Voyage through Vietnam and Cambodia, discovering the countries' famous cuisine.

Chop, slice and chomp your way through the diverse flavours of South East Asia on this mouthwatering Real Food Adventure from Vietnam to Cambodia. From pho and ancient buildings in Hanoi to banh khoai and imperial citadels in Hue, banh xeo in the lantern-lit streets of Hoi An to banh canh in the pulsating markets of Ho Chi Minh City, become intimately acquainted with Vietnam’s cuisine and its tightly woven place within its culture. Then cross into Cambodia where – with a delicate balancing of peppers and by drawing influence from French and Thai cooking – the nation has created an unpretentious but delectable cuisine all its own. Combined with tours of the spectacular Angkor Wat Temple complex, homestays in the Mekong and an overnight cruise around Halong Bay, this really is a Real Food Adventure with the lot!

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Countries
Cambodia,
Vietnam
Themes
Food
Code
TVZKC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Get the lowdown on north, central and southern Vietnamese cooking with some of the country's leading experts
  • A street food tour of Hanoi takes you to the best spots in town to sample northern specialties like pho, bun cha and the golden-yellow xoi xeo (sticky rice with mung bean and fried onion)
  • Get around the romantic riverside town of Hue in true local style – on the back of a motorcycle
  • With two nights in Hoi An, there's plenty of time to take in magic of this standout destination. Take a cooking class, cycle through herb gardens and be dazzled by the Ancient Town
  • The Vietnamese people are some of the most welcoming in the world. A homestay on the Mekong Delta allows you to experience their hospitality, learn their kitchen secrets and get an insight into rural life
  • No trip to Vietnam is complete without some history lessons. Visit the Imperial Citadel in Hue and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Encounter Cambodia’s vibrant culinary scene, the incredible tastes and smells and Khmer food that are often overshadowed by neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand
  • Get an insight into Cambodian cuisine with a visit to famous pepper plantations outside of Kampot, and taste the best pepper in the world
  • A homestay in the village of Banteay Chhmar puts you right in the heart of rural life in Cambodia
  • Dine on local favourites by torchlight in the atmospheric grounds of a ruined Angkorian temple
  • ‘Eat for a cause’ with dinner at a Phnom Penh restaurant that not only serves delicious modern Cambodian cooking, but helps the local youth too
  • Select your own crab and have it cooked up fresh while you look out across the Gulf of Thailand at the Kep Crab market

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Tonight, your first introduction to Vietnam’s lively culinary scene comes in the form of be bia hoi. This is a foamy, light beer made fresh each day and served in basic, open-walled ‘brew halls’. Take up a brightly coloured plastic chair and sip your tasty brew. Banana flower salad (nom hoa chuoi), barbecued chicken (ga nuong) and fried rice (com rang) are common dishes on the menu.
Start the day with a traditional breakfast of pho, a dish that originates in Hanoi and is designed to awaken the senses and prepare you for the day. Then it's time for a guided tour of Chau Long Market, where you will learn all about the ingredients and flavours of northern Vietnamese cuisine. Get involved in a betel nut demonstration. The more daring can try a fertilized egg or silk worm. You'll also sample the local coffee, typically served with yogurt or black sticky rice with yogurt. Hanoi is renowned for its legendary street food dishes and Dong Xuan Market is one of the best places to go for it. Enjoy lunch here alongside the locals. Today you'll visit the Hanoi Cooking Centre to learn the secrets of northern Vietnamese cuisine. Discover some old Hanoian favorites like caramel pork as well as some lesser known dishes from the highlands. Enjoy the fruits of your labour for dinner. You will also stop in at one of the city's hidden teahouses, where you might sample some varieties – perhaps green or white tea infused with flowers.

