Myanmar vs Vietnam: Which Is Your Chosen Destination?

Myanmar and Vietnam both seem to offer a very comparable travel experience, and while there are definite similarities in the magnificence of each country, there are also some clear differences. Take a moment to explore each one a little deeper with us before making your choice between Myanmar vs Vietnam.

Myanmar is a land of sunsets (most famously in Bagan) but it is also in our opinion even better at sunrise. Aim to wake up early at least once in every destination you visit, and you’ll be surprised at the amazing sights you’ll see so early in the morning. Whether it’s the sun rise over the temples in Bagan, a line of Monks wandering the streets in search for donations or seeing the comings and goings of locals, school children and markets early in the morning. It’s a wonderful opportunity to beat the crowds and see local life in its purest form.

We are luxury travelers and while there are some great luxury hotels in Myanmar, we chose to stay in 3-star (or lower) accommodations on our trip and we recommend you do the same as well! Consider two things, many of the luxury hotels are run by former associates of the military dictator or are owned by the government. The money you spend staying in these hotels does not go back into the community, so we preferred to stay in locally ran bed & breakfasts or guesthouses instead. Secondly, Myanmar is a country of adventure and exploration. It is certainly not a country where you should spend hours in your hotel, so we recommend staying in a cheaper guesthouse and spending your time exploring and spending your money on activities and sights rather than big expensive hotels. If you’re looking to spend most of your time in a luxury hotel, do not go to Myanmar. – Samantha & Leonardo, The Wandering Wanderlusters

MyanmarVietnam
Capital cityNaypyidawHanoi
Most popular destinationYangonHo Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
Natural attractionNgapali BeachHalong Bay
Nightlife destinationYangonHo Chi Minh City

Highlights

Chinh Le Duc

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

Myanmar

Myanmar has had a tumultuous past steeped in military rule that lasted for five decades. Their new democratically led future has opened doors for travellers who are seeking the unspoiled utopia of turquoise seas, mountains, lakes, pristine beaches and tropical jungles. The people of Myanmar are gentle, welcoming and friendly, making travellers feel very much at home in their country.

Nature aside, the country is known for bustling marketplaces, colourful streets, beautiful Buddhist temples, including the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, which has historical pieces dating back to the 6th century. The massive reclining Buddha, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, is another awe-inspiring must-see that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Rich in culture, spirituality and traditional lifestyle, Myanmar is an escape that encompasses a little bit of everything.

I had looked forward to travelling in Myanmar for years.  And my biggest regret is that I would have loved more time. I would say two weeks minimum to get around to the major travel haunts, but this would also give you time to get off the beaten path a bit, into smaller communities, and maybe a multi day hike. While there are many tours visiting Myanmar, whether you on with a group or flying solo, Myanmar is for travelers who love adventure, a few surprises, and enjoy the unexpected.  Be open for anything that comes your way in Myanmar, and take time to enjoy the welcoming folks and beautiful villages. – Emily, See Her Travel

Myanmar is a country with a very rich and quite conservative culture. Make sure to respect the traditions and rules most especially when entering the pagodas. Prepare your feet to be exposed (literally) since footwear isn’t allowed inside the sacred pagodas. The highlight of our Myanmar trip was when we visited Bagan and Inle Lake. Bagan surely can’t be missed since it shows the old and long existence of the country. I was truly amazed of the pagodas as well as the hospitality of the people.

Inle Lake has more of a relaxed vibe. It is more chilly and quiet too! Surrounded by lake, Myanmar people exercises a different kind of survival skills. But wherever you are in the country, food is cheap. Don’t miss out on the samosas and the classic tea! Truly, to die for. Yum!

We came across many backpackers and solo travellers while we were there, but I had a beau with me so I can say, it is a great destination for couples, too! Though you can fly to every city in Myanmar, it is more cost efficient if you ride the night buses to reach your destination. In that way, you can also save on your hotel expenses. – Tody, The Bella Travellista
Văn Ngọc Tăng

Photo by Văn Ngọc Tăng on Unsplash

Vietnam

Vietnam caters to the quiet soul searcher as much as it does to the lively, gap year travel enthusiast. With magnificent beaches, clean rivers and breath-taking forests forming the backdrop for busy cities and lively markets… there is an energy in Vietnam that can’t be matched anywhere else.

Age-old tradition still marks a vast majority of the land, where rice paddies and mountainside villages keep local farmers and families contentedly busy. Buildings, houses and streets all have a uniquely Vietnamese appeal, while a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism paints the villages with colours that are worn with pride.


Travel to: The cure for Vietnam’s traffic chaos? Egg coffee, of course.


Vietnam’s nightlife has evolved over the years and there is now a definitive scene in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. For those wanting nothing more than a good party, bars, great entertainment and an affordable night out, Ho Chi Minh City is a great bet.

Food And Drinks

Myanmar

The food and drinks particular to Myanmar are generally hot and spicy with flavours found in Chinese and Indian food. Dishes include lots of curries, rice, noodles, coconut milk, fresh vegetables and chicken, mutton or fish. Ginger and chili are very commonly used ingredients found in many dishes. Locally brewed beers are found in bars and restaurants, as are a variety of teas served with unique spices.

