Vietnam and Thailand, both popular gems in Southeast Asia, may appear similar at first glance, but they offer distinctive attractions and a variety of cultural experiences. The choice between the two destinations hinges on personal preferences and specific travel goals. Join us as we uncover the diverse offerings that make each country unique.
Natural attractions – Vietnam vs Thailand
Both Vietnam and Thailand boast a multitude of natural attractions and diverse landscapes, from beaches to hills, rivers to dense forests. Let’s take a look at the natural attractions of both countries.
Vietnam: Mesmerising beauty characterises Vietnam, with highlights such as the iconic Ha Long Bay, the sandy dunes of Mui Ne, the Tonkinese Alps, and the terraced rice fields of Sapa. Pristine lakes, meandering streams, and fascinating cave systems add to the natural allure.
Thailand: Thailand is home to the magnificent Phang Nga Bay Marine National Park, spread over 400 sq km and featuring 42 islets and islands. This park is home to diverse marine and wildlife, as well as limestone karsts emerging from the water. Erawan Falls, Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Tham Lot cave system, and the stunningly beautiful Phi Phi Islands are some of the most popular natural attractions.
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Best time to visit – Vietnam vs Thailand
Diverse weather conditions impact different regions of both Thailand and Vietnam simultaneously, requiring consideration of regional variations and personal preferences.
Vietnam: North Vietnam, comprising Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, is best visited from October to November and March to April. Central Vietnam, including Hue and Hoi An, is ideal from January to July, while Southern Vietnam, encompassing Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, is preferable from December to April.
Thailand: Destinations such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, along with other northern and central regions, are best visited from November to February. Koh Samui is best visited from June to October, avoiding the heavy monsoon spell. Beach destinations like Phuket, Pattaya, and Krabi are most enjoyable from March to May.
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Best places to visit in Thailand & Vietnam
While Thailand and Vietnam share similarities, they each boast unique attractions, from magnificent temples and bustling night markets to white sand beaches and historic sites.
Vietnam: Da Nang, a popular destination in Vietnam, is home to the striking Marble Mountains and serene beaches. The historic city of Hue features royal tombs, lavish pagodas, and the Imperial City. Hanoi offers a beautiful blend of modern culture and ancient history through the Old Quarter and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Thailand: Koh Chang Island with its white sand beaches, Koh Samui with its palm-fringed beaches and lush rainforests, and Bangkok with its ornate temples, vibrant nightlife, and street markets are must-visit places in Thailand.
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Things to do – Thailand vs Vietnam
Both Thailand and Vietnam offer a plethora of activities, from exciting water sports such as snorkelling and diving to invigorating treks through waterfalls and meadows full of wildflowers. There are cave systems and islands to explore and cruises to go on. Enjoying cultural attractions and visiting markets in bustling urban cities are also some of the best things to do in Vietnam and Thailand.
Vietnam: Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, an intricate network of underground tunnels, near Ho Chi Minh City. Cruise the Mekong Delta, embark on a mountainous trek in Sapa, explore the charming markets of Hoi An, and indulge in delicious flavours of local cuisine, like Banh Mi and Pho. Adventure enthusiasts should discover the vibrant coral reefs of Phu Quoc Island.
Thailand: Island hopping is a must in Thailand, with over 300 islands offering a diverse range of experiences. Explore the vibrant night markets of Bangkok, dance the night away at the famous full moon parties in Phuket, scuba dive in Similan Island, witness the excitement of a Muay Thai fight, and indulge in tantalising flavours of Thai street food.
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Shopping guide – Vietnam vs Thailand
Vietnam and Thailand are havens for shopaholics, offering a mix of big brands and local treasures.
Vietnam: In Hanoi, explore the night markets for the latest in fashion. Dong Xuan indoor market offers a diverse range of products, from clothes to seafood. In Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh Market is perfect for picking up unique food items, whereas the Cholon Chinatown market is ideal for homemade spices and sauces. Han Market in Da Nang and the Dinh Cau Night Market in Phu Quoc Island are ideal for picking up souvenirs.