Notes: The trip departing on 7 February 2016 will be affected by Tet. The street food crawl on the morning of Day 2 will be replaced by a visit to a pagoda (you'll be alongside members of the local community), followed by a feast of traditional Tet dishes prepared by Vietnamese food expert and cookbook author, Tracey Lister. Markets, most street food vendors and the tea house will be closed due to Tet. The market tour will take place in Hanoi for this departure.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage-listed site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). Halong Bay is a secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the turquoise waters of Bac Bo Gulf. This is one of Vietnam's most scenic regions. It spans an area of about 1,500 square kilometres and is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos that were created over thousands of years by waves and wind. You will spend the night on one of the traditional boats on the bay. There is a chef on board who will teach you how to make vegetable flowers and show you how the fishing nets are used by the locals.
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours), then board an overnight train bound for Hue (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a rewarding experience. It's an efficient way to travel long distances and a great way to get a sense of the country.

Notes: Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth, depending on seasonal variations and group configuration) with bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Hue is Vietnam’s former royal capital and its cuisine is considered by many Vietnamese as the best in the country. The food is influenced by its imperial heritage (small dishes and a focus on aesthetic presentation) and its strong Buddhist heritage (reflected in the high proportion of vegetarian restaurants in the area). Enjoy a classic Hue breakfast of bun bo Hue, a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo), Then embark on our tour of the city’s imperial monuments. On the back of a motorbike (or in a car if you would rather), start your tour of Hue by visiting Thien Mu Pagoda, an active Buddhist monastery since 1601. Here you'll see a car that belonged to one of the self-immolating monks of the 1963 protests. Then take a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River (approximately 40 minutes) before getting back on your motorbike and heading to today's special lunch stop (in a nunnery). After lunch, visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to Hue. This evening, perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties like banh hue (rice flour cakes stuffed with shrimp, pork and spices).

Notes: The Perfume River trip may not be available during festival periods. In this case you will travel by land to reach the activities. Most groups will visit either a Buddhist nunnery or monastery and have lunch while in Hue. The lunch not only provides economic benefits to these institutions, which rely on donations to survive, but also gives an insight into the unique traditions and food of Vietnamese Buddhism. Due to the high number of passengers visiting Hue, six different monasteries and nunneries are visited so as to share the wealth and minimise impact.
Embark on a bus tour of Hue in the morning. This will take you to the Imperial Citadel, which includes the Forbidden Purple City. Gaping holes left by bombs will give you an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war. Then head south by bus through coastal rice paddies and traverse the mountainous Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach (My Khe Beach), arrive at Hoi An (approximately 4 hours). The beautifully restored Hoi An retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. Take the chance to do some shopping and perhaps get some clothes tailored. There's a great array of original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and fabrics on display. On arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town. In the evening, pull up a plastic chair at a communal table alongside locals and learn how to make one of central Vietnam’s most celebrated dishes, banh xeo, at a classic street-side, no-menu restaurant where locals go.
Today you will learn about central Vietnamese cuisine and how to prepare it using its signature vegetables, herbs and spices. Start with a guided bicycle tour of the herb gardens of Tra Que Village. At the local market you'll be introduced to a wealth of produce. After purchasing some ingredients, head back to Hoi An for a hands-on lesson in some classic central Vietnamese dishes. You’ll also pick up some cooking and cutting techniques that will put you in good stead to recreate these dishes at home. Then of course it's time to feast on your creations. The rest of today is free for you to pick up any made-to-measure items, or perhaps try more delicious food in one of Hoi An’s many acclaimed restaurants.