Here’s a short list of the most delicious Burmese dishes:

  • Mohinga: a bowl of rice noodles covered in a fish based soup and sprinkled with deep fried fritters
  • Biryani: rice with cashew nuts, yogurt, raisins and peas, chicken, cloves, cinnamon, saffron and bay leaf
  • Pe Byouk: flat bread, and boiled peas

I was already in love with tea leaf salad before I even came to Myanmar, since that dish can also frequently be found in Northern Thailand as it seems to have spilled over the border. However, eating that salad in the busy streets of Yangon is a totally different game – and so very recommended! And of course you gotta try Mohinga, a national favorite which is rice noodles in a delicious fish soup.

Of course, you cannot miss seeing the sunrise sitting high up on the edge of one of the Temples of Bagan. It is even more spectacular when you come between October and March as it is hot air balloon season then. Then, you can spot the balloons rising over the temples into the sun at dawn, simply wow! Another highlight you will surely not want to pass is visiting the glamorous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the whole country. It is absolutely stunning, especially at sunset when the chanting begins. – Carolin, Breathing Travel

herbs

Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

Vietnam

Vietnamese food includes rice and noodles as a staple part of a dish, much like Myanmar cuisine. Fish is widely used in Vietnamese cooking as it is readily available, as are fresh herbs and vegetables. Vietnamese beer of choice, bia hơi, is known to be the cheapest in the world, while their iced coffee drink, Cà phê sữa đá, is a sweet and delicious cool down for a hot day in Vietnam.

Here’s a list of the most famous Vietnamese dishes:

  • Pho, salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef
  • Cha ca, sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill on a hot pan tableside
  • Banh xeo, crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs

Getting around

Myanmar

Here are some tips for getting around Myanmar in the most time-effective way:

  1. Popular tourist destinations such as Yangon (Rangoon), Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan are open to foreigners. However, much of Myanmar is closed to foreign travellers.
  2. Myanmar roads have improved, but it still takes long time to travel. This makes flying the most comfortable option for travelling long distances. According to some sources, many airlines engage in the unfortunate practice of dual pricing, with foreigners paying significantly more than Myanmar nationals.
  3. Myanmar has an extensive but old rail network. Trains are slow, noisy and the toilets are in abysmal sanitary condition; many are simply holes in the floor that empty out directly onto the ground beneath the train.
  4. There is also a large river ferry network. The ferry companies are usually run by the government. The trip from Mandalay to Bagan requires almost a day, the one from Bagan to Yangon is longer.
  5. Buses of all types run the roads of Myanmar. Since the ban on importing vehicles was lifted in 2012, the quality of coach transport is improving drastically.
Myanmar kids

Myanmar kids

Vietnam

Here are some tips for getting around while in Vietnam:

  1. Traveling by plane is cheap and fast in Vietnam. The trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City will take about 2 hours.
  2. The railway is the least developed transportation infrastructure in Vietnam. Most of the network was built during the period of French colonization and since then it has not improved. There have been programs for developing it in the last decade but the network has still many deficiencies.
  3. Long-distance bus services connect most cities in Vietnam. Usually they depart early in the morning to accommodate traffic and late afternoon rains. Note that average road speed is typically quite slow.
  4. Foreign driving licences are not accepted in Vietnam. The concept of renting a car to drive yourself is almost non-existent, and when Vietnamese speak of renting a car they mean hiring a car with a driver.
  5. You may wish to visit Vietnam by bicycle. Several adventure travel companies provide tours with equipment. Most of the population gets around on two wheels, so it’s a great way to get closer to the people, as well as off the beaten path.
  6. While slowly being supplanted by motorbikes, cyclo pedicabs still roam the streets of Vietnam’s cities and towns. They are especially common in scenic smaller cities, where it’s pleasant to cruise slowly along taking in the sights.
  7. You’ll be missing a big part of Vietnamese life if you do not spend some time on a boat. Be careful though because many boats, although seaworthy, are not fit to international standards.

Budget

Vietnam wins when it comes down to your holiday budget. But the average daily budget in both countries is under 50 US dollars. In both countries, you will have to pay the Entry Visa and with tourism in its relative infancy, fewer businesses charge hiked up tourist prices in Myanmar. Unfortunately it’s not like this in Vietnam.

Phrases and Words

Myanmar

Mingalar Ba
Auspicious to you all
Thwa: bi
Good night / Good Bye
Zei: mya:de
Very expensive
Lei zei
Airport
Be lau’le:
How much?

 

Vietnam

Xin chao!
Hello!
Tam Biet
Goodbye
Toi la…
My name is…
Xin loi
Excuse me
Tot
Good

 

So, which one is better?

Both countries are amazing. According to many travelers, Myanmar is still authentic and the people more friendly, particularly in the touristic areas. The good news is that Vietnam and Myanmar (or Burma) are in Southeast Asia, so you could easily visit both of them during the same trip.