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Published on October 2, 2019

Halong Bay in Viet Nam
Halong Bay in Viet Nam

Welcome to another four days of summer vacation in Southeast Asia. We are on the trip of a lifetime, getting the most out of 48 hours in each country of ASEAN.

Our next stop is Viet Nam, with its unique capital city and exotic seaside. This country shows visitors a glimpse of past influences while its unique culture shines through.

Day 1: Old Town in the Capital

Our first day in Viet Nam is in the capital city of Hanoi in the north. Once the regional capital of French Indochina, Hanoi is full of sloping roofs and delicately wrought iron balconies, giving it a signature Eurasian look.

After landing, grab a taxi to the center of town and start with breakfast serves delectable meat sandwiches topped with pate and

Delectable meat sandwiches topped with pate.

Next, stroll through Hanoi’s verdant parks. With perfectly manicured lower gardens and panoramic lakes, the gardens of Hanoi offer shade and respite from the heat.

Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hanoi
Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hanoi

At Hoàn Kiếm Lake, visit the small islet with Đền Ngọc Sơn, or Temple of the Jade Mountain Ngoc Son Temple is a long-standing example of Taoist feng shui. The islet is surrounded by water, which directs energy toward the temple. The temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century, and Van Xuong the scholar.

To the left of the main temple is a side room containing the preserved body of a giant soft backed turtle (rafetus leloii). This turtle is 2.1 meters long, 1.2 meters wide, and weighed 250 kilograms, or around 550 pounds. The turtle was discovered in 1968 and was then estimated to be approximately 500 years old. The discovery now lends credence to the legend about the giant turtle that took the magic sword of Le Loi in the 15th century.

Many large turtles still inhabit the lake, and the lake greets visitors throughout the day looking to catch a glimpse of one of them. Seeing a turtle’s head rising above the waters is widely believed to be a sign of good luck.

A BBQ restaurant on the streets of Hanoi

For dinner, Vietnamese BBQ is an interactive meal where diners do the cooking. Try outdoor favorite Thai Dat or Bít tết Ông Lợi, indoor hotplate beef.

On the streets of Hanoi, Viet Nam
On the streets of Hanoi, Viet Nam.

End up at a bia hơi, a local joint where it’s VND 4,500 or $0.20 US for a draught beer. Just look for a street corner with metal kegs, older Vietnamese gentlemen, and tiny plastic stools. Stroll home to the nearby Eco Hotel Hanoi for a comfortable night’s rest.

Day 2: Scenic Islands

Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay. Image: Visualhunt

On our second day in Viet Nam, we are touring the rugged limestone of UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay.

For a quick trip, there are the pleasantly affordable seaplane flights on Hai AuAviation. For those with time, you’ll find country buses and ferry boat rides.

Change things up and see Cat Ba, a sleepy fishing village on Lan Ha Bay—Halong’s little sister to the south. The views from these  hotel windows will satisfy any traveler.

Vietnamese iced coffee is available at roadside restaurants and carts alike
Vietnamese iced coffee is available at roadside restaurants and carts alike.

Enjoy local goodies like cà phê sữa đá sweet iced coffee. If you are feeling puckish, sit down to a full Vietnamese feast of seafood hotpot.

Seafood hotpot on Cat Ba Island
Seafood hotpot on Cat Ba Island. Image: Visualhunt

Though you can never be done admiring Viet Nam’s seaside, it’s time for us to move on.

When traveling to Asia, remember it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. Our 48 hours blog series will help you plan your summer vacations with maximum enjoyment while you are in ASEAN.

Next up on our Southeast Asia itinerary is the country of Thailand. We are flying from Viet Nam and saying hello “sawatdee” to Thailand in less than 2 hours. Let’s go!

48 Hours in Thailand

Beautiful Bangkok
Beautiful Bangkok

The Kingdom of Thailand is a majority Buddhist country that holds a unique place in ASEAN as the only country to avoid direct Western rule. Since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932, Thailand has remained peaceful and devoted to its many tourists. For the next two days, we are hanging out in Bangkok, a hip 24-hour capital of Southeast Asia with 15 million residents.

