From the historical temples of Bangkok and beautiful beaches of Thai islands to bustling and busy Vietnam, we’ve included a range of different destinations to help you get the most from your two weeks in Southeast Asia.
Our itinerary begins in Bangkok, then includes several days on the Thai beach area of your choice before flying to Ho Chi Minh City and travelling north through Vietnam.
Our itinerary starts in Bangkok, where you’ll find some of Thailand’s most spectacular temples and historical sites. On your first day in Bangkok, you’ll get a chance to see the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and other historical attractions in Bangkok’s Old City.
The Grand Palace. This large complex of temples and royal residences houses Wat Phra Kaew, which is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Open from 8:30am until 3:30pm with a 500 baht entry fee for non-citizens, it’s best to visit the Grand Palace as early as possible to avoid the large crowds that can show up later in the day.
Wat Pho. Home to a 160 foot reclining Buddha statue, Wat Pho is best visited directly after the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is home to one of Thailand’s most famous traditional massage schools, making it a great place to stop for a break after morning sightseeing.
Wat Arun. Located across the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun (or the Temple of Dawn) is a 17th century structure located right beside the water. The temple is easy to access via the cross-river ferry, which stops at Tha Tien Pier.
After a morning of palaces and temples, you can stop for lunch at Thip Samai Pad Thai, Bangkok’s most famous Pad Thai shop, or enjoy a high-end international lunch with a view of Wat Arun from Sala Rattanakosin Eatery And Bar.
For a great Thai lunch with equally good views of Wat Arun, stop by The Deck, which is a short walk from Sala Rattanakosin.
Jim Thompson’s House © twang_dunga
On day two, you’ll get to see a more modern side of Bangkok in Siam and Ratchaprasong, the city’s main shopping districts. You’ll also get to see the historical house of Jim Thompson and the famous Erawan Shrine located in between Bangkok’s biggest malls and hotels.
Shopping Malls. Bangkok has a great selection of shopping malls, most of which are located around Siam and Chit Lom BTS stations. Siam Paragon and Central World offer the largest selection of mid-range and high-end shops, while the MBK Centre is popular for cheap smartphones, tablets, cameras and other consumer electronics.
Jim Thompson House. Designed by silk industry entrepreneur Jim Thompson in the 1950s, this traditional Thai house is filled with antiques and rare items. The house is open to visitors, with guided tours of its living quarters and gardens available.
Erawan Shrine. This small shrine to Brahma (or Phra Phrom, as the deity is known in Thai Buddhism) is located just across the street from Central World and is a popular place for locals to pray for good luck.
Night Bike Tour. After a morning of shopping, one of the best ways to see another side of Bangkok is on a night bike tour. Grasshopper Adventures offers a night bike tour that travels through Old Bangkok and past temples, flower markets and quiet alleyways.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is bustling and busy, with a huge range of tiny shops selling everything from gold, silver and other precious metals to souvenirs and toys. It’s also a great place to enjoy authentic Thai and Chinese food. There are several street food markets around Chinatown, as well as restaurants like Hua Seng Hong and stands like Fikeaw Yao Wa-Rat serving cheap and tasty Chinese food.
Days Four to Seven: Thai Beaches
Thailand’s largest and most popular island, Phuket has everything from heavily developed resort areas to quiet, peaceful and amazingly beautiful beaches. It also has its own airport, letting you fly in directly from Bangkok and avoid a long bus or taxi trip.
Phuket has a huge variety of different beaches and areas, ranging from nightlife hubs to quiet and largely undeveloped beachside towns. It’s also where you’ll find the best selection of luxury and mid-range resorts in Thailand.
Like the other islands, we have a Quick Guide to Phuket that covers the island’s best beaches, things to do, places to stay and dining options.
Phi Phi Island
Railay West Beach, Thailand
Located east of Phuket, Krabi Province is home to some of Thailand’s best beaches and most impressive coastal scenery. Ao Nang is the main tourist destination in this part of the country, while Railay is famous for its limestone cliffs and laid back atmosphere.
Krabi Province has its own airport, with direct flights from Bangkok departing often. If you’re looking for stunning beaches and don’t want to deal with a long ferry trip or bus ride, Krabi is tough to beat as a destination.
We have several travel guides for Krabi Province. Our Quick Guide to Krabi Town covers the area’s main town and the area surrounding Krabi Airport, while our Ao Nang and Railay Beach guides cover Krabi’s two main tourist destinations.
