Thailand, Bang Kok
Bangkok is undoubtedly the most popular 36 hour international weekend getaway destination for teachers in Vietnam. One of the biggest and most notorious cities in Southeast Asia, Bangkok is a cheap 3 hour flight from Hanoi, and even shorter from HCMC. The city begs for deep and intricate exploration, but offers a number of immediate and famous attractions for those on a tight timeframe. The Grand Palace, with its stunning Emerald Buddha, is a must see. The best street life can be found at Banglamphu, where authentic dining and local merchant shops combine in a quintessentially Thai bustle.
Cambodia, Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap Cambodia, enjoys the company of the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, and the Hagia Sophia as one of mankind’s most extraordinary architectural achievements. The sprawling complex of temples, overlooked by the 55m Central Tower, can be seen in a day, though many visitors insist that they could have spent much more time exploring the compound’s extensive moats, gardens, and sanctuaries.
Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia has enjoyed an unusually rich blending of East Asian cultural influences, and its food culture has flourished as a result. Kuala Lumpur is famous for its vibrant and versatile street food scene. A weekend on the ground in Kuala Lumpur should be undergone with an open mind and an empty stomach. The best view is obviously the Petronas Towers, but you’ll need to order your tickets in advance online. Merdeka Square and Thean Hou Temple also beckon. If the city doesn’t do it for you, however, the Batu Caves are only 13 km North of the city.
Often overlooked for the tropical beaches of Thailand or the renowned temples of Cambodia, Laos is a well kept secret among the more thorough travellers of Southeast Asia. The freewheeling and relaxed capital city of Vientiane offers a peaceful escape from international cities overrun by partying backpackers. Formerly a French trading post, Vientiane offers quiet, green boulevards, cafes, and quaint restaurants. Come, relax, and drink it in. While you’re there, check out the Pha That Luang temple, the grandest of Laos’ Buddhist stupas.Get a good view of the modest skyline from Patuxai, a distinctly French monument in Lan Xang.
The Pearl of the Andaman is a party paradise, to be sure, but Phuket is much more than late night raves and rastafarian beach bums. The island is one of Thailand’s most important cultural centers. Phuket Town’s Old Town district bursts with exciting new music, art, and inventive Thai street food, but you’ll want to get out of town and explore the entire province The Big Buddha is touristy but awe-inspiring nonetheless, and offers a breathtaking view of the island. If Phuket Town is a little tame for your taste, duck across the island to Patong where the parties get a big more raucous. For trekkies, check out the Sirinat National Park for exquisite beach views and rainforest hikes.