Day 1: The Big City

Bangkok has two international airports: Don Mueang (DMK) in the north and Suvarnabhumi (BKK) in the east.

Even with Bangkok’s famous traffic, they offer convenient access to downtown by taxi, airport rail link, bus, and interchanges with the Skytrain and metro. The city center sprawls from the Chao Phraya River into modern Sukhumvit Road.

With reasonable city pricing, splash out at a Chann, a boutique Thai hotel on the canal or the Instagram-worthy B&BJ. No.14 Bangkok. Drop your bags and go immediately to Saphan Taksin pier. A private guide will swoop you into a shady long-tail boat. For two hours you’ll see bustling river ferries and tour ancient canals that were once main thoroughfares in this “Venice of the East”.

Chao Phraya River traffic
Chao Phraya River traffic. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Get out at Ta Tian pier to see famous sites like Wat Pho,Wat Phrakaeo, and The Grand Palace.

Wat Pho
Wat Pho.

As you tour,rule number one is to take every kind of transportation. Have you ridden a ferry boat before? A mini truck? A motorcycle? Now’s your chance! Flag down a driver in an orange vest and zoom to your next stop.

Express ferry boats on Bangkok’s Saen Saep Canal
Express ferry boats on Bangkok’s Saen Saep Canal. Image: Shutterstock

Rule number two is to eat everything. You will see kai yang grilled chicken, roti banana pancake,phad thai noodles,khao man kai chicken rice, and tropical fruits.

One of many food stands and food carts found in Bangkok
One of many food stands and food carts found in Bangkok. Image: Shutterstock
Som tam spicy papaya salad
Som tam spicy papaya salad. Image: Visualhunt
Rot Fai night market, Srinakarin
Rot Fai night market, Srinakarin. Image: Visualhunt

After temple-hopping, hunker down for the evening. The two large night markets are called Rod Fai. Head to Ratchada near the city center or further east to Srinakarin. Both are painfully hip.

Find a table, order up some Saeng Som and soda, and mix your own “whiskey” drinks. One wild night coming right up!

Alternatively, go classy by hitting Tep Bar for yaa dong herbal liquor flights accompanied by traditional Thai music. Chic.

Day 2: Nature and Greenery

If you have extra days, leave the city for the countryside of Kanchanaburi or the beach in Hua Hin. With less than 48 hours, we’ll do the next best thing: Bang Krachao Island the “Green Lungs” of Bangkok.

Biking in Bang Krachao
Biking in Bang Krachao. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Through the temple grounds of Wat Klong Toey Nok, you will find tiny motorboats that ferry people to this lush island. At the pier, rent a bicycle and do some lazy cycling through the jungle.

Have lunch at Bang Nam Pheung floating market and eat plenty of snacks like chaa yen Thai milk tea andmuu ping chargrilled pork.

Lunch with chicken satay is reliable, delicious and plentiful throughout Bangkok. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Lunch with chicken satay is reliable, delicious and plentiful throughout Bangkok. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand

­­ You can stay on the island at dinnertime in the eco-modern Bangkok Tree House or head downtown for khao soi, Northern Thai noodles at Gedhawa. At night, find fresh breezes at a rooftop bar. ­­­­­­Sky on 20 and Above Eleven is for views. Wanderlust is for the price. What a day!

Khao soi, Northern Style Curried Noodle Soup with Chicken. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Khao soi, Northern Style Curried Noodle Soup with Chicken. Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand

On this trip, we were charmed by Viet Nam and buzzing in Bangkok, Thailand. With so many places to visit in Southeast Asia, we can’t wait for more adventures.

Our next 48-hour trip is to the Philippines and Myanmar! As you plan your summer vacations traveling to Asia, come along with us on these 48-hour tours and see what ASEAN has to offer.