Duration: 10Days 9Nights.
If there's one thing you'll take home from any holiday in Vietnam, it will be memories of the fabulous food. Fresh ingredients cooked in an individual way make up the 500 or so traditional Vietnamese dishes that are widely offered. Add to this the French influenced-cuisine and the selection is almost endless.
This specialized holiday will take you to some of the best places to eat, offer you a wide range of different local and French cuisines accompanied by an international range of wines and show you how to prepare them in your own home. All this and time to sight-see and shop!
Day 1 : Hanoi Arrival (D)
Arrive at Noi Bai Airport and coach transfer to hotel. Take a cyclo, the Vietnamese version of the rickshaw, to the Indochina Restaurant for an introduction to Vietnamese food. Set in a beautifully restored French villa, Indochina serves specialties originating primarily from southern Vietnam. You will no doubt be introduced to " nuoc mam" , a fermented fish sauce that complements most dishes in Vietnam and "cha gio ", Vietnamese spring rolls. The staff are attired in traditional costume and musicians perform classical Vietnamese songs. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2 : Hanoi's Specialties (B, L, D)
Hanoi, the present day capital of Vietnam is a city of tree-lined boulevards and lakes with a unique blend of French colonial buildings and Chinese inspired Vietnamese architecture. A full day to explore this fascinating city takes in the One Pillar Pagoda, the Fine Arts Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Lake of the Restored Sword and the bustling 'Old Quarter' with its 36 ancient streets. Lunch is at " Cha Ca La Vong " serving seasoned fish. In the evening a visit to a performance of the famous water puppets is followed by dinner at the Le Tonkin restaurant, which specializes in superbly prepared northern Vietnamese cuisine. Northern Vietnamese food has a strong Chinese influence with stir-fried dishes and less spicy food. Specialties of Hanoi include " Cha Ca " Hanoi and the ubiquitous noodle and meat soup known as " Pho" which is usually eaten at pavement food stalls for breakfast. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 3 : Hanoi – Halong (B, L, D)
An early start for the 160km drive to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where 3,000 rocky islands emerge from the emerald green waters. A fresh seafood lunch is served on board. In the evening a barbecue of local specialties is served on the terrace of the colonial Ha Long Bay Hotel. Overnight in Halong city.
Day 4: Hue - Spicy Corner (B, L, D)
Return to Hanoi by road with a picnic lunch before transferring direct to Hanoi Airport for the early afternoon flight to Hue. (Flight time varies depending on the day of the week). On arrival in Hue transfer to the hotel. In the evening, a cyclo ride to Tinh Gia Vien restaurant for dinner. Food in Hue is spicy with considerable use of chili reflecting its imperial roots is often presented in carefully displayed small servings, a kind of Oriental nouvelle cuisine. Overnight in Hue.
Day 5 : Cooking Class - Boat trip and Royal Banquet (B, L, D)
In the morning, we follow Mrs. Cuc, the owner of Y Thao Garden House to Dong Ba central market, where she gives an instruction on how to choose food for our cooking lesson at 9:30 at Y Thao Garden House. Lunch is the food we prepare. In the afternoon, travel by Dragon Boat on the romantically named Perfume River to Thien Mu pagoda standing on the riverbank with its seven-storey tower. Transfer by car to the Imperial Citadel from which the Nguyen emperors once ruled Vietnam. Royal banquet at the Huong Giang Hotel on the banks of the Perfume River. Overnight in Hue.
Day 6 : Hue – Danang – Hoi An (B, L, D)
In the morning, we drive to visit the Tu Duc Mausoleum with its traditional Vietnamese architecture. Leave Hue mid-morning for a scenic journey on Highway One. The road passes by vivid green fields of rice and the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co with its blue lagoon and deserted sandy beaches before climbing over the dramatic Pass of Mountain Clouds (Hai Van pass). Lang Co is well known for its fresh seafood restaurants and a lunch of locally caught shrimps and squid on the edge of the lagoon is a must. Once over the mountain pass, the road drops down to Danang. Stop off at Danang to visit the famous Non Nuoc Beach (China Beach), once a 'rest and recreation' resort for American servicemen, and pass by the sacred Marble Mountains whose caves contain dozens of Buddhist shrines. Arrive at the former trading port of Hoi An around five in the afternoon. Transfer to the hotel and stroll down to the picturesque riverfront for a refreshing drink before dinner at Tam Tam Restaurant, located in a meticulously restored colonial property and appropriately run by a Frenchman.
Day 7: Hoi An – A Fusion Cuisine (B, L, D)
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Hoi An was a major Asian trading centre and much remains as it was then. A morning walking tour of the ancient town centre takes in former merchants' houses, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market. For lunch try the local specialty, " cao lau" , a delicious soup made with noodles, pork and greens. This is an original dish found only in Hoi An and made using the water from the town's ancient well (duly boiled). The afternoon is free to cycle through rice paddies to the nearby beach, shop for souvenirs among the antique shops and art galleries or just sit at a pavement café and soak in the atmosphere of this friendly little town. For a dinner, visit a Hoi An institution, the White Lantern Restaurant, whose the owner, Ms Vy, dishes up sumptuous five-course meals featuring Hoi An's unique cuisine. Expect to sample more Hoi An delicacies like " hoanh thanh " and " banh vac".
Day 8: Hoi An – Saigon (B, L, D)
Transfer to Danang Airport after breakfast for the early flight to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now officially known. Transfer to hotel on arrival. After a lunch of " pho" on Pasteur Street, a half day city tour includes the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and Cholon, the city's lively Chinatown. Dinner is at one of Saigon's best-known restaurants, Vietnam House. The cuisine of the south uses many herbs and spices and has been influenced by Cambodia, Thailand and India among others. Curries using coconut milk are an example of this influence. The south also has a wide selection of tropical fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in the cooler north.
Day 9: Mekong Delta - Exotic food (B, L, D)
Today is a full day trip to the watery world of My Tho in the Mekong Delta, just a couple of hours by road from the hustle and bustle of Saigon. Take a boat trip along the narrow waterways overhung with dense vegetation and try exotic fruits in one of the many orchards. Try the local specialty of Elephant's Ear Fish at a riverside restaurant. A fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the people who work, rest and play on the mighty Mekong and its numerous tributaries. Finally to Indochina Restaurant back in Saigon, where we can enjoy the chef's cooking demonstration in the restaurant's airy, open-plan kitchen. Dinner at this beautifully restored colonial villa is the last supper of our culinary tour through Vietnam.
Day 10: Saigon – Departure (B)
The morning is free until transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for departure flight.
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