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Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar

Myanmar or Thailand or Vietnam? Given 1.5 weeks, which should I choose?

Background - 2 guys in mid 20s with backpacking experience.  Want to live cheap, but ok spending money. 

I like things off the beaten path- is Thailand too overrun with tourists?  

Any good hiking / outdoorsy activities in these countries you recommend? 

Huge thanks

9 Answers

top answer by
Bridge from San Francisco

Thailand has a lot of tourists. There are definitely places that are off-the-beaten path, but they are harder to find. Myanmar has relatively speaking far fewer tourists. If you're looking to get off the beaten path, I'd go there since it has only opened up to tourists more recently (and many places are still restricted). Check out Inle Lake for outdoorsy activities, spend a day biking in Bagan. THere are also other beaches and hikes throughout the country. Plus Myanmar is definitely cheaper. Be sure to bring CRISP USD.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Thailand (country)
  2. Myanmar (country)
  3. Inle Lake (attraction)
  4. Bagan (city)
8 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Micky from Portland

Myanmar is the best but expensive right now because not enough hotels. Vietnam and Thailand are about the same cost but Vietnam is less touristy. The south of either country is very hot for much in outdoors that doesn't involve water. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is great place- lots of expats but not as many tourists as the south area of Thailand. Probably good outdoors stuff there - we did elephant camp for three nights at Thai Elephant Conservation Center - amazing chance to interact with elephants. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Myanmar (country)
  2. Vietnam (country)
  3. Chiang Mai (city)
  4. Thai Elephant Conservation Center (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by
Jodi from Funchal

Each of these countries has a different culture, food history, and geography, so I'm glad to hear you ask "which" to see, not "hey how do I fit them all into 1.5 weeks?" ;)

For Thailand, I would echo others and head north. Chiang Mai is lovely, but quite busy -- however, it's easy to get out of town. I would explore the caves at Chiang Dao, head to the Elephant Nature Park (of all the elephant conservation parks, this one remains my preferred recommendation), and while many people take a trip to Pai, I would actually say to keep going North, to Mae Hong Son and up near the Burmese border (perhaps Ban Rak Thai, also known as Ban Rak Thai, a tea village near the border.) You can additionally spend time in the shadow of Thailand's highest mountain Doi Inthanon National Park-- it's a stunner. I'd caution doing any hill tribe treks in Chiang Mai/Pai and instead explore the culture of hill tribes from Mae Hong Son.

Vietnam also has its share of wonderful places to visit, and for outdoor lovers, Sa Pa and the caves in Quang Binh (Hang Son Doong) are staggering and awe-inspiring. A great option near Hanoi is to stay at a homestay in Ninh Binh (I stayed at this place in the Mekong but they have a Ninh Binh version too.) Lots of biking and other sports to be done in the Central Highlands too (Da Lat, for example) and if you want a warmer, less hill-y version, bike riding around the Mekong Delta outside of HCMC.

I haven't been to Myanmar since early 2010 so I can't speak to current prices - when I was there it was $4 a night to stay in huge hotels and there were no tourists, so I think it's changed considerably. But I wanted to give my 2 cents for your other countries.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)
  2. Chiang Dao (city)
  3. Elephant Nature Park (attraction)
  4. Pai (city)
  5. Mae Hong Son (attraction)
  6. Doi Inthanon National Park (attraction)
  7. Sa Pa (city)
  8. Hang Son Doong (attraction)
  9. Hanoi (city)
  10. Ninh Binh (city)
  11. Da Lat (city)
  12. Mekong Delta (region)
  13. Ban Rak Thai (city)
5 thanks

answered by
Nikita from Chiang Mai

Thailand. Its a free country which means its easier to get into. I would say Myanmar, but there is unrest in the country especially "off the beaten path." The main cites of Thailand, such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok, are full of people. Moving out of these cites it becomes amazing for backpacking. Not many people(just natives) and the natural environment hasn't been run over(yet its persevered very well). As for activities that I know of, there is a really cool zip line place(unfortunately I don't recall the name or location) close to Chiang Mai. I would check into that if your into that type of activity. Hope some of this helped. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Thailand (country)
  2. Chiang Mai (city)
  3. Bangkok (city)
4 thanks

answered by
Ján from Bratislava

Out of these 3, Myanmar is my personal TOP. It feels most authentic, you will barely meet other tourists in places other than Yangon/Bagan/Mandalay. Go for a hike in Shan State - near Hsipaw it's more like trekking through rice and corn fields to villages of Palaung people; near Kalaw it's more of a hill jungle trekking, very green, but with a few more tourists.
In my opinion, Myanmar will change pretty quickly. Go see it now, while it's still pretty much untouched by mass tourism.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Yangon (city)
  2. Bagan (city)
  3. Mandalay (city)
  4. Shan State (state)
  5. Hsipaw (city)
  6. Kalaw (city)
3 thanks

answered by
Nikhil from Denver

To echo other responses, Myanmar is an excellent choice. You'll be unlikely to see nearly as many tourists there as almost anywhere else in Southeast Asia, and despite being in its infancy in terms of accommodating tourists, the people are--in my experience-- incredibly warm and welcoming.  


If you don't mind the rain when you're in Yangon (the interior of the country doesn't get rain during the monsoons, so it's really only an issue when you are on the coast), I would recommend going during the rainy season, as it is easier to get hotel rooms and hostels with only a day's advance booking and it's easier to negotiate on price as well. Not many tourists choose to go during this time, so it's quite an experience. Bagan is a great place I walk around, but Inle Lake has a lot more to offer in terms of mountainous outdoor activity.  


If you have the time, don't pass up spending a couple of days in Yangon. It's a tame city that's easy to get around in and has great food. If you go to Sule Pagoda, you can often find a monk working there willing to show you around the city for the afternoon to get a less touristy view of it (they aren't legally tour guides so they aren't allowed to charge you, but it's customary to give them a small gift). 


There are quite a few ATMs there as well, including one in the airport, but definitely bring crisp US dollars as backup. Also, small bills in USD are very useful as well, as people often don't have a ton of change and tend to hoard smaller notes.  


Hope this helps, and safe travels.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Myanmar (country)
  2. Southeast Asia (region)
  3. Yangon (city)
  4. Bagan (city)
  5. Inle Lake (attraction)
  6. Sule Pagoda (attraction)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Katsu from Hanoi

I would choose Vietnam

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Vietnam (country)
comments (1)

answered by
Chris from Chiang Mai, Thailand

I get off-the-beaten-path on a weekly basis. My blog, has plenty of destinations around Thailand and Korea to sink your teeth into when you get the chance =)

That being said, I'm not a huge fan of Bangkok. Get out of the big city - there's plenty of interesting places around Bangkok, and Chiang Mai's worth a stop for a few days.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chiang Mai (city)

answered by
cao from Paris

Myanmar is still a just open country so there is a lack of service for tourist also it's not very safe to get out of the beaten track. Vietnam is a very complicated in many formalities and not very professional tourism country. Personnally I prefer Thailand because you don't have fear about the things like in Myanmar and Vietnam 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Myanmar (country)
  2. Vietnam (country)
  3. Thailand (country)

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