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Indulge your inner foodie and give your soul something to savor on this Vietnam food adventure. The trip combines a wealth of culinary experiences with cultural and historical highlights to give you a wonderfully alternative view of this beautiful country. Vietnamese cooking is a superb and delicate balance of flavors that has a real aromatic appeal that cant be resisted. This trip will have you deconstructing regional dishes as you enjoy the countrys natural, fresh ingredients, and warm hospitality.
The accommodation on this trip is mostly in good quality hotels (mostly 3 stars). You will spend eight nights in comfortable hotels, one night on a boat with twin share cabins, all en-suite, and one night in a standard guesthouse to experience some Mekong Delta hospitality, sleeping one to three persons in a room (depending on group size), next to a local house. All of the hotels have either fans or air conditioning and there are twin rooms with private facilities. Please note that double beds are not always widely available in southeast Asia.
This is the perfect gastronomical tour, from spending time in the markets tasting and learning the names of local produce, to visiting small producers to learn about the process of making the local specialties. Work your way through the menu of local restaurants, take tea in one of the few remaining traditional tea houses, sample fresh street food, and learn to cook some of the key regional dishes from across the country (enjoying every bite after each class of course). Travel through the conservative north, the vibrant night life of the Mekong Delta and Saigon, explore the history of the countrys imperial cities, take in the wonderful landscapes, and rich traditions.
The trip includes some time in Saigon, a lively market city where anything goes. Hunt out unusual ingredients in the markets (pigs ears, snouts, and live frogs) and take in the sights of Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the War Remnants Museum. A trip outside the city will allow you to see Vietnams stunning rice fields as well as observe several of the countrys cottage industries in action including coconut candy and rice paper. There is so much to savor and discover here. Every street food vendor is a brilliant master chef and every meal is a gastronomical delight. At the end of each busy day, unwind at a street-side bar with a local beer, and plan the next days delights.
The day is free for you to recover from the flight or you can stroll amongst broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period. There is a faded colonial charm where baguettes and good coffee are sold from doorways of grand buildings of a past era. There will be a welcome briefing this evening with a group dinner at a local restaurant.
Today is a jam-packed day of culinary based activities. Start your stay with a sunrise walk around the Hoam Kiem Lake in the middle of Hanoi. You will join the throngs of locals as they come together for a daily morning activity; this could be laughing yoga, Tai Chi, or street aerobics, and all are welcome to participate in this communal gathering before you sit for a quick bowl of breakfast pho, a steaming noodle soup that is the standard breakfast fare. After breakfast, you will walk to nearby Dong Xuan Market to learn about local fruits and vegetables, and to have the opportunity to touch and taste many of the staple ingredients you will come across throughout your trip.
This afternoon, you will visit to the Truong Xuan teahouse. This is one of the last traditional teahouses in Vietnam and you partake in a tea ceremony. Late afternoon, youll transfer to the Koto cooking school, a training school for disadvantaged youths. The Koto chef will teach you how to prepare spring rolls, a variety of seafood dishes, and even dessert. You will, of course, end the perfect gastronomical day, but enjoying your self-made feast.
Make an early start for the approximately 4-hour journey to Halong Bay. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in southeast Asia, with roughly 3,000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. You will cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery and enjoy a seafood dinner on board by candlelight. You overnight on board in twin share cabins with en-suite facilities.
You continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before returning to port. You then go back to Hanoi pausing for lunch before heading straight to the airport for a flight to Da Nang. You will overnight in Hoi An, your resting place for the next three nights. A charming small town, Hoi An largely escaped the destruction of successive wars, and its backstreets with traditional architecture are a delight to explore on foot as many are off-bounds to cars and motorbikes.
This morning will include a walking tour of Hoi An, the original European trading port in Vietnam dating back to the mid-sixteenth century. It is now a living museum, with attractive wooden merchants houses, and pagoda-style temples with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and European architectural influences. You will stop for lunch at Bale restaurant to sample some street food delights. Very popular with the locals, this restaurant tucked away in the backstreets really is a hidden gem.
You will work our way through the menu sampling pork sates, sizzling seafood, and sumptuous Vietnamese pancakes. This afternoon is free; one popular option is to jump on a bike for a ride through the countryside past local markets, schools, and villages before continuing on to My Khe Beach. Hoi An is also a marvelous place to wander around and enjoy the thriving riverside market and great silk clothes shopping. If you have anything you want made up in mind, you should consider taking a picture of it along with you.
