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Punta Cana

Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia

Best country in Southeast Asia for a 10 day stay?

As of right now I only have 12 days off in december/january (if I can 2 travel days I only actually have 10 days to do stuff). My original plan of 25 Days to visit Thailand, Vietnam and  Cambodia but now I need to decide on only visiting one of this spots. Would love any input on which is best for what I'm looking for.

I don't really  like beaches, or very touristy spots,  this trip is mostly about the food, the temples and just learning more about this regions culture while making new connections.

So grateful a site like this exists, its been a huge help every time I use it.

14 Answers

top answer by
Tony from Seattle

That's a great time to visit the region weatherwise.

I've heard a lot of negative stuff about Vietnam and that it's a bit of an acquired taste.  I'd read a bit up on the blog posts referenced here.

We loved Cambodia.  It's a bit more off the beaten path than Thailand, but it's pretty hard to argue with Angkor Wat - it's truly amazing.

We wrote up our full thought son Siem Reap/Angkor and Phnom Penh here.

Northern Thailand is pretty darn awesome, too.  Chiang Mai is a great town...

...and Chiang Rai is purportedly even better from a temple point of view.  

We really enjoyed Pai, but it's pretty touristy and the van ride up is rough if you're prone to car-sickness (700+ turns, if I remember correctly).

We have some detailed writeups on Thailand that might be worth a read here...  Hope some of that is helpful!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cambodia (country)
  2. Thailand (country)
  3. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  4. Chiang Mai (city)
  5. Chiang Rai (city)
  6. Pai (city)
10 thankscomments (2)

answered by
David from San Francisco

You can't go wrong with Cambodia.  Very amazing country and doable in 10 days, I think.  Thailand is also very beautiful and a must do if you haven't yet.

I'll also throw out Myanmar.  Not overly touristy (yet).  Very beautiful, people are great.  Bagan was (in my opinion) every bit as amazing as Angkor Wat.  Inle Lake was very cool too.  Yangon was cool but didn't blow me away.  Overall, one of the most unique South East Asian adventures I've done.  In 10 years, it will be overrun with Westerners in tour buses.  Go while you can!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bagan (city)
  2. Inle Lake (attraction)
  3. Yangon (city)
7 thanks

answered by
Jim from San Diego

Having been around much of SE Asia, my favorite is northern Thailand. I like Bangkok a lot, but it can be overwhelming. Cambodia is nice, but nothing compels me to return. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand keeps calling me back; as another post mentioned, it is pretty darn awesome and I second that. With only 10 days, you could spend most of the time getting to know the old city of Chiang Mai, and make a side trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Chiang Rai (city)
  3. Golden Triangle (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
Debbie from San Francisco

Hey Victoria, these three countries are very religious, so you'll be able to find temples wherever you go, even if it's to a major city!  

In Thailand, if you want something slightly more off the beaten path, check out Ayutthaya.  It's just north of Bangkok.  It's an very ancient city full of temple ruins.  Slightly eerie, but still stunning.

Another one of my favorite spots around there is Lopburi.  The temple in the city center has a ton of monkeys living there!  Beware of your belongings there.  The monkeys will take them! There's also a cool street market  nearby.In Cambodia, of course there's Angkor Wat for its stunning ancient temples.

Good luck in making your decision! :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bangkok (city)
  2. Lopburi (city)
  3. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  4. Ayutthaya (state)
5 thankscomments (4)

answered first by

I would suggest Camodia.

When it comes to temples and ancient culture the Angkor Wat is the number one in Southeast Asia. And the cuisine is quite interesting in Cambodia too.

You could combine it with a visit to either Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City as you are likley to be flying through one of those cities. Of these two cities I much prefer Ho Chi Minh as I find Thailand to be overrun with the worst kinda tourists and it's not as exciting and different as Vietnam in my humble opinion.

If you decide for Cambodia then make sure to spend a couple of days in Phnom Penh too. It's a suprisinglt pleasant city if you ask me and you have some excellent restaurants there.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  2. Bangkok (city)
  3. Ho Chi Minh City (city)
  4. Phnom Penh (city)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Linda from Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh

Just quickly. Because Dec/Jan are the best times of the year  (and I talk principally for Cambodia where I have lived for over two years), you will find tourists. It's the western world's holiday season and they flock here cause these are the best two months of the year in SE Asia. Especially at Angkor Wat where the temples become a little inundated. However, there is Koh Ker (140kms/2 hours) from Siem Reap and well worth a day or two (900AD). I consider it special.

Everything about food - from street stall food - to the up market restaurants springing up in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Plenty of culinary classes to do.

