Flavors of Vietnam
Take a gastronomic adventure through Vietnam. Spend ten days immersed in the country’s culinary scene, sampling everything from tasty street food to gourmet fusion dishes. Learn the secrets behind these mouth-watering morsels with visits to fresh markets and hands-on cooking classes.
DAY 1 & 2: HANOI
Arrive in Hanoi and be welcomed by the guide and transfer to the hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Start your second day with a visit to the highly acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum, located near Hoan Kiem Lake. Displays highlight Vietnam’s vast cultural diversity and educate on the significant role Vietnamese women play in Vietnamese society. Then, explore the Temple of Literature. In 1076 Quoc Tu Giam - Vietnam's first university, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Spend the afternoon at leisure and explore the Old Quarter independently. This evening, drive through the bustling rush hour streets and escape into the narrow and quiet lanes. With the expertise of your guide, discover a hidden staircase that leads to an apartment block built after the liberation. Be welcomed into the home of a friendly local family with 3 generations living under the same roof. Sip on a cup of tea while listening to the host’s interesting life stories, from being the helper of a herbal medicine practitioner from a very young age to becoming a soldier specializing in military Morse code during the Vietnam War. Stories continue around the table over a traditional dinner prepared by his wife and daughter. After the meal, enjoy green tea to relax and chat more. Family members who return home after a hard-working day offer a great opening to find out about the family’s life today.
Join a local family at their farm, ploughing the fields and picking rice for a better understanding of Vietnam’s agriculture.
Grab an apron and step into the kitchen, learning to prepare Vietnamese dishes from villagers and famous chefs.
Try food from each of Vietnam’s distinctive regions and at popular local stalls for an authentic taste of the country.
DAY 9, 10 & 11: HO CHI MINH CITY
Transfer to Hue Airport after breakfast for the short flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals. This afternoon, start with a visit to the iconic Saigon Central Post Office built between 1886 and 1891. It is a creation with a unique vaulted ceiling with wrought iron beams and columns reminiscent of industrial architecture, which is now considered a symbol of Saigon and one of its most famous landmarks. Walk along Dong Khoi street and pay a visit to Gialong Palace – Ho Chi Minh City Museum for its beautiful architecture and listen to its history through times. Continue to ‘Le Loi Street’ to meet a local artisan who specializes in traditional engravings. Next, stroll through the old central market before arriving at the city’s oldest colonial-era apartment, built in 1886, and see what the young creative Vietnamese are up to from their funky boutiques and coffee shops. Sit down at one of the stylish coffee shops and interact with a local resident who moved here in 1975. Leave the compound and have a look at the building on the other side, which used to be ‘Banque de l’Indochine’ (Indochina Bank) during the 1920s. It’s a stunning example of the ‘Indochinois’ east/west fusion style of architecture that this area is known for. After this last stop, head back to the hotel. Enjoy the show held in this beautiful colonial building, which is performed by a group of enthusiastic local artists and dancers. The hour long ‘AO show’ embraces different elements of performance art with a Vietnamese touch. This is an unforgettable show displaying the finest Vietnamese heritage and culture through contemporary choreography and traditional music. The evening ends with a stroll back to the hotel accompanied by the guide.
The next day, meet with your guide for a morning discovery of Saigon, the habits of the local people and the significance of coffee drinking in Vietnamese culture. Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century but the country quickly became a strong exporter as vast swathes of the highlands were given over to this important new cash crop. Today, the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new gastronomic levels! Start with a stroll through a buzzing local residential area and delve right into local life while browsing the street café, watching people enjoying their morning coffee, reading newspapers or chatting with each other. The locals usually drink coffee after having breakfast. Join in the typical daily routine by ordering ‘bun thit nuong’ consisting of fresh noodles topped with grilled pork at an eatery. Then, walk around to observe the bustling street eats scene and try a piece of sticky rice or hollow donut snack. Carry on to discover an 80-year-old coffee shop and warehouse. Get to know the unique way of making coffee while listening to tales related to this trade. Conclude the tour by heading to Barista Saigon coffee studio. Meet with a certified barista, be introduced to Vietnamese specialty coffee and learn expert coffee brewing techniques. Choose from a variety of courses, focusing on espresso, latte art or professional ways to judge the quality of coffee. Then take a short drive to the banks of the Saigon River. Board a private speed boat for this scenic Cu Chi tunnels cruise. Gaze upon the modern skyline of the city as the boat cruises across the water. Watch as the scenery changes, passing through urban neighborhoods and then rural countryside. After 90 minutes arrive at Cu Chi and explore the incredible network of 125 miles of underground tunnels. Crawl underground and get a better sense of what life was like living and fighting in the labyrinth of caves and tunnels. Hear remarkable stories of the residents’ resilience and see relics of the wartime weapons. Following the visit, return to the boat and relax while cruising back to the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
Spend the last day at leisure until the time for transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for your onward flight.
