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  • Did you know nearly a million tourists tried and tested Thailand in 2016? We don’t blame them, either. The land of smiles is the epitome of delicious cuisine, other-worldly national parks, and some of the bluest water you’ll ever see. What you may not know, though, is that neighbouring Vietnam is really trendy, too. Keep scrolling to find out why…

    Oodles of noodles

    Thai cuisine is a mixture of hot, sour, spicy and sweet flavours that are all bound to get your mouth watering in no time. In fact, seven Thai dishes, including massaman curry and som tum, both made it onto CNN’s list of the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods. Plus, Thai food is all about pristine presentation, so you can expect brightly-coloured salads, perfectly cone-shaped steamed rice, and lashings of fresh and exotic-looking vegetables on your plate.

    Vietnamese cuisine packs a pretty big punch, too. Not only is it one of the most delicious in the world, it’s super healthy, too. The staple ingredients are herbs, rice and vegetables, so you can expect fresh and zesty-tasting dishes. And if there’s one meal you have to gobble up while you’re here, it’s definitely a traditional bánh mì. You won’t need to travel far to find these tasty, French-inspired sarnies. Stalls sell them on almost every street corner, whether you’re in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Phu Quoc. This baguette-style sandwich is full to the brim with greens, paté, pork, sweet chilli sauce, and a freshly fried egg. They cost around £1.50 or 44,000 Vietnamese Dong and fill you up until dinner. Yummy.

     Views for days

    Thailand plays host to some of the most versatile national parks on the globe. We think Khao Sok National Park, in Khao Lak, tops the list. Here, you can tick off fun-filled activities like white-water rafting, canoeing, and hiking, to name a few. It’s also home to one of the world’s oldest rainforests, totalling a gigantic 738-square-kilometres in size. And thanks to its low-level landscape, it really is nature’s playground. During the rainy season, you might spot boars, tapirs, gibbons, elephants – and even tigers if you’re lucky.

    Thanks to Vietnam’s breadth of nature-filled landscapes, it’s the perfect place for in-the-know-travellers to get off-the-beaten-track. Top of the list is Phu Quoc Island’s national park, which covers more than 31,000 hectares of the heart-shaped atoll, ticking off forests, Instagram-worthy waterfalls, and mountains. We can’t think of a better reason to swap the beach for a spot of hiking…

    Life’s a beach

    When it comes to out-of-this-world beaches, Thailand really does pull out all the stops. Some of the most famous ones include the Hollywood-worthy belt of sand at Maya Bay, the Kardashian-approved Similan Islands, and palm-lined Tri Trang Beach in Phuket. Talk about being spoiled for choice…

    The land of smiles isn’t the only one boasting beautiful beaches, though. In fact, Phu Quoc Island is nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, so turquoise-blue waters and silvery strips of sand aren’t hard to track down. Some of the best spots include Ganh Dau Beach, which you’ll find on the northern coast. This place is home to unspoiled coral reefs, so it’s the perfect place to go snorkelling. Plus, once the sun has sunk, make sure you head to the water’s edge – bioluminescent plankton light up the waters, turning it into a dazzling bright-blue light show.

    Fancy visiting Thailand or Vietnam? Browse our First Choice holidays.

    Enjoyed reading this? You may also like if you liked Paphos, you’ll love Larnaca, if you liked Crete, you’ll love Rhodes, if you liked Mexico, you’ll love Costa Rica, and if you’re still toying with the idea of Thailand, why not read: if you liked Phuket, you’ll love Khao Lak.