Notes: If you would rather not ride a bike today, you can choose to take a walk around Hoi An market instead.
Enjoy a free day to relax, shop or simply stroll around to take in the delightful ambience. The Japanese and Chinese heritage of the town is apparent in many cute old buildings; and the canals, bridges and pagodas make for a tranquil atmosphere. Many travellers call this town their favourite spot in Vietnam. If the weather's fine, perhaps hit the local beach for a swim (a great way to get there is by bicycle, which you can hire in town). For those who like to start the day nice and early, there is an optional visit to a local fish market. In the evening, perhaps enjoy some seafood by the water, or jump on a boat to enjoy a barbecue feast on a nearby island.
Take the short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1 hour). Take a guided tour to get a feel for the city's frenetic, fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. You'll go to the War Museum, GPO and Notre Dame Cathedral, finishing up at one of Vietnam’s most pulsing markets, Ben Thanh. This is the perfect place to pick up any last-minute snacks, cooking utensils, ingredients, or presents for friends and family before you return home. Perhaps enjoy some of the market fare for dinner as you shop. You will notice a strong French influence in Ho Chi Minh City, which means excellent coffee and baguettes. Perhaps sample some of the delights on offer at KOTO cafe. This is an inspiring initiative that helps support the area’s street kids by offering them training in hospitality. If you've got energy left in the evening, head out to explore Vietnam's party capital.
Take a private bus out to the Mekong Delta (approximately 2–3 hours). Touring the floating markets by boat, you'll come across local barges full of fruits and vegetables and other local products, including fish sauce and soya sauce. Purchase some ingredients for dinner, then head to some workshops to observe local food industries (the production of rice paper, coconut candy, pop-rice and popcorn). The boat will then take you deeper into the countryside along smaller canals, past local farms and producers. You'll have the opportunity to see traditional methods of catching fish or collecting fruits (depending on the season). Check in at the homestay and cook some local southern Vietnamese dishes with your hosts. Enjoy dinner with tea or rice wine and take the chance to chat with your hosts and learn more about the Mekong way of life.

Notes: At this homestay you'll sleep on a simple camp bed in a dorm-style arrangement. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic, with cold water only.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City by bus. For the final evening of your the Vietnam section of this adventure, enjoy a unique cooking class on southern Vietnamese cuisine with one of Vietnam’s most celebrated food personalities. Sit down and enjoy the delicious feast when it's all over.
As this is a combination trip, your Vietnam leader will leave you this morning, and some of the group may also depart. Take a transfer to the airport and fly to Phnom Penh – this flight is included – then transfer to your hotel. There will be another group meeting at 6pm tonight, and here you can meet your new leader and any new members of your group. The sensational Angkor ruins may be the main attraction, but Cambodia’s exquisite temples, charming villages and magical markets deserve lots of attention too. With genuine locals always ready to share a sincere smile, Cambodia will steal your heart and enrich your spirit. Phnom Penh is set at the meeting point of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, and life centres around the lively river-front area where the locals come to take in the air, snack on the street hawkers food and enjoy impromptu waterside entertainment. In free time, stroll the broad tree-lined boulevards dotted with old colonial villas and explore the city. The National Museum and the Silver Pagoda are both worth a visit. Or consider Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. Cambodian food is often overshadowed by focus on Thailand and Vietnam, when in fact Khmer cuisine is one of the world's oldest living food cultures. The Cambodian cooking pot combines an eclectic mix of local and international influences and has a flavour all its own. Kick off this food adventure ‘eating for a cause’ at an inspirational hospitality school that provides vocational training for former street youths in Phnom Penh. It’s a great opportunity to sample some tasty modern Cambodian cooking.

Your hotel in Phnom Penh is:
Cardamom Hotel
No. 69, St. 174, Sangkat Phsar Thmey III, Phnom Penh
Khan Daun Phenh
Phnom Penh
CAMBODIA
Ph: + 855 23 883 222
This morning, drive south along National Road 2 through the town of Takeo towards Kampot, one of Cambodia's most attractive old towns (approximately 2.5 hours). On the way, confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, located in a former high school that served as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) for the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. Arrive in Kampot by early afternoon. Famous for its pepper, Kampot supplied most French restaurants for many years during colonial rule. Today, the region is also renowned for its durian, a spiky, pungent fruit that either incites adoration or sheer loathing. Try it if you dare! In some free time you might stroll along the riverside's French colonial architecture, or enjoy a coffee on the veranda of a riverside restaurant and admire the Bokor Mountain Range. A traditional massage is also highly recommended. Certainly one of the most enjoyable ways of supporting a local charity, put yourself in the capable hands of one of the blind masseurs or masseuses. In a country with no social security, the training and support provided by the centres allows blind Cambodians to support themselves with dignity. Tonight you’ll head out into the small town to sample some popular Khmer drinks, from Angkor beer to tarantula wine!