Battambang is a beautiful town (not overly frequented by the tourists) and about 30 mins out there is a village where villagers, inspired by a progressive monk have  evolved into self-sustainability. The monks there also raise money for their mission - helping and supporting the children.

There is more - but that's just a little Cambodian speel :-) 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Koh Ker (attraction)
  2. Siem Reap (city)
  3. Phnom Penh (city)
  4. Battambang (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Karlo from Philippines

The ones here are already very good suggestions. So ill just add a bit more info.

Unfortunately, Temples and Tourists go well hand in hand. Can't avoid it, but you can minimize tourist activity depending on which temples you go to.

In Angkor Wat, you're probably going to be with hundreds and possibly thousands of people (that's per temple by the way).

But there are temples that are really nice but not a lot of people go to. These are my must visit ones: Prasat Kravan, Preah Ko, Bayon Temple, Banteay Srei Temple, and Banteay Samre. The last two are not so touristy (Banteay Srei probably less than 50 people exploring at a time and Banteay Samre, when we were there, since its hidden, there were only 4 people, and it looks very very nice, although these 2 are not in the main Ankor Wat areas).

My blog might give you ideas:

Food wise, Id go for Vietnam and Thailand. (For Thailand, make sure to tell them NO SPICE when ordering any meal. Their Less Spice is already like drinking Tabasco.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  2. Bayon Temple (attraction)
  3. Vietnam (country)
  4. Thailand (country)
  5. Prasat Kravan (attraction)
  6. Preah Ko (attraction)
  7. Banteay Srei Temple (attraction)
  8. Banteay Samre (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Jacques from Paris, France

I would go for Myanmar. Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are beautiful countries but there is something special about Myanmar and I would go now before it opens up too much. Weather wise, it's good (although it will be hot). 

If you want to stick to your original 3 countries

Cambodia is probably the most laid back. Siem Reap is a must. The rest of the country is nice and easy but maybe not as impressive as some places in Vietnam or Thailand

Thailand is easier if it's your first time in the region as you will find always find a way to get around for relatively cheap. 

Have you considered LaosLouangphabang has nice temples and you can trek in the rural areas. Other parts of Lao are also very quiet. 

If you are looking for inspiration for trips in South East Asia, you can take a look at and check about 50 destinations in the region.

Happy travels!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Myanmar (country)
  2. Cambodia (country)
  3. Siem Reap (state)
  4. Vietnam (country)
  5. Thailand (country)
  6. Laos (country)
  7. Louangphabang (city)

answered by
Son from Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnamis a good choice for you. Vietnam has quite a few unique food. You can try them in the trip to various regions. Some places like Mai Châu DistrictSa Pa DistrictMekong River and Hoi An  provide homestay service; you should try it to stay with locals where you can enjoy local food processed by the host and take part in their daily activities. It's an occasion for you to understand more about local culture and customs.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Vietnam (country)
  2. Mai Châu District (metro area)
  3. Sa Pa District (metro area)
  4. Mekong River (attraction)
  5. Hoi An (city)

answered by
Diep from Thuy Anh, Thái Bình, Vietnam

In Thailand, you'll get 30 days free visa, so you should book tour to travel Thailand and then visit Vietnam during a week.

answered by
Son from Hanoi, Vietnam

You can choose Vietnam or Thailand. In Vietnam, you should take a trip to Sa Pa DistrictMai Châu District or Ha Giang, where I believe that you can explore and learn much about local culture and costume. Every place has quite a few typical dishes. On the other hand, you can go to visit Hue and Hoi An. There are some ancient constructions here and regional cultures as well. Regarding Thailand, many temples are constructed in unique architecture (Bangkok). 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sa Pa District (metro area)
  2. Mai Châu District (metro area)
  3. Ha Giang (state)
  4. Hue (city)
  5. Hoi An (city)

answered by
Diep from Thuy Anh, Thái Bình, Vietnam

Personally, you should visit 1 country only during 10 days. In Vietnam, you can travel from the north to the south with 10 days. You can visit HanoiHalong Bay VietnamHo Chi Minh City, and Phu Quoc island. In Mekong Delta, you should homestay at local people and join floating market in the early morning.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hanoi (city)
  2. Halong Bay Vietnam (attraction)
  3. Ho Chi Minh City (city)
  4. Phu Quoc (city)

answered by
Jacinda from Singapore

I would have to agree with so many of them. As an Asian myself (Singapore), Chiang Mai is def a place worth visiting. The people are genuinely friendly, and the pace of their lifestyle is slower, unlike those in the city of Bangkok. The weather in the period of December and January will also be cool. All the other months in Chiang Mai are hot and humid. Also check out the airbnb listings available there, some are really unique!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Bangkok (city)

