Which is better, to visit Vietnam or Cambodia and why?
You mention racism? What is your ethnicity?
I have visited Vietnam, Philippines and Cambodia.
Vietnam has the best food, especially if you are willing to pay the price for high end restaurants but street food is great as well. Out of the three, the tuk-tuks, taxis and shop owners are by far the most aggressive, especially in the south. I am a tall white guy and went there with a white girl. Keeping shop owners at bay was a nightmare. Scams are very common (taxis increasing prices even on meter...) and there is a strong racism between north and south. If you go there, I suggest Hanoi and Hoi An but stay away from Saigon.
Philippines is the most dangerous place of the 3. It is also the most interesting culturally in my opinion. If you go there, stay away from the big cities like Manila or, the dumpster of PH: Angeles City. I highly recommend Bohol. I was there with a Filipina friend and had an amazing time but you'd better do your homework. Things might have changed since Duterte but google "laglag bala" to give you an idea of how corrupted people are.
Cambodia is my favourite one by far. The food is great and cheap, people are extremely friendly and seeing grown up male playing like kids and cuddling together is extremely refreshing. No major scam if you do a bit of homework and it is quite a safe place with a very interesting history. It also is a place where most transactions are in US dollars which makes life much easier.
I wrote this in a martial arts group a few months ago, it might help you:
First, needed disclaimer, there might be LEOs from 3rd world country in this group, when I mention corruption, I do not mean that the entire police/military are corrupted, but that the risks of facing a corrupt official increase in these countries and it is worse as a foreigner
Second, I want to clarify that my "tips" only reflect my own opinion and are not bullet proof, hence tips number 1.
1) Do your homework before going. What are the usual scams and dangers? Do not get that prevent you from having a good time but if you go to, let's say, Philippines, you need to know about the "laglag bala"
2) Forget about the Westerner sense of entitlement. If you ever think "you have no right to do that to me" or "I have rights" or "it is not fair", you are setting yourself up for some bad time. You need to understand that the concept of "rights" in countries where people sometimes still starve to death, is much simpler than in the West: The strongest has rights, there is a good chance you only have privileges that can be easily taken away
3) Some expats living in SE Asia say that your first move when being scammed by officials should be to pay. If you wait, more get involved and it gets more expensive. As for your embassy, their job is to ensure that you get a fair treatment based on local laws, that means that if it is normal to spend 6 months in a shitty jail waiting for a trial, your embassy will ensure you do not spend 2 years before getting a trial... Also remember that some of these countries will try to use you as a mean of pressure to get things from your country. In the meantime, not paying 500$ could cost you months in prison with daily beatings, or much worse...
4) Stillness means death. No matter where you are, do not, ever, stand completely still. Slight movements will make it difficult for other people to take things from your bag or worse, add things into your bag (see laglag bala)
5) Have a credit card, copy of passport, other ID and some cash in a second bag
6) Related to point 4 and 5: Have a small bag (satchell/purse) dedicated to phone/keys/change/glasses... when going through airport security. You do not want to be distracted and lose sight of your gear because you triggered the metal detector, you don't want to spend time retrieving all these coins from the tray either (on top of that, fellow travelers will thank you for speeding up the security check)
7) In case it was not obvious, never get the police involved if it is not strictly mandatory
8) Before going, arrange pick up with your hotel (get a hotel for the first and last night), get all the details. As an example, telling the scammers at Manila NAIA that I knew the schedule of the hotel shuttle and the color of the bus saved me quite a lot of hassle, not only it closed the topic of "my friend can get you to the hotel for 5 times the real price" but it also sent the message that I was not the easiest target for other scams.
9) I learnt that one the hard way, do not expect your check in luggage to arrive on the same day as you do....
10) If you can, avoid check in luggage (I just spend 2 weeks in Cambodia with a cabin luggage only and that includes my camera gear) but if you cannot, saran wrap the s**t out of your check in luggage
That s gonna be it for now, I ll add if I think of something else. Remember one important thing, though, in these regions, it is about not being the easiest target so I am going to leave you with that joke:
2 guys are in a car in the middle of a natural park, the car engine breaks down and a lion starts walking around the car. Realising that no help is going to come, the guys decide to make a run for it. The first guy starts changing shoes into sport shoes and the second guy asks:
-You really think you can outrun a lion
The guy who changed shoes answers:
-I don't need to be faster than the lion, I just need to be faster than you...
