Discover highlights of Southeast Asia on an immersive two-week tour of Vietnam and Thailand. In the former, you'll experience rich culture and natural beauty by sightseeing in ancient Hanoi, cruising the jade waters of Ha Long Bay, and exploring the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City. The last leg of the trip includes tours of Bangkok's famous temples, gourmet dining, and relaxing on islands in Phang Nga Bay.


  • Explore the ancient streets of Hanoi and enjoy its street food
  • Cruise the emerald waters and karst towers of Ha Long Bay
  • Travel down the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City
  • Tour the highlights of Bangkok and visit its floating markets
  • Enjoy the beaches of Phuket and see the Phi Phi Islands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Water Puppet Show Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi City & Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Morning Cruise, Fly to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 5 Cu Chi Tunnels & City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 6 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta Ho Chi Minh City
Day 7 Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Optional Activities Bangkok
Day 8 Bangkok Floating Markets & Temples Tour Bangkok
Day 9 Day Trip to Kanchanaburi & Erawan Waterfalls Bangkok
Day 10 Fly to Phuket, Waterfront Fine Dining Phuket
Day 11 Day Trip to Phi Phi Islands Phuket
Day 12 Phuket Free Day Phuket
Day 13 Day Trip to Phang Nga Bay Phuket
Day 14 Depart Phuket  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Water Puppet Show

See reimaginings of Vietnam's rich history at a water puppet show

Welcome to Vietnam! From the north to the south, the coast to the mountains, this is one of the most beautiful countries in Southeast Asia, if not the world. And with a settled history dating to the third century BCE, you can bet there's a lot of rich culture to go along with all that natural beauty. You'll see the best of it starting in the capital of Hanoi. Don't let the modern veneer of this giant metropolis fool you—nestled in its heart are well-preserved enclaves dating back to the ancient Vietnamese dynasties.

After transferring to your hotel from the airport, you'll head out to see a traditional water puppet show. Known as mua roi nuoc in Vietnamese, this cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, originating in the Red River Delta rice fields. When the fields were flooded, puppeteers used the water's surface as a stage to tell stories with intricately crafted wooden marionettes. The tradition endures today, and you'll witness one such colorful and elaborate performance at a local theater. 

Day 2: Hanoi City & Street Food Tour

Visit Hanoi's most famous landmarks, like the Temple of Literature

Leave the hotel at 8 am on a full-day guided tour to see Hanoi's historic landmarks and experience the city like a local. It starts near Hoan Kiem Lake, in the heart of the Old Quarter. Here, you'll visit Hang Be Market, which has been a commercial hub in the city for hundreds of years. This is where locals come to shop for fresh produce, meats, seafood, and other items. Of course, there are many vendors selling prepared foods as well as stalls serving up Vietnam's famous street eats, so bring your appetite.

Then, head over to the Tran Quoc Pagoda. Dating to the Ly Nam De Dynasty of the sixth century, this is the oldest Buddhist shrine in Hanoi. Next is the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. After lunch, continue to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, which was Vietnam's first-ever national university. To this day, students still pray at its altars for academic success. Finish the tour at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of revolutionary leader "Uncle Ho," who died in 1969. It was inspired by Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow.

Later, meet another guide for a city tour that focuses on Vietnam's mouthwatering street food. Start at Thanh Ha Market to browse food stalls and try local delicacies. Head to Dong Xuan Market, famed for its noodle shops, and sample treats such as pho sot vang (noodle soup with pork and herbs) and bun dau (tofu served in soup with rice noodles and fermented shrimp paste). Then, indulge your sweet tooth with samples of ceremonial cakes, French desserts, and preserved fruits. The tour ends at a café for some slow-dripped coffee or a sweet iced drink to cool off in the balmy urban heat.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Escape to Ha Long Bay, a corner of the world unlike any other

In the morning, your personal driver will pick you up at your hotel for the three-hour transfer north to the legendary Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters, resembling the spine of a mythological creature ("ha long" translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a multilevel cruise ship for an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head to the dining room, where a delicious seafood lunch awaits. Then, you can spend time relaxing on the sundeck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to the most secluded corners of the bay. Later that afternoon, you'll stop at a secret cove for a swim and a kayak trip to explore hidden beaches and grottoes.

Return to the ship in time to participate in a cooking masterclass offered by the onboard chef. During the workshop, you'll learn to make traditional specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) and enjoy them in addition to your buffet dinner. Spend the remainder of the evening relaxing, or grab a pole and cast a line off the rear of the boat to try and catch some squid.

Day 4: Morning Cruise, Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

Wake up early and watch the sunrise over Ha Long Bay

Start the day strong with an early morning tai chi session on the deck surrounded by beautiful bay scenery. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to a karst cavern, which you can explore in a traditional boat. Afterward, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a late brunch as you go. Then hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi, arriving around 3 pm.