In partnership with EXO Travel
DAY 3: HALONG BAY
Following breakfast leave Hanoi for Halong Bay and board your boat for an unforgettable cruise through the bay. After a welcome onboard, lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
DAY 4: FLIGHT TO DANANG
Enjoy a fresh morning in the middle of the bay, as the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served while the vessel cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer to Hanoi airport for the flight to Danang. In Danang, take a short transfer to your hotel in Hoi An.
DAY 5 & 6: HOI AN
Rice is a major staple in the diet of many Asian countries, especially in Vietnam. Today, go on a discovery of Vietnamese rice cultivation that is foreign to most western tourists. Begin the journey with a short bicycle ride through rice paddies to the countryside (a vehicle can be arranged for those preferring not to cycle). Arrive at a farm and be warmly welcomed with tea by a local host. Take the chance to visit a typical local’s house while the guide explains the different steps of rice cultivation. Don traditional farming clothes and conical hats for sun protection. Then, start the fun part of the tour. Because learning is way better with practice, you will learn how to plough, rake, carry water into the rice field, sow, pull up the rice seedlings, transplant rice, etc. Prepare yourself for a unique experience, and try not to fall into the mud! Afterwards, return to the house and learn how to make pancakes. Additionally, learn how to cook rice in the traditional way. Enjoy lunch with the host family before riding back to the hotel. Free at leisure the rest of the afternoon.
The next day, leave the hotel for a short ride to an organic farm. Located about 2 miles from the Old Town center, this quietly tucked away farm was established by an expert in nutrition based on the love of food and local cuisine. Just like the varied landscape of Vietnam, the cuisine contains a brilliant balance of aromatics, heat, sweetness, sourness, and umami flavor from the use of fish sauce. The cuisine is all about the balance between yin and yang; the sweet and salty, the cool and the warmth, the fresh and fermented. Follow the nutrition expert and explore the farm while listening to inspiring stories about how to use food and vegetables for healthy living. Pick up some ingredients before heading to the lovely kitchen to cook. There will be five dishes to learn to make. You'll have the chance to get hands-on making rice flour with the old stone grinder, rice paper with copper vessels and invent a personal organic juice recipe. Once ready, sit down and feast on a delicious meal of authentic local cuisine. After filling up on these home-cooked delights, return to Hoi An for the afternoon.
DAY 7 & 8: HUE
In the morning, discover Hoi An with a walking tour. Discover the charming, old-world trading port of narrow streets and traditional houses, former merchants’ homes, the town’s iconic 400-year old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market where an array of fresh ingredients are on offer. Drive through Danang and visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world, before crossing Hai Van tunnel and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co. Enjoy an exclusive private dinner at the lovely Tha Om garden house.
The next day, learn all about bamboo and how it is ingrained in Vietnamese culture and daily life, providing protection and representing resiliency. In the countryside, bamboo is used for everything - from everyday items to musical instruments to ornaments. Visit the village of Bao La, where locals still keep the traditional craft of bamboo that has been passed down generations. Admired for their basketry weaving, the people of Bao La understand this craft well. Under the harmonious leadership of the forefather of the village, each area of the village specializes in one kind of basket weaving to prevent unnecessary strife and competition, and to encourage a cooperative spirit throughout. Listen to their stories about how to adapt traditions to modern life. Then head to a workshop in the city and meet with an artisan who has integrated bamboo with traditional handicrafts to create revolutionary new art in Vietnam called Truc Chi art. Get hands on creating a handicraft under their guidance. Spend the evening on a culinary adventure on the back of a vintage Vespa. The old imperial capital of Hue is popular not only for its attractive historical monuments of the Nguyen Dynasty but also for its richness in culture and cuisine. There’s no better way to explore the night life of Hue and its tasteful flavors than sitting on the back seat of a vespa for an adventure through charming streets. Visit a vintage vespa collector and taste food with the family. Then ride to some hand-picked local family-run venues that serve the best authentic local foods. Indulge in a world of Hue specialties, including Bun Bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup), “banh Khoai” – Hue sizzling pancake, sweet soups and variety of Hue green leaf cakes. Then, take a leisurely ride back to the hotel.