2 Week Travel Guide to Vietnam + Thailand
Vietnam is a very special country filled with food, culture and history. From the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City, to the ancient city of Hoi An, and the capital city, Hanoi, Vietnam offers something for everyone, whether its food, charm, history, natural beauty, adventure or romance. Just a short plane ride away takes you to Thailand, a great add-on to your South East Asia adventure. Here is a 14-day guide to your next trip to Vietnam and Thailand with some 4-5-star hotel recommendations, local eats, and things to do. If you are flying from someplace far away like Boston, it is recommended that you spend a two week minimum to account for the travel time and jet leg, not to mention there is so much to see and do.
1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 3-4 Days
What to Do: Kick off your stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Spend your day walking the city by foot, enjoying street food, visiting the Ben Thanh Market, and unwind with a massage (you will get dozens of these on your trip as they are so cheap!). Other sites to visit include a day trip to the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, the Notre-Dame Basilica or just enjoy the city by riding on the back of a motorbike! Book a day trip or overnight to the Mekong delta to get out of the bustling city and experience village life and the floating market. Last but not least, take ease when crossing the streets and just enjoy the organized chaos this city has to offer.
Where/What to Eat: Try Anthony Bordain famous restaurant, the Flying Rice, sit on some plastic chairs for a bowl of pho, enjoy the flavorful bo loc loc, or grab some local eats (noodle bowls, spring rolls and smoothies from the city market.) Don’t forget to try some of the famous Vietnamese coffee to get your sweet tooth fix.
Where to Stay: Pullman Saigon, a 5 star hotel for about $100/night or if you’re on a tighter budget, stay in an Airbnb preferably around District 1-3 or Benh Thanh Market area so you are within walking distance or a quick cab ride to the major attractions of the city. Hotels are also plentiful to accommodate budgets of all needs.
2. Hoi An, Vietnam 3-4 Days
What to Do: Take short and cheap plane ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang (~ $30-40USD for 30-45 minute trip with Jetstar) then a 45 minute taxi to Hoi An. At Hoi An, walk to the ancient city where you can explore the local culture, book a day trip to My Son Sanctuary, meet other travelers on an organized food tour where you can taste some local dishes, set a lantern off the river. Lastly, get another massage or foot rub from all of the walking!
Where/What to Eat: Experience famous local food and culture with a night time city food tour where you will get the inside scoop on all the secret hotspots such as noodle bowls, spring rolls, different fish sauces, and dumping’s, along with a river tour, and lighting of lanterns. Be sure to try the dumplings and the famous Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich to savor the 5 spice elements: spicy, salty, savory, sweet and bitter.
Where to Stay: 5-star Hotel Royal Hoi An a newer Accor hotel, which is within walking distance to the ancient city.
3. Hanoi, Vietnam 3-4 Days
What to Do: Take another quick and cheap flight from Danang to Hanoi. Spend your first night getting settled into the city. Take a walk and enjoy the local parks and lakes, the landscape is much different from Ho Chi Minh, and the climate is on the cooler side. From here you can easily do a 2-3 day trip to Ha Long Bay. You can also explore the mountainous region of Sapa to see the beauty and greenery of the north – be sure to pack some warmer clothes for this one.
Where/What to Eat: Bun Cha (Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli), Nem Cua Be (Crab Spring Rolls), Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Rolls) are some known foods to try in the north. You can also slurp down some more Pho to compare the difference in flavor from the South.
Where to Stay: Hotel de I’Opera Hanoior any hotels or airbnb’s near the old quarter where you will be close to local attractions, walking distance to many restaurants and markets, and nearby to pickups for day/overnight trips.
4. Halong Bay, Vietnam 2-3 Days
Wake up the early, to get picked up by shuttle and head north for a 2-3 day luxury cruise to Ha Long Bay with Paradise Cruise. Here you can experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tuan Chau Island, and see the various limestone formations topped with thick jungle and caves, swim or kayak in the emerald waters, and see the wonders of the Sung Sot Cave. All meals are provided on board offering local Vietnamese dishes and Western eats.
5. Bangkok, Thailand 2-3 nights
Explore: Take another relatively short and inexpensive flight from Hanoi to Bangkok with Jetstar Airways for a very different feel of South East Asia. Bangkok has an awesome public transportation system making it easy to get around for some DIY tours of the city and temples. Bring your walking shoes and long clothing for visiting the temples and tour of the Grand Palace.
Stay: Terminal 21 or other nearby hotels or airbnb’s are a great central point for getting around the city.
6. Chiang Mai, Thailand 2-3 nights
Explore: Take another quick plane ride with Tai Airways from Bangkok to Chiang Mai where you will be closer at one with nature in a less busting city. Ride along the river in the city’s golf cart-like tuktuk, or book a day trip to see waterfalls, tigers, and elephants (oh my).
Eat: The Hideout, Woo Café for some gra-pow, coffee or tea, Tanita’s Coffee House, amongst other incredible restaurants and local joints along the river. The Service 1921 Restaurant, part of Anantara Hotel, is also within walking distance from the Ping Nakara where you can indulge in Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese Szechaun cuisine.
Stay: Ping Nakara Boutique hotel and Spaor any other local hotels or airbnb’s.
7. Krabi Island, Thailand (3-4 nights)
Explore: another quick flight and away you are from the bustling cities to the quiet serenity of island life. Krabi is a great place if you are looking for a peaceful atmosphere as a base to do some island hopping. If you are more into the party scene and nightlife, Phuket might be a better fit. What more can you do on the beach but relax in a hammock, sunbathe, snorkel, island hop to Phi Phi Island, and sip on refreshing coconuts or adult beverage of your choice during sunset. If you’re looking for more adventure, try the hike – be sure to wear your hiking shoes and some water! The hubby popped the question at the top of this mountain!
Eat: local curry dishes. We many breakfast’s, lunch and dinners at the hotel restaurant at Tubkaak. We also tried some pizza (I know, who eat’s pizza in Asia, but this was nearing the end of the trip). You can also take a short tuk tuk ride outside of your hotel grounds to explore other restaurants.
Stay: Tubkaak Boutique Resort. Yes, the pictures are what you actually experience – a slice of heaven. This resort has a private beach area with hammocks and bean bags. We did some comparing by walking down the strip to other hotels, and no other hotel/resort compared.
A few tips and things to know prior to traveling:
Both Vietnam and Thailand are safe countries to travel around, but nevertheless it is important to be street smart and pay attention to your surroundings. It can never hurt to learn about + read up on the local culture so that you can be respectful and know what to expect before your trip. If you are planning on visiting temples, it’s a sign of respect to cover up your skin, so ladies - pack some cardigans, scarfs, and light layers to cover up.
Pack some cash to trade in for the local currency (Vietnamese Dong and Thai Baht ) for taxies, souvenirs, shopping at local markets, etc. Vietnam requires a visa which you should apply for at least a month prior to traveling. Taxi’s and Uber’s are readily available in both countries, but be sure that you take a taxi with a meter prior to getting in. You can also purchase local SIM cards upon arriving at the airport (in Bankok) and by going to a local vietnamese phone carrier provider (recommend Mobifone or Viettel) for data/and or calls . Internal flights are relatively cheap in both countries ~ less than a few hundred dollars or less if traveling to different parts of the country.
Have questions about your upcoming trip or need some travel advice? I’ve visited Vietnam 4 times, and have spent about four months their total. Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org