Today is a real hands-on day. Set off early by bicycle to the Tra Que village, famed for its avenues of herbs, so fragrant you can smell them before you see them. You will visit lots of small producers to learn about the process of making the local specialties, a Cao Lau noodle maker, and a bean sprout growers home, as well as the local market. Enroute, you will cycle by water buffaloes and an abundance of bird life, two wheels being the optimum way to appreciate the rolling paddy-field countryside. You will visit the market restaurant to watch some live cooking demonstrations before partaking in another cooking class, learning all about central Vietnamese cuisine. This afternoon is at leisure with time to further explore Hoi An.
Drive to Da Nang and then fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Your hotel is in the heart of this incredible city. Visit the Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and War Remnants Museum. The museum has an interesting photographic record of the Vietnam / American war.
After the city tour, you will visit Ben Thanh Market, the most central of all the markets with the surrounding streets compromising one of the citys liveliest areas. Everything thats commonly worn, used or eaten by the residents of Ho Chi Minh City is piled high here; from scorpions in alcohol, flashy jewelry to hardware, piles of spices, fruits and vegetables. The wet market at the back is for the brave only; expect to see clutches of live frogs tied together by the legs, heaps of pigs ears, snouts, and baskets wedged full of chickens.
In the morning, drive to Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta, known as the rice bowl of Vietnam. This region produces most of Vietnams fruits, sugar cane, and coconuts. Take a boat trip on the mighty Mekong River to Cai Be. Enroute pass many orchards and friendly locals also travelling by boat. Stop to see some small cottage industries such as rice paper and coconut candy, getting a chance to sample the local produce along the way. The evening is tranquil as you have dinner on an island and enjoy some delta hospitality. You will spend the night sleeping at a simple guesthouse built in the style of a local house. Bedding, a mosquito net, and a small towel are provided.
An early start today as you head to the floating market of Cai Be. Visually intoxicating, this bustling river market is the only way to understand life on the Mekong. You will watch all sorts of wares being traded and, of course, will have the chance to taste some of the local produce. The market is set to the backdrop of miles of paddy fields punctuated mostly by agricultural holdings, although there is a huge Catholic cathedral on the riverside that is worth a visit. You will transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City for your final cookery class in the center, this time learning the intricacies of south Vietnam cuisine which is often sweeter due to the use of coconut and palm from the tropical climate.
For those on group flights, these depart late in the evening, so there will be a full free day at leisure to continue exploring the frenetic city of Ho Chi Minh. There will be some optional activities for those who would like to partake, your group leader will be able to discuss these with you.
Bicycle tour to the Tra Que village
Boat trip on the mighty Mekong River to Cai Be
Cruise amongst Halong Bay
Sunrise walk around the Hoam Kiem Lake
Tour around Ho Chi Minh City
Visit to the Ben Thanh Market
Visit to the floating market of Cai Be
Visit to the Truong Xuan teahouse
Walk to nearby Dong Xuan Market
Walking tour of Hoi An
This retreat will take place in Hanoi, Hoi An, Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh, and Vinh Long, Vietnam.
During this tour, you will be delighted with Vietnamese delicatessen on breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, from traditional pho noddle soup, pork sates, sizzling seafood, and sumptuous Vietnamese pancakes, to horseshoe crab, fresh lobster, and grilled squid. You will prepare and taste spring rolls, a variety of seafood dishes, and even dessert. With the idea of giving you the whole Vietnamese flavor, street food samples are also included in your meals. Thanks to Vietnams tropical climate, the long coast, and the gigantic range of mountain, Vietnam is blessed with numerous varieties of culinary offerings and consequently maintains its reputation as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world with delicious fresh and fiery flavors.
Vietnamese food relies on fresh fish, vegetables, rice, and a whole myriad of verdant herbs and spices; lemongrass, ginger, basil, and, lime - all play an important role in the cuisine. The Chinese and French influence is felt throughout the country. Each dish is prepared with the Asian principle of Wu Xing in mind (the five elements) meaning that the perfect combination of spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet is the ultimate aim. Be sure to also seek out the national beverages; Vietnamese coffee is served iced and sweet with condensed milk, a real sugar and caffeine hit, and beer hoi (local beer, brewed daily) is served on most street corners in the north out of large plastic jugs that are perfect for sharing.
Cycle through the countryside past local markets, schools, and villages of Hoi An
Explore more places of Ho Chi Minh City on your own
Explore more places of Hoi An on your own
Partake in optional activities before your depart
Visit the Catholic cathedral on the riverside of Cai Be
Wander around the riverside market and shop great silk clothes in Hoi An
Please book your flight to arrive at Noi Bai International Airport (HAN).
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