This is not really a tour for budding “Master Chefs” or those looking for an in-depth training in Vietnam cuisine. It is, however, a tour for those wanting to combine all the must-see sights of Vietnam but at the same time providing more of a focus on the food of the country. Vietnamese food is diverse and specific to each region of the country. Northern cuisine is considered traditional whilst southern cuisine is considered more exotic and liberal and the cuisine of central Vietnam is quite different to its counterparts in its use of distinct spices. We include cooking classes in Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon as well as plenty of opportunities to sample regional specialties in Hue and in the Mekong Delta.
Day 1: Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Hanoi
Day 3: Hanoi
Day 4: Hanoi – Hue
Day 5: Hue – Hoi An
Day 6: Hoi An
Day 7: Hoi An
Day 8: Hoi An – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City
DAY 1: HANOI
On arrival in Hanoi you will be transferred to your hotel. Please remember that hotel check-in times are after midday – unless the hotel has some rooms already available. If you do arrive early you can leave your luggage at reception and we would encourage you to get out and explore Hanoi – but please take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back. Before leaving the hotel, please look in the reception area for a notice advising your tour leader’s name, mobile phone number and other helpful local information. There are no activities planned until your 6 pm tour briefing. It is important you attend the tour briefing and afterwards, for those interested, your leader will be happy to escort you to a local restaurant to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine and toast the start of what will be an unforgettable journey.
DAY 3: HANOI
Although there has been a permanent settlement here since the 3rd Century AD, the city of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010 B.C., when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. When the French occupied Vietnam from the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as their colonial Indochinese capital with many of the ancient and historical structures being razed to make way for new French buildings. Today, the people of Hanoi take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings which, together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes, help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia. This morning we enjoy a city tour, showcasing some of Hanoi’s most interesting attractions. We begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda which is near to the Soviet-inspired Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and is one Hanoi’s oldest structures. If it does not look that old, it is because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current building is a replica. Afterwards, we will visit the Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam’s first institute of learning and the place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we’ll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, better known to many as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. These days the prison serves as a museum and a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French masters and, later, American pilots shot down over North Vietnam airspace during the Vietnam War. This afternoon we embark on the first of our culinary adventures at our cooking class at KOTO restaurant – an amazing project aimed at providing vocational training and experience in the hospitality industry for underprivileged young people. All the staff you meet at this café has come from poor backgrounds. Here you learn about the differences in the northern Vietnamese food, which is less spicy and relies more on its natural flavors than that of the centre and south.
DAY 5: HUE – HOI AN
This morning we take a scenic drive to Hoi An, through a region of Vietnam blessed with magnificent rural and coastal scenery. We drive over a couple of small passes to the pretty Lang Co Beach where Highway 1 begins its winding ascent over the Hai Van Pass or ‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’. On the other side of the pass is the city of Danang. We continue our drive to Hoi An – passing the massive former US airbase that was, in 1968, the busiest airport in the world with all manner of aircraft coming and going in support of South Vietnam’s war effort. The ancient and historic town of Hoi An was for three centuries one of the most important ports in Central Vietnam, visited by sailing ships from all over the world seeking trade in silk, ceramics and, spices. In the late 19th Century, the Tu Bon River, linking the port to the open sea, began to silt up and became un-navigable for large vessels. Trade moved up the coast to Tourane, now modern day Danang, and Hoi An went back to being a sleepy little fishing and rice farming community. Today however, Hoi An’s fortunes are once again riding on the crest of the wave as Vietnam’s number one tourist destination. This is largely due to the fact that UNESCO has listed the Old Town as a World Heritage Site with its quaint narrow streets packed with ancient Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese styles of architecture that has changed little from its heydays as a major port of trade. In Hoi An we include a walking tour of the Old Town where you can visit an Ancient House, a Chinese Assembly Hall, the Japanese Covered Bridge and a Museum.
DAY 8: HOI AN – SAIGON/HO CHI MINH CITY
This morning we transfer to the airport for the flight to Saigon. Officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after reunification in 1975, most people here still prefer to use the old name, Saigon. Once referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Saigon, with its unofficial population around 8-9 million is Vietnam’s largest city and stands in stark contrast to the capital, Hanoi. Perhaps Saigon lacks the same colonial charm of its northern cousin but it still has a certain tropical ambience and general hustle & bustle that makes it a distinctly a modern South East Asian city. Today we will visit the Reunification Palace (formerly South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace), War Remnants Museum (with its graphic depiction of the horrors of war), the French built Notre Dame Cathedral and the Gustav Eiffel designed Central Post Office. In the afternoon we take our final Vietnamese cooking class and learn about southern Vietnamese cuisine. After the class we relax over dinner and enjoy the delicious dishes that we have helped to create, before returning to our hotel.
DAY 10: SAIGON /HO CHI MINH CITY
Today is free at leisure, it is subject to your flight schedule you might have some free time once we transfer you to the airport for taking your international flight back home. Today is the last day of your tour. You can use your hotel room in Hanoi until check out time (most times at 12 pm noon). We wish you a comfortable journey home and are sure you will take with you some wonderful memories of Vietnam.
