Have you ever caught yourself looking at your calendar at work, wondering how in the world you are going to manage to take more than a week off? Well, if you have, then welcome to the life of anyone planning a vacation worthwhile. If you’re flying somewhere, you want to make that ticket worth it, right? Enjoy it much as you possibly can? Experience as much as you possibly can?
Southeast Asia has so much to see that you could be there for months on end and it would not be enough to cover everything you need to see. So, you have two weeks in Southeast Asia, how do you even start to prioritize and plan what you MUST see?
When I planned a trip for two weeks, I had to really pick and choose where to go. So here’s a sample itinerary with activities, must sees, and cities that you should definitely visit to give yourself a little flare and taste of Southeast Asia.
Beware, if you are a person that just loves to stay in one city for three weeks (and I definitely enjoy that as well), this itinerary is probably not for you.
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand in two weeks, what does that even look like?
Fly into Ho Chi Minh City
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City
After your long flight, it might seem like a lot to go sightseeing. I personally didn’t really do much that day because I focused my trip on Northern Vietnam. But, if you’re into history, there’s a bunch of museums and things to see and definitely some good food. Ho Chi Minh reminded me of a lot of cities in India. It is definitely the most populated in Vietnam.
Day 2: Hanoi
Fly from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (the flight is pretty short- about two hours). Stay in the Old Quarter, it is walking distance from anything you really want to see.
Hotel Recommendation: Paradise Boutique Hotel.
It is in the middle of old quarter and they upgraded our room. Hotels in Hanoi in general are very cheap, choose based on location.
Things to Do:
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Hoa Lo Prison
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Street Food Tour – I personally used HanoiStreetFoodTour. The guide we got was great and took us to so many great locations to try a lot of amazing food. I was SOOOO full by the end of this tour.
Day 3: Halong Bay
Rise and Shine. Wake up early and get picked up by Indochina Junk for a 2-day, 1-night tour of Halong Bay.
Whatever you do, DO NOT skimp out on money on this one. The difference between what we booked and the other vessels was pretty significant. Our accommodation was gorgeous and extremely comfortable, and more importantly had very clean bathrooms.
Drive to the Halong Bay terminal where you will board the boat. You will be served lunch and will have the option of kayaking and swimming in Halong Bay, you will have the rest of the night to just relax and enjoy a great dinner with live entertainment. (THIS TOUR CATERS TO DIETARY RESTRICTIONS). There is a hot tub on board and a nice bar. At night, you will be anchored in the middle of Halong Bay and see the most magnificent sunset.
Day 4: Halong Bay/Hanoi at Night
The next day, after you eat, you will go on a smaller boat to the Thien Canh Son Cave where you will be able to explore. Go back to the main boat, have lunch and get ready to leave.
You will once again board a bus and be taken to Yen Duc village where you will enjoy a water puppet show.
You will be dropped at your hotel in Hanoi and have the opportunity to eat dinner and go out.
Explore the night life, it’s pretty intense. SO many bars, so many places to eat, and so many people just throwing menus in your face. As long as you don’t get claustrophobic, it’s definitely quite an experience.
Day 5: Siem Reap
Arrive in Siem Reap and get your visa on arrival.
Hotel Recommendation: Golden Temple Boutique or any other Golden Temple hotel
Someone from the hotel will pick you up, bring you a fresh coconut, and give you a scarf. Once you get to the hotel, you will get a welcome platter filled with snacks and a nice refreshing drink.
Things to Do: Explore Pub Street and Experience Nightlife
The first night in Siem Reap, head towards Pub Street, walking distance from the hotel and explore the area. Beware of all of the little cats you see though (as a person that is terrified of cats, I know super random, it made me a bit uneasy).
The drinks are superrrrrr cheap and surprisingly, the night life is pretty robust in Siem Reap.
Day 6: Angkor Temples
Wake up real bright and early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, explore the lower and upper circuit temples. It seems like a lot, but it really depends what type of traveler you are. Will you spend 5 hours at each temple? Or just see what you need and move on to the next? Surprisingly, we were able to get it all done, don’t get me wrong, it was a really long day but worth it. Hike up one of the various trails to see Angkor Wat at sunset but go early, otherwise, there won’t be space to let you up to the top.
Our lovely hotel gave us a packed lunch because you will not find restaurants near by and it was sooo amazing!
Day 7: Bantaey Srey/ Grasshopper Biking Tour
Hire a driver and go out to Bantaey Srei. It’s a beautiful temple and the drive out there was gorgeous and lets you see the non-touristy part of Siem Reap. This will take 3-4 hours.
Spend the rest of the day going on a 14-mile or so bike ride through Siem Reap, through the countryside, and visit local temples, and markets along the way where you can enjoy some local snacks if you would like.
This bike ride was definitely no joke, the ride through the unpaved paths through the countryside and farms was intense but I saw the most beautiful sunset.
Go back to the hotel, freshen up and have dinner and one of the amazing restaurants in Siem Reap ( I will write a future post on these). Try the amok (almost like a curry souffle)
Day 8: Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai and relax and go out to the markets.
Day 9: Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary
Everyone goes to Chiang Mai because they want to see the elephants. Be careful which company you use. Not all of them treat animals well, and do not go to the places where riding of the elephants is allowed.
After a lot of research, I chose Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. They pick you up from your hotel and away on your ride you go. After you arrive, you get ready, meet the cutie elephants, give them a mud bath, and bath in general, enjoy a lunch until you are taken back to your hotel.
Overall, it was cute to see how close these individuals were to the elephants but I do not necessarily know if I would ever do this again.
Day 10: Chiang Mai Cooking Class
Take a cooking class with Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai and learn how to make all of your favorites. This was one of my favorite days in Thailand. I learned so much and ate so much! They send you home with a cook book.
Day 11, 12,13: Phuket/Koh Samui/Krabi
Dealers choice, enjoy yourself a little beach vacation. If you end up going to Phuket, know it will be more touristy. Bangla Road is packed with people. However, you also have Phi Phi Islands which are absolutely gorgeous.
Depending on the season, see if it’s a good time to go to Koh Samui of Krabi and spend a couple of days there and just relax on the beautiful beaches.
Day 13 and 14: Bangkok
Go to the floating market and the Grand Palace. Explore the amazing food and cuisine. This is only place I can think of where you can go to a Michelin starred fancy restaurant and get a meal for about 30-40 bucks a person. I definitely wasn’t complaining. I’m referring to Nahm.
Also check out Gaggan, as seen on Chef’s Table.
Day 14: FLY HOME
Because of the time difference, you will be back in time to go to work and fight through the jet lag. Just sleep on the flight!
Have some extra time? Want to add on a couple of days?
I suggest adding on Hoi An or Sapa in Vietnam. Hoi An is a beautiful place with some awesome beaches and Sapa has beautiful views of terraced rice fields.