Thailand: Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise, offering everything from clothes and accessories to spices and metal figurines. Explore the diverse offerings at Rot Fai Market, Central Market, Chatuchak Weekend Market, and Asiatique Riverfront Market in Bangkok. Phuket’s weekend market is a charming spot for browsing through adorable souvenirs. In Krabi, the Walking Street Market and Maharaj Market are perfect for daily essentials and unique finds.
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Best hotels in Vietnam & Thailand
Vietnam and Thailand boast an array of exceptional accommodations, catering to diverse preferences, from luxury hotel chains and charming boutique hotels to backpacker dorms, resorts and spas.
Vietnam: In Hanoi, the best hotels include the Lotte Hotel, Dolce by Wyndham Hanoi Golden Lake, and the Hanoi Grand Plaza Hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is home to hotels like Sofitel Saigon Plaza, Equatorial, and An Lam Retreats. The Hilton, Danang Marriott Resort & Spa, and Wyndham Danang Golden Bay are some of the best hotels in Da Nang.
Thailand: In Bangkok, Centara Grand at Central Plaza, Shangri-La, and Intercontinental Sukhumvit are the best hotels. The Na Nirand Resort, Buri Sriping Riverside Resort & Spa, and Thantara Resort are among the best hotels in Chiang Mai. Pattaya is home to some great hotels such as The Hilton, Royal Cliff Grand Hotel, and Mytt Hotel.
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Best restaurants & food to try in Thailand and Vietnam
Explore the diverse culinary landscapes of Vietnam and Thailand, where each bite unveils a unique journey into culture and tradition.
Vietnam: Vietnamese cuisine contains a lot of seafood, fresh herbs, fish sauce, vegetables, and a lighter use of cooking oil. Some of the most popular Vietnamese fare include Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Mi, Cao Lu, and Banh Cuon pancakes.
Some of the best restaurants in Vietnam include L’essence De Cuisine, Khuê Restaurant, and Lighthouse Sky Bar & Restaurant in Hanoi. Michelin-starred The Monkey Gallery and Cloud Nine Restaurant are some of the best eateries in Ho Chi Minh City, whereas in Da Nang, some of the best restaurants include Ca Chuon Co Seafood Restaurant and Thìa Gỗ Restaurant.
Thailand: Thai cuisine is well known for its aromatic and bold flavours, which create a harmonious balance of spicy, sweet, sour, and pungent. Dishes such as Pad Thai, green curry, spicy green papaya and crab salad, red curry, and Tom Yum Goong are some of the most famous and must-have dishes of Thailand.
Some of the most authentic and delectable fare can be found at the street food stalls. On the other hand, some of the best restaurants in Thailand include Vertigo and 80/20 in Bangkok, Parc Thai Eatery and Bodhi Terrace are great restaurants to try local fare in Chiang Mai, whereas Edge and Big Fish are some of the best hotels in Pattaya.
(Image credit: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock)
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
-Vietnam or Thailand, which destination is more family-friendly?
Both Vietnam and Thailand are family-friendly destinations.
-Vietnam or Thailand, which destination is good for a honeymoon?
Thailand, with its beaches and tropical climate, is ideal for a honeymoon.
-Is it possible to visit both Vietnam and Thailand in a single trip?
Yes, it’s possible to visit both Vietnam and Thailand in a single trip lasting at least 10-15 days.
-Can I find adventure activities in both Vietnam and Thailand?
Both countries offer a plethora of adventure activities, including water sports.
-Vietnam or Thailand – which destination is more suitable for a cultural experience?
Both Vietnam and Thailand provide remarkable cultural experiences given their rich heritage.
-How does the climate differ between Vietnam and Thailand?
Different regions in both countries experience varied weather. For example, North Vietnam has pleasant temperatures from March to April, while Thailand sees rising temperatures.