DAY 2: HANOI – HA LONG BAY – HANOI
Ha Long Bay became firmly entrenched as one of the must-sees of Vietnam after the filming of the 1992 French movie, Indochine (starring Catherine Deneuve) and later the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (starring Pierce Brosnan), The images of red sailed junks navigating through the 3,000+ limestone karsts (islands) jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular. It is approximately a three-hour drive from Hanoi to Ha Long port where we board our boat and head out into the bay enjoying a seafood lunch (non-seafood also available) on the way. During the cruise we will stop to visit a cave and, in the warmer months, there is a chance to enjoy a swim and maybe do some kayaking (optional and extra cost involved). In the afternoon we cruise back to Ha Long port, where we disembark and drive back to Hanoi. This evening, our tour leader escorts us to dinner at Ngon Restaurant (ngon meaning delicious), where we can enjoy authentic Vietnamese street food in an courtyard setting, surrounded by street stall-style cooking stations, each serving a regional specialty. This is an experience not to be missed!
DAY 4: HANOI – HUE
This morning we transfer to the airport for the flight to Hue – a city that served as Vietnam’s capital from 1801 to 1945 – during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors – and has a serene and classic character that sets it apart from all other provincial Vietnamese cities. In Hue we will enjoy a leisurely “Dragon Boat” cruise along the timeless Perfume River. Our first stop is the Thien Mu Pagoda – one of the oldest and most significant pagodas in Hue. We will then visit the Citadel where we spend a couple of hours exploring Hue’s massive ancient royal walled city and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. The palace’s splendid ‘Ngo Mon’ gate gives little hint of the destruction that has taken place inside the citadel at the hands of various occupying forces. The bloody ‘Battle of Hue’ during the 1968 Tet offensive all but finished it off but skilled Vietnamese craftsmen, with the help of UNESCO and other non-government organizations, are restoring and rebuilding what remains. Sadly it can never be returned to its former glory, but it is still a fascinating insight into Imperial Vietnam. We will also visit the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc (1847-1883), one of the best remaining examples of its kind. Constructed between 1864 and 1867, it was more of a pleasure garden than a tomb and the Emperor used it as his second residence. This evening we discover the joy of the famous royal cuisine in Hue as our tour leader escorts us to a local restaurant to experience some of the local delicacies such as Hue spring rolls and pancakes known as banh khoai.
DAY 6: HOI AN
Today is a full day cooking tour where we get to learn more about Vietnamese cooking while immersing ourselves in the daily life of the local people. We travel to Tra Que Village and walk through the market gardens where local farmers work their fields. Here we pick fresh saw-tooth coriander and Vietnamese mint for our cooking lesson, before trying a special herbal drink at a local home. Our next stop is to the local village’s market and, with shopping list in hand, we purchase a range of local ingredients including cardamom, sesame rice paper and banana flower. On arrival at Red Bridge Cooking School we learn the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food, using the freshest ingredients and traditional Vietnamese utensils. After the class we sit down to savor the dishes we prepared. Our trip back to Hoi An town is a leisurely cruise along the river.
DAY 7: HOI AN
In your free leisure time today you can rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the Tu Bon River, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the wonderful cuisine on offer at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes, or have some clothes made up. Hoi An has nearly 100 silk shops offering same-day service for tailor made clothes at low prices.
DAY 9: SAIGON/HO CHI MINH CITY – MEKONG DELTA
The Mekong River begins its journey in the high plateau of Eastern Tibet and, after winding its way some 4,000+ km through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos & Cambodia, it reaches Vietnam and divides into 9 channels (the Vietnamese refer to the Mekong Delta as “Cuu Long” – which means 9 dragons) and hundreds of tributaries before emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta is one of the most fertile regions on earth and home to some 20 million people. The best way to see the Delta is, of course, by boat and we join ours at the small market town of Cai Be. As we cruise the canals, rivers and backwaters we will discover how the local people lead their lives here and go about their daily business. We will cruise past a congested flotilla of boats selling all manner of fruit and vegetables at Cai Be’s floating market. We will visit some family-run industries, which include a rice paper, popcorn, popped rice and coconut candy factory. Lunch today will include the Mekong Delta’s famous “Elephant Ear Fish” as well as a number of other Mekong specialties. We arrive back in Saigon late afternoon and this evening our tour leader escorts us to a farewell dinner at Bun Ta Restaurant, where we get to enjoy a plethora of authentic rice noodle specialties in a beautifully renovated French villa.
HOTEL ACCOMMODATION IN TWIN/DOUBLE SHARED BASIC WITH DAILY BREAKFAST, AND ALL TAXES
PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION WITH AIR CONDITIONING
ENTRANCE FEE MENTIONED IN THE ITINERARY
MEALS SPECIFIED IN THE ITINERARY
ENGLISH SPEAKING GUIDE
INTERNAL FLIGHT TICKET
INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT TICKET
MEALS AND ENTRANCE FEES ARE NOT MENTIONED IN THE ITINERARY
EXCESS BAGGAGE CHARGES
``Tour leaders spoke very clear and all had a great understanding of Vietnam, which was very well delivered.``