I have been to both countries in last two years and can compare both of them:
a) Distances - As mentioned in earlier answer, despite small land area, Vietnam is a long, long country to travel. Major destinations are easily 600+ kms apart with no decent railway link. Cambodia on other hand is smaller but road network except for Aranyaprathet (Thai border) to Siemens Reap and to Pnom penh is not so great.
b) Language - Even in a modern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh city, which has been influenced by Americans heavily, English is not understood (except in backpacker hubs) nor spoken in Vietnam. However in Cambodia, tourism being the major revenue earner you can easily manage with English in Siem Reap (base for Angkor Wat).
c) Cuisine : Vietnam beats Cambodia hands down, with Vietnamese pho and basa fish being attractions. Cambodian cuisine somehow was not appealing to me. Also Vietnamese street food are more authentic than Cambodian, which seem to have been altered to suit western tastes.
d) Costs : Vietnam being a more developed economy not depending on tourism, does not try to rip off tourists but Cambodian economy to great extent depends on Angkor wat based tourism and hence tries to make money through it (1 day pass costs $20), although one should not crib if you learn the recent past history of that country. Options of lodging, transport are plenty in Vietnam whereas much lesser in Cambodia. One interesting point to note here is USD is the commonly used currency in Cambodia (local currency Riel is used only for transactions of less than a dollar) and even ATMs issue only USD notes.
e) Friendliness - Both countries you can find people extremely friendly.
f) Visa regulations - Vietnam has a very cumbersome process of applying electronic visa for tourists. You need to contact a local travel agency (plenty of them available on web, but be careful on the names which may be looking like government sites but actually not), who will apply evisa for you - which actually is an approval letter for getting a visa on arrival. On reaching airport, you have to join a chaotic line for getting visa which will end up in a counter manned by a tactiturn staff and payment of USD25 required. This will be the first and only unpleasant experience in this country.
g) Transportation - Very cheap public transport is available in Ho Chi Minh City along with affordable taxis. In Cambodia, you need to hire vehicles almost on daily or as package which makes it expensive.
h) Attractions - Topography of both countries are more or less similar but Vietnam is blessed with long sea coast which host beautiful beaches as well as few hill stations. Cambodia on the other hand has architectural marvels of Angkor wat archeological complex, while Vietnam has very little to show case on this front. Most of the Vietnamese attractions are related to Vietnam US conflict and some may be tragic. However the architecture of Ho Chi Minh city is a treat to watch.
In short, if you are a fan of architecture, Cambodia is for you and if you want to explore nature, anti colonial struggle, city architecture, Vietnam is better.
For a side trip, I'd definitely recommend Cambodia, and Siem Reap specifically. This is near the Angkor Wat and lots of other historic ruins, and if there's one unique, must see place in SE Asia, then Angkor Wat is it. Siem Reap has plenty more going for it too, like traditional markets, great local food and the party atmosphere of Pub Street.
I would also recommend visiting Vietnam, but not as a side trip. Vietnam is a lot bigger (perhaps not so much in land area, but in distances to travel and interesting places to visit) and deserves longer than a short trip to do it justice. It has a lot of diversity, and if you just visit one or two towns, then you'll have missed that. Still, if you choose to take a short trip to 'nam I'd recommend Hoi An as the best place for a tourist.
I found the people in Cambodia to be more genuine and friendly than those in Vietnam (on average - there are a lot of great people in both countries), and never had a worry in Cambodia about being robbed or ripped off, whereas in Vietnam there are quite a lot off people who will try to take advantage of tourists (watch out for taxi drivers!).
Laos is well worth a visit, but it's not that convenient for a short trip, and better done as part of a longer SE Asia trip.
Thailand is great too, and (not including the Philippines) has the best beaches in the area.
(I'll post some links and photos later - really, I'll get around to it some time!).
Not sure on Vietnam, but Cambodia is a great place. Just stay humble because if anything bad happens the foreigner "Always" loses.
I know because I ended up in a Cambodian Jail Cell.
I love both countries, but Vietnam is more vibrant and has much better food.
Cambodia is a wonderful side trip if you can have three days in Siem Reap / Angkor Wat. The locals are hospitable and relaxed. The cities are laid out in interesting French organization. There is something so peaceful, yet dark, about the place.
However, the food accessible to a tourist isn't great (for Asian standards) and the landscape often looks like a tropical Indiana. For these reasons, I'd recommend Vietnam, which has amazing cuisine in all regions and a much more dramatic offering of natural settings.
Vietnam is a country in which you need to do your homework. It is not an easy place to travel and can be overwhelming and frustrating for a first time visitor.
However, it is my favorite country in the world to be in.
First, prices change depending on each customer. Be prepared to walk away. Also, when it comes to money, expect anyone would lie to you, even your hotel. Don't trust what anyone says. Do you own research, shop around, buy your own tickets, etc.
In short, go prepared and have an amazing time. Go unprepared and be ready to be a pinball of cash, bouncing off vendor to vendor being ripped off.
I've visited over ten times and spent a year up and down this magnificent country and compiled this list for your consideration.
Having just returned from another glorious month in Vietnam, I can assure you it's all still relevant.
Vietnam and Cambodia are often visited together as they are located next to each other. Every country is filled with their own unique places and cultures.
If Vietnam has Hanoi, then Cambodia have Phnom Penh.