Notes: The Tuol Sleng Prison Museum is an important culture site and insight into the country, but if you don't wish to visit them, please inform your tour leader.
Rise early to see the fishing boats arrive at the port with their daily catch. A meal of crab, prawns or squid cooked up with Kampot green pepper corns and served with rice is a Cambodian favourite. Try some of Kampot's tastiest baguettes on a visit with the owner of a small wood fired oven. This legacy of French colonization is ubiquitous – many roadside carts sell baguettes with meat, sauces and salad as a snack for workers. Then, in the countryside, taste locally grown seasonal produce. If it’s fruit season, taste Cambodia's best durian, or rambuttan, lychee, pineapples, mangos and bananas. Next, visit the Kampot Pepper Project. Grown in Cambodia for centuries, Kampot pepper is considered one of the world’s finest. Today the pepper is seen as an important symbol of Cambodian regeneration – the province’s pepper heritage returning after almost being wiped out by rice production during the Khmer Rouge. A short walk through rice fields and a climb provides a lovely outlook over the surrounding countryside. Then enter Phnom Chhnork limestone cave, home to a small 7th century temple. Explore the lively Kep Crab markets, where crabs are kept fresh in pots that float in the Gulf of Thailand's warm waters. Join the throng and bargain for your lunch – crab cooked to perfection enjoyed on a pier overlooking the ocean. After lunch, a walk along the Kep beach and explore the old oceanfront buildings. Kep was once Cambodia's most popular and prestigious beach town, but the Khmer Rouge destroyed many of Kep's mansions and villas. The ghostly remains now stand as a silent reminder. Alternatively, relax in a hammock or swim in the warm South China Sea. Return to Kampot by early evening.
Today you’ll return to Phnom Penh (approximately 3 hours). Back in the capital, take a cycle-rickshaw (cyclo) tour around Phnom Penh, taking in some of the interesting sights, sounds and smells of the capital, including the wonderful art deco-designed Psar Thmei (Central Market). Today you’ll discover the building blocks of Khmer cuisine. Kroeung (fragrant herb paste), prahok (Cambodian fish paste), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, tamarind and the famous Kampot black pepper are just some of the flavours you will encounter. Next, check out the food stalls in front of the Royal Palace and taste some of the best street food in the capital – fried cricket snack anyone? During free time this evening you might choose to have a relaxing sunset drink at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, or stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic – a great way to while away the evening.
Travel by public bus to Battambang (approximately 5-6 hours including stops). Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang (pronounced Battambong), is a pretty riverside town of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and beautifully preserved colonial architecture. The city is famous for its many statues of animals and divinities that decorate the streets and buildings. The city lacks the traffic of Phnom Penh and the visitor numbers of Siem Reap, so it’s a great place to get a real slice of Cambodia. There are a number of activities for your free afternoon today. Perhaps take a ride on the famous bamboo train, a great chance to interact with locals. Previously mainly used for transporting agricultural products and people, it’s often one of people's favourite activities. The train is made of a wooden and bamboo carriage powered by a small engine. Maximum speed is around 15 km per hour and it can easily be disassembled when carriages come in the opposite direction. There’s also the chance to join a local Battambang foodie for a home-cooked meal, perhaps tasting local dishes such as amok, Khmer curry, and fried spicy chicken.
Wake early and take a bicycle ride into the countryside. The ride is easy and takes in mostly shady roads and countryside through local villages. Along the way, stop and experience rice paper-making, fruit drying and preparation, production of the famous prahok (fish paste) and rice wine-making. Finish up at the best kralanh (sticky rice in bamboo) stall in the district. Then travel by private bus to the temple city of Banteay Chhmar, sometimes referred to as the Citadel of the Cat (approximately 4 hours). Some of the road is unsealed which slows down the journey, but it is worth it to visit this remote small community. The 9th century temple here is a top candidate for World Heritage Status, with the ruins here similar to the famous Bayon with their face towers, and surrounded by an impressive 9 kilometre-long wall. Experience true Cambodian hospitality by staying with a local family in a traditional Khmer wooden stilted house. As the day draws to a close, enjoy a memorable traditional Khmer dinner by torch-light in the grounds of the temple.