Days Eight and Nine: Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City – Our Vietnam itinerary starts in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city and business hub. Ho Chi Minh City is split into several major districts, with almost all of the main areas of interest, places to stay and dining options concentrated in District 1.
For more information on Ho Chi Minh City, check out our Quick Guide to Saigon, which lists all of the best hotels, restaurants, things to do and areas of interest in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ben Thanh Market. Built in 1912 during Vietnam’s period as part of French Indochina, this central market is a good place to shop for clothes and souvenirs. It’s worth haggling here, as most of the vendors will drop their prices by 20-40% if you ask.
Reunification Palace. Previously the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam, this 1960s building was converted into a museum showcasing a variety of important spaces used by the former Vietnamese leadership.
War Remnants Museum. This museum of the Vietnam War features captured planes, tanks, helicopters, artillery and other equipment. There are also several detailed photo exhibits inside the museum documenting the Vietnamese and international experiences during the war.
Saigon Skydeck. Located inside the futuristic Bitexco Financial Tower, this viewing area offers great views of central Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon River.
Cu Chi Tunnels. This incredible network of tunnels was used as a secret base by the Viet Cong during the war, particularly for the 1968 Tet Offensive. Today, the tunnels are open to the public and make a great half-day trip from Saigon.
Days 10 to 11: Hoi An
Located in Central Vietnam, Hoi An is a beautiful small city that was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The city’s gorgeous colonial architecture, quiet atmosphere and great beaches make it one of the best places in Vietnam to spend two to three days.
Our Quick Guide to Hoi An includes a full list of hotels, things to do, dining options and travel information for Hoi An. We’ve also listed some of the city’s highlights below.
Hoi An Old Town. Hoi An’s historic old town contains more than 800 historic buildings, ranging from shophouses to beautiful pagodas. The Japanese Covered Bridge and Precious Heritage Museum are two of the Old Town’s must-see sights.
Tailored Clothing. Hoi An is famous for its tailors, many of whom can put together high quality clothes in just a few days. While two days isn’t quite enough to get a suit, you’ll be able to order shirts, tops and other items from some of the city’s tailor shops.
Some of Hoi An’s more popular tailors include Bebe ClothShop, Kimmy Custom Tailor and Yalo Couture, which all score well in reviews from travellers and expats.
Days 12 to 14: Hanoi and Halong Bay
Our two-week itinerary ends in Hanoi and includes a quick trip to Halong Bay, letting you see Vietnam’s most impressive coastal area up close. We’ve also included a variety of things to do in Hanoi, ranging from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to the beautiful Temple of Literature.
Our Quick Guide to Hanoi includes a full list of things to do, places to stay and restaurants in Vietnam’s capital, as well as information on how to get into Hanoi from elsewhere in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Open since the mid-1970s, the Ho Chi MInh Mausoleum is the resting place of Vietnam’s revolutionary leader. The building contains Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, making it an interesting and somewhat morbid place to visit.
One Pillar Pagoda. Located close to the mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda is a historic temple that’s an icon of Vietnamese history. The temple was built in 1049 at the request of Emperor Lý Thái Tông and rebuilt after suffering damage in the First Indochina War.
Hoan Kiem Lake. Located close to the Old Quarter, this beautiful lake contains a small island with Ngoc Son Temple, also known as the Temple of the Jade Mountain. One of Hanoi’s most popular scenic areas and sightseeing spots.
Hanoi Old Quarter. Famous for its small, crowded alleyways and colonial shophouses, the Old Quarter of Hanoi is an exciting place to shop for souvenirs or enjoy a meal in any of the area’s small restaurants and cafés.
Temple of Literature. One of Hanoi’s most impressive historical areas, the Temple of Literature & National University was built in 1070 in honor of Confucius, scholars and sages of Vietnam. The temple is one of Hanoi’s top historical tourist attractions.
Famous for its stunning limestone karsts, Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s best known natural attractions. The bay is located approximately three hours from Hanoi and is best visited on a day trip or overnight tour.
The best option for visiting Halong Bay depends on your flight schedule. If you leave early in the morning or at midday, a day trip is the best option. If your flight is late at night or you can extend your trip to 15 days, you’ll get the best experience by seeing Halong Bay on an overnight cruise.
Our Quick Guide to Halong Bay includes more information about the best cruises and tours to Halong Bay, including specific tour operators and things to see and do around the area.
Day 15 : Travel back to Bangkok from Halong bay
Day 16 : Travel back to south Africa