answered by
Juanma from Concepción, Chile

Hi Victoria, I write in Spanish below because I imagine you're Dominican and know the language. I spent 50 days touring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, so I think I can help. Here I review what I did and what I liked of the three you mention, to see if it gives you an idea and help you make a decision. Thailand is the most touristic country, but also for me is the one that captivated me. I went to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the north and avoided the south where the beaches are, and where many tourists go. Bangkok is an amazing fairly modern but with the contrast of the Buddhist spiritual life city. And Thai food is my favorite (along Peru), just amazing, together with many flavors, fresh ingredients and amazing preparations. The bad thing about Thailand is that it is full of tourists, but is a little thing departing to discover your own places. It is the richest country you mention, and this influences there a more "sophisticated" city life if you want to call it.

Cambodia is a strange country, with a lot of poverty and a system not entirely democratic. It is more rural than Thailand, but also less crowded with tourists than Thailand, except of course the great Angkor Wat. It is a virgin country for tourists and therefore best for "adventurous", but also less secure.

Vietnam is midway between Thailand and Cambodia is a developing country and it shows. It is closer to the Chinese culture, and have a similar scheme: open economy but an authoritarian political system. Large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are quite modern, and its French colonial past gives it a peculiar charm. The food is very good, and no hordes of tourists in Thailand. It is also a very extensive and large differences between north and south country, so there is enough to go.

I do not know if you've already traveled through Asia, but generally always recommend Thailand as a good starting point, since it is more user friendly (for something is full of tourists), but also is a wonderful and full of alternatives instead: party , food, markets, temples, cosmopolitan cities, ruins of ancient cities and rural places and quieter, but it finally may be better Cambodia. Anyway, I think that whoever you choose you're going to enjoy a lot.

Cheers and good luck!

Hola Victoria, te escribo en español porque me imagino que eres dominicana y sabes el idioma. Yo estuve recorriendo por 50 días Tailandia, Laos, Vietnam y Camboya, así que creo que te puedo ayudar. Te hago un repaso por lo que yo hice y lo que más me gustó de los tres que mencionas, a ver si te da una idea y te ayuda a tomar una decisión.

Tailandia es el país más turístico, pero también para mi es el que más me cautivó. Yo fui a Bangkok y el norte en Chiang Mai y evité el sur, donde están las playas y donde van muchísimos turistas. Bangkok es una ciudad increíble, bastante moderna pero con el contraste de la vida espiritual budista. Y la comida tailandesa es mi favorita (junto la peruana), simplemente increíble, con muchos sabores juntos, ingredientes frescos y preparaciones sorprendentes. Lo malo de Tailandia es que está repleto de turistas, pero es cosa de desviarse un poco para descubrir tus propios lugares. Es el país más rico de los que mencionas y eso influye en que exista una vida urbana más "sofisticada" si lo quieres llamar así.

Cambodia es un país extraño, con mucha pobreza y con un régimen no del todo democrático. Es más rural que Tailandia, pero a la vez menos repleto de turistas que Tailandia, exceptuando por supuesto la gran maravillade Angkor Wat. Es un país más virgen para los turistas y por ende mejor para los "aventureros", pero también menos seguro.

Vietnam está en punto intermedio entre Tailandia y Camboya, es un país en vías de desarrollo y eso se nota. Es una cultura más cercana a la China, y tienen un régimen parecido: economía abierta pero un sistema político autoritario. Las grandes ciudades, como Hanoi y Ho Chi Minh City son bastante modernas, y su pasado colonial francés le da un peculiar encanto. La comida es muy buena, y no hay hordas de turistas como en Tailandia. También es un país muy extenso y con grandes diferencias entre norte y sur, por lo que hay bastante para recorrer.

No sé si ya has viajado por Asia, pero en general siempre recomiendan Tailandia como un buen punto de partida, ya que es más amigable (por algo está repleta de turistas), pero a la vez es un lugar maravilloso y repleto de alternativas: fiesta, comida, mercados, templos, ciudades cosmopolitas, ruinas de ciudades antiguas y también lugares mas tranquilos y rurales, pero para es último puede que sea mejor Cambodia. De todas formas, me parece que cualquiera que elijas lo vas a disfrutas mucho.

Saludos y buena suerte!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bangkok (city)
  2. Chiang Mai (city)
  3. Angkor Wat (attraction)
  4. Hanoi (city)
  5. Ho Chi Minh City (city)

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