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Vietnam or Thailand, Where Should I Go?

When it comes to choosing between two Vietnam vs Thailand travel destinations, it is not easy. There are several factors to consider. What kind of vacation are we looking for? What is the budget? How much time do you have? Who are you going with? These are just some questions we suggest you to answer. Then, you can go on packing the luggage for sustainable travel to Asia.

If you have to choose between two exotic and budget-friendly destinations: Thailand and Vietnam, what then? Both countries are part of Southeast Asia. What’s more, both are famous as backpacker paradise and loved by authentic travelers, offering authentic experiences, such as Ha Long Bay Tour – we definitely recommend experiencing the wholeness of South East Asia with budget travel tips!

Vietnam vs Thailand: What to Expect

Thailand: the most Fun Country in the World

Cozy and festive, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand versus Vietnam offers a thousand attractions. From striking temples and tropical beaches to the always comforting smile of its people, it is a destination to have fun.

If it is the first time you travel to Asia, it is the ideal destination. Many of its inhabitants speak English, so communication is easier. Bangkok Thailand is a developed city. While it retains the charms of Asia, the culture sock may not be as great, in comparison with neighbouring countries in South Asia.

If you are looking for a destination with dream beaches, Krabi, Southern Thailand is just perfect. Do you remember the famous movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo Di Caprio? It was shot here on the Maya Beach, Thailand. There are thousands of similar beaches throughout the country (in fact, the Thai government has decided to close Maya Beach to the public between the months of June to October to avoid further deterioration of its natural heritage).

Surely you have also heard about the famous Full Moon Party. It is said that Thailand is the most fun country in the world. It is celebrated on the island of Koh Phangan once a month and is the high point of chaos and fun. Maybe that kind of parties are not to everyone’s liking, but if you’re there by the date indicated, it’s worth seeing for yourself at least once in a lifetime.

If you are keen on diving, a must-visit is the Similan Islands. They may not be as popular as Koh Tao. But this is only because the nature reserve is not open all year round. It must be said that there is also a substantial difference in the price. Koh Tao is the best place if you are an inexperienced diver and your goal is to get a license. Many head to Koh Tao to obtain one, as courses are one of the cheapest you can possibly find. 

On the other hand, we have the North of Thailand, the most cultural part of the country. Here, people are calmer and more receptive. In the North of Thailand, you will find that image of Southeast Asia. It is full of the typical mountains and valleys, rivers and waterfalls, temples and history. Places like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Pai are a gateway to Asian ancestral culture.

Vietnam: History, Beauty, and Culture

Its attractions are almost endless: a cultural diversity that combines centuries of local history.  Both Chinese and French had a large influence over Vietnam throughout the centuries.  Eternal rice fields, paradisiacal beaches, and natural landscapes are among the most beautiful in the world. Definitely visit Ha Long Bay, for shopping and for the fresh food that is common in Vietnamese cuisine!

Looking for an adventure? Vietnam, a little more shocking than Thailand but not as extreme as exotic India, is the middle ground.

While films like Apocalypse Now or Platoon are recent classics of the history of cinema, many relate Vietnam history to war. Picturing the Cu Chi tunnels is something common, yet make the country special.

Vietnam is your destiny if you want to have a deeper experience and you are open to new points of view. Local dynasties, Chinese occupation, the Hindu kingdom Champa, the French colonization, the union of Indochina, the occupation of Japan during the Second World War, the division and horrors of the Vietnam War, the consolidation of the communist regime, the opening towards Capitalism … The intense history of Vietnam cannot stop beating you behind every corner of the country.

One of the most magical things about Vietnam is its gastronomic culture. Go out to the street and share a table with the locals in a den where you would probably never enter. Open your mind and try new things, soak up their culture and their customs and above all, observe. Sometimes communicating with locals is tricky.  Since a large part of the population doesn’t speak English, prepare yourself to use body language throughout the trip.

Of course, Ha-Long Bay is a place you can not miss. Get lost in the rice fields of Sapa, if you are good at riding a motorcycle – do not hesitate to rent one! Go on exploration as authentic adventurers. Go canyoning around Da Lat and take some time in Hoi An (read: What to do in Hoi An)to visit the best tailors in the world.