Notes: A Cambodian motor-remork – a reticulated tuk tuk – is available if you do not want to ride a bike.
This morning after a simple local breakfast at the homestay, pack your bags for the journey to Siem Reap (approximately 4 hours). The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. This is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. You'll probably notice a change of pace here, so take a short introductory walk around the centre of town and enjoy the atmosphere. With its cafes, bars, restaurants, food and drinks stands, Siem Reap caters for foodies of all persuasions. A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs; wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops, the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes. The market is also a feast for the stomach as the home of lots of cheap, delicious street food. There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening, perhaps while you're eating the speciality cuisine of Cambodia – amok, the name given to curry steam-cooked in banana leaves.
Spend a full day temple-hopping with your local guide to make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex, built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so you'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites. These include Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day. In the afternoon, take a motor remork around the hidden local street food treasures of Siem Reap. If you’re lucky you might find fried tarantulas, which are usually enjoyed with a cold beer; fried crickets that taste like potato chips; barbecued meat on skewers; Khmer Fried Chicken; green mango served with chilli and salt; ducks eggs; barbecued corn; and durian, the smelly King of all fruit. Continue on to a local restaurant to sample some tasty local delicacies, before finishing at a dessert stall where fruit shakes, fruit with sweetened condensed milk and baked puddings are the specialty.
This morning is free for you to pursue your interests. Perhaps take a trip to the countryside to see sugar palm candy production and learn about the local agricultural industry. If you feel like some adventure, maybe do the Flight of the Gibbon zip-line course, which gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful rainforest – and an adrenaline rush, of course. Alternatively, spend your morning exploring Siem Reap and perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage. Late afternoon, get one final insight into the heart of Cambodia with a cooking class with your hosts. A local expert will explain a little about Khmer food culture and superstitions related to food, then help you to cook up a few signature dishes such as amok trey (fish curry), mee kola (vegetarian noodles) and pleah (beef salad). Say farewell to this delicious Real Food Adventure over a Cambodian feast that you've helped to create!
Your food adventure through Cambodia concludes this morning. There are no activities planned for this final day and you are free to leave at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
16 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 9 dinners
Transport
Bus, Cyclo, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi
Accommodation
Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (16 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Hanoi - Cooking class
  • Hanoi - Teahouse visit
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hoi An - Herb Garden Bicycle Tour and Cooking Class
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Ben Thanh market
  • HCMC - Cooking class and dinner
  • Phnom Penh - Welcome Dinner
  • Kampot - Evening Drinks Tour
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Prison Museum (S21)
  • Kampot - Phnom Chhnork
  • Kampot - Food tour and lunch
  • Kampot - pepper plantation visit & salt field tour
  • Phnom Penh - City Food Tour
  • Battambang - Rural Food and Cycle Tour
  • Banteay Chhmar - Silk Farm
  • Banteay Chhmar - Market tour and cooking class
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
  • Siem Reap - Urban Adventure Street Food By Night Tour
  • Siem Reap - 1 day Angkor Pass
  • Siem Reap - Khmer Cooking Class

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Trip notes

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Reviews

Our Real Food Adventure - Indochina trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Real Food Adventure - Indochina , August 2015

Real Food Adventure - Indochina , August 2015