Once back in the city, you'll transfer to the airport by private vehicle and catch a two-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam's largest metropolis is the perfect introduction to this beautiful country's energy, complexity, and contradictions. It's steeped in rich history yet is simultaneously on the cutting edge of modernity, as evidenced by gleaming skyscrapers sitting alongside French colonial landmarks. 

Day 5: Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour

Tour Ho Chi Minh City and visit famous landmarks like City Hall

Wake early and meet your private driver for the hour's trip north to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Dating to 1948, this 155-mile (250 km) tunnel network was built to defend against the French, then used during the Vietnam War (known locally as the American War) as a base for 16,000 Viet Cong guerrillas, complete with supply routes, hospitals, and living spaces. During a private tour, you can crawl through a section to experience the tunnels' narrow dimensions.

Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon and embark on a private city tour by vehicle. Highlights include Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace. It was here in 1975 that Ho Chi Minh's tanks stormed the complex, marking the symbolic end to the Vietnam War (known locally as the American War). Continue to some of the city's most famous French colonial landmarks, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall, and the Central Post Office. You'll also visit Ben Thanh, one of the biggest markets in the city.

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Day 6: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

Tour the Mekong Delta and immerse yourself in local life

This morning, you'll transfer south to the lush Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's rice bowl, this region is full of mangroves, sugar cane plantations, and flourishing rice paddies. Board a boat for a ride down the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Along the way, you'll stop and visit local businesses like a brick workshop and honey farm. The region is also famous for its coconut candies, and you'll visit a workshop to see how these tasty confections are made. 

Next, you'll stop at a small riverside village for tea with a family that makes hand-woven rush mats. Then, explore the town by bike or xe loi (motor cart) and witness scenes of peaceful riverine life. You'll pass verdant rice fields, vegetable farms, and exotic fruit orchards. Have lunch at a restaurant on the banks of the river, then hop in a traditional raft and paddle down a creek. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City and will have the evening free.

Day 7: Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Optional Activities

Welcome to Bangkok, a bastion of history, culture, and incredible cuisine

In the morning, you're off to Thailand. Your driver will transfer you back to the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Bangkok. Among other attractive qualities, Thailand's dynamic capital is known for its chaotic energy, world-class street food, buzzing nightlife, and awe-inspiring Buddhist sights. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel.

After checking in, discover this city's myriad wonders yourself. Perhaps start with the Golden Mount Temple, which sits on the only hill in Bangkok. Climb the 320 steps leading to the top and enjoy some of the city's best views. You can also take a boat ride down the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok's arterial waterway that flows past Rattanakosin Island, the city's historic center.

You'll definitely want to indulge in Bangkok's famous street food. One of the best places to delight in these quick eats is in the Chinatown neighborhood, which is the largest Chinatown in the world. You can also visit the upscale Siam Paragon shopping mall or have a beer on Khao San Road amid the youthful backpacker atmosphere.

Day 8: Bangkok Floating Markets & Temples Tour

Wat Pho is famous for its massive reclining Buddha statue

Leave in the morning for a half-day tour of one of Bangkok's cultural highlights: its famous floating markets. A driver/guide will pick you up at your hotel for the transfer west out of Bangkok, about 1.5 hours to Ratchaburi province. As the city gives way to the country, you'll pass remote coconut plantations, stopping at one for a tour to see how they process coconut sugar.

Then, continue on to Damnoen Saduak, a paradise for food lovers and the most popular floating market in the country. Plying its maze of canals are vendors in traditional wooden boats selling fresh produce, snacks, and other delicacies. Here, you'll board a long-tail boat and travel around the market with your guide. Learn the art of haggling as you browse fresh fruits and handicrafts. 

After the markets, you'll stop for lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Bangkok. There, you'll visit some of the most famous landmarks in the city. First up is Wat Pho. Dating to the 13th century, it's known for its massive reclining Buddha statue that measures 49 feet (15 m) high and 150 feet (46 m) long. From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the Grand Palace. This royal complex was constructed in 1782 and is home to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, perhaps the most iconic Buddhist temple in the country. The real treasure is inside: a 26-inch (66 cm) jade statue of a meditating Buddha.

Day 9:Day Trip to Kanchanaburi & Erawan Waterfalls

The waterfalls in Erawan National Park are the most beautiful in the country

Your driver will pick you up early for the three-hour ride west toward the border with Myanmar and the town of Kanchanaburi. This is the hub for visits to the Death Railway, the infamous train line built between 1942 and 1943 at the expense of the over 100,000 laborers who died during its construction. Upon arrival in town, you'll check into your hotel and will have some time to relax.