Thailand or Vietnam?

As a summary, we will say that both countries are a great option. It does not matter if you are a backpacker, or a solo traveler. Or, if you go on family vacation with kids. Budget-wise, the choice is irrelevant, as in both countries prices are quite similar. 

So, for the first trip to Asia, Thailand is an enviable country. It is full of contrasts, yet local sympathy flows over every corner. Vietnam, on the contrary, is more authentic and surprising.  Thus, it may be that the surprise is not to everyone’s liking. If you want to combine culture and beaches, the right choice is Thailand. Do you are want to explore the history and experience a cultural shock? Then Vietnam is surely your target destination. But before you head to Ha Long bay in Vietnam, read our top things to do on a budget in Hoi An, the Lantern City in Vietnam, or what to do on a budget in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hoi An: 5 Things to do in the Lantern City

Located on the central Vietnamese coast, this city is a well-preserved example of the important Southeast Asian trading port during 15-19th centuries. Already a must stop for backpackers and increasingly getting popular among tourists too. On the 14th day of each lunar month, the town trades its electric lights for traditional co- loured lanterns. Sights include the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple. Furthermore, Hoi An is very famous around the world for the expert tailors who can make you some bespoke clothing of the best quality for fraction of price as compared to what you would pay in Europe.

Here are 5 best picks that you MUST DO if you have the chance to walk around this wonderful city.

1. Take a cooking lesson

Cooking classes are a really popular attraction in Vietnam, that means you can do one in any city of the country. But, there’s something about the soothing pace and slightly less commercial feel of Hoi An that makes it the perfect spot to get out the chopping board and learn what is a bowl of pho.

There are many different classes on offer so you can take a look around and ask in different restaurants or schools. Our suggestion is Gioan cooking school, where you can learn how to make traditional vietnamese cuisine at its best. Balancing the ying and yang of flavours- sweet and sour, hot and salty all in a really healthy way.

2. Visit Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen

Do you know what Banh is? Well, basically a baguette. It was introduced by the French during the colonial period in Vietnam. The most popular variety of Vietnamese sandwich is bánh mì thịt, thịt meaning “meat”. Bánh mì thịt nguội is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts, such as sliced pork or pork belly, chả lụa (pork sausage), and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and vegetables like carrot or cucumbers.

Keep this address in mind: 115 Tran Cao Van Street, Hoi An 065, Vietnam. You will find there a fierce older lady who rules the shop with the best banh mi in the city.

3. Visit a tailor

Getting something tailor made is a popular thing to do in Hoi An. Items that are pricey back home, like suits, are cheaper, and everyday clothing can be anywhere between low and average price depending on the quality you are after. Furthermore, all tailors in Hoi An offer free fittings and adjustments until it is perfect. Make your own research and ask as many people as you can to find the best one in the city or at least the one that goes with your style.
Tony the tailor is really well known, so why not to walk to 294 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street and see what you come out with?

4. Tour the rice fields

Grab a bicycle and get lost in the gardens of Tra Que, the ancient sites and shipbuilding yards at Cam Kim and the friendly villages all around. Don’t forget to take some water with you. If cycling on your own is not your thing, you can always join a tour, there are plenty of it and it’s a good way to to explore Hoi An’s beautiful surroundings.

5. Take a food tour around the Old Town

And last but not least, a tour around the Old Town – a food tour would be more accurate -. Hoi An is famous for local specialities like white rose dumplings and chicken rice but what of the lesser known treats that populate this city? One tasty and adventurous way to find out is with a Street Food Tour, a gastronomic journey through the Old Town and beyond.
Enjoy two of the great pleasure of life: eating and explore. Take away your lunch and go to the Japanese covered bridge (it’s one of the most photographed bridges in Asia). Walk around the pretty ancient houses that line the streets and stop for a coffee, coffee culture is huge in Vietnam. Enjoy yourself and the small pleasures of life in The UNESCO Heritage Town: The Lantern City.