south, then along the amazing Mekong Delta to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Encompassing five nights of cruising and four train journeys, this tour covers all the iconic sights you would expect with the added bonus of no internal flights.

Tour highlights:

Angkor Thom - Vietnam and Cambodia

  • A two night Halong Bay Cruise
  • Four scenic train journeys through Vietnam
  • Tours of Hanoi, Saigon and Phnom Penh
  • A three night cruise on the Mekong Delta
  • Explore the fascinating Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Discover the incredible Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom



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Make your Escorted Tour to Vietnam and Cambodia an even more incredible experience with a Cambodia Beach Stay Extension!

Cambodia Beach Stay

Sihanoukville - CambodiaSihanoukville, also know was ‘Kampong Som’ is a beautiful coastal city located in Cambodia and is also the capital of Sihanoukville Province. Although this destination has stunning beaches where you can kick back and relax, this little slice of paradise also offers its visitors a range of things to see and do. If you fancy slipping into a wetsuit, then snorkelling and scuba diving is a wonderful option; with the ocean’s warm waters and incredible Condo Reef, its definitely worth getting your feet wet. We’d also highly recommend visiting the Wat Leu Temple, the beautiful building located 1.5km outside of Sihanoukville looks like a pagoda in style and is surrounded by interesting artefacts, including a three-headed carved white elephant.

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Missed out on our other days? Take a look here!