When you arrive, you'll visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial. This combined museum and gallery was built to commemorate the thousands of Allied POWs and Asian conscripts who died while constructing the Thai-Burma Railway, known forever after as the Death Railway. The route is incredibly scenic, as you'll discover on a ride along its historic tracks. A highlight of the trip is passing through Tham Krasae Station, which offers some of the most beautiful views of the Khwae Noi River

The fun continues with a visit to Erawan National Park. This is the perfect place to enjoy the region's spectacular natural beauty, particularly the famous seven-tiered waterfall. These falls are considered the most beautiful in the country, with glacial blue waters rushing through the forest into bamboo-shaded pools perfect for a refreshing dip. After hiking around the park and enjoying the falls, you'll return to Bangkok later in the day.

Day 10: Fly to Phuket, Waterfront Fine Dining

Dinner at Baan Rim Pa Restaurant
Dinner at Baan Rim Pa Restaurant

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in Bangkok before your personal driver takes you to the airport for the 1.5-hour flight south to Phuket. Capital of the largest island province in the country, this resort city is just as famous for its sun-kissed tropical beaches as it is for its raucous nightlife. Upon arrival at the airport, another driver will transport you to your hotel, and then you're free to discover the best of Phuket.

In the evening, you'll transfer to the Baan Rim Pa Royal Thai Restaurant for an evening of fine dining. The eatery's sophisticated teak and silk decor, live piano music, excellent Thai food, and cocktail bar make this one of Phuket's premier dining establishments. Dine on dishes such as tom yaam goan uan (spiced seafood soup), po pia sod (fresh spring rolls), and gaeng garee (yellow curry). Even better, you'll enjoy this authentic and refined cuisine while overlooking the Andaman Sea.

Day 11: Day Trip to Phi Phi Islands

Visit the highlight locales around the Phi Phi Islands, like Maya Beach

Rise early for a full-day snorkeling/swimming excursion at the famous Phi Phi Islands. You'll transfer to the pier in Phuket at 7:30 am to board a speedboat for an hour's trip to Phi Phi Lee ("Maya Beach"). One of the most stunning destinations in Thailand, Maya Beach is a secluded bay hemmed in by towering limestone cliffs on a romantic isle. If it looks familiar, it was featured in the 2000 film "The Beach."

Once here, you'll take a dip in the water in designated swimming areas and snap photos at other nearby highlights like Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave. On the way north to the larger island of Phi Phi Don, you'll pass Monkey Beach, so named for the community of crab-eating macaques that live here. Upon arrival, you'll have time for snorkeling, followed by a delicious lunch. Later in the afternoon, visit Bamboo Island for more swimming or sunbathing on the beach. From here, you'll return to Phuket by boat and transfer back to your hotel.

Day 12: Phuket Free Day

Spend the day exploring Phuket's highlights, like its historic Old Town district

Take the day to enjoy Phuket however you like. One option is a visit to the historic Old Town area. Lining historic Thalang Road are colorful 19th-century shophouses and Sino-Portuguese buildings. There are also plenty of charming cafés and restaurants in the area where you can sit and relax with a good book. For beach time, head to a famous stretch of sand, like Patong, Kata, or Freedom Beach, for sunbathing and watersports like snorkeling and kayaking.

To see more of Phuket from an underwater vantage point, head to the aquarium at Cape Panwa, which is the biggest in Thailand. If you're feeling adventurous, visit Hanuman World Phuket for a thrilling zipline ride over the jungle canopy. In the evening, you can browse the night market or revel in the nightlife on Bangla Road.

Day 13: Day Trip to Phang Nga Bay

The famous "James Bond Island," located in Phang Nga Bay

In the morning, return to the pier and board a boat for a full-day ride around the famous Phang Nga Bay. This leisurely cruise will take you north from Phuket amid the karst islets dotting the Andaman Sea. The first stop is Panak Island, where you'll enjoy a canoe trip through sea caves and mangroves. Then, continue to Hong Island for more canoeing/kayaking. As you paddle, your guide will lead you to hidden caves and lagoons. Return to the boat for a delicious buffet lunch.

In the afternoon, visit Khao Phing Kan. This romantic island is known for Ko Ta Pu, a towering limestone islet about 130 feet (40 m) offshore. Its nickname is "James Bond Island" because it was a shooting location for the film "The Man with the Golden Gun." On Khao Phing, you'll enjoy swimming and sunbathing at a secluded beach, then return to the boat and transfer back to Phuket.

Day 14: Depart Phuket

Time to say goodbye to Phuket and Thailand
Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast at your hotel in Phuket. Or, get up extra early for a sunrise stroll on the beach. At the appropriate time, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. See you soon!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore different ways to spend two weeks in Vietnam and Thailand, or discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


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Map of Nature, History & Culture in Vietnam & Thailand - 14 Days
Map of Nature, History & Culture in Vietnam & Thailand - 14 Days