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Real Food Adventure - Vietnam Itinerary
Days 1-2 Hanoi
Celebrate the start of this tantalising culinary adventure with dinner at a one of Hanoi’s open beer halls. Glaringly coloured plastic chairs and fluoro lights may be what is seen on the surface, but with cheap and refreshing bia hoi beer, tasty treats like nom hoa chuoi (banana flower salad) and ga nuong (barbecued chicken) and a wide range of happy locals enjoying them both, these are Hanoi institutions that propel people right into the heart of the city’s culture. Welcome the next morning with an aromatic bowl of pho (noodle soup) before exploring the alleyways of Chau Long Market and being introduced to the flavours of northern Vietnamese cuisine. Taste super sweet Vietnamese coffee, black sticky rice and betel nut on a street food tour. Move on to lunch at the bustling Don Xuan Markets, where the city’s best street food – like bun cha (barbecued pork noodle soup) or nem cua be (crab spring rolls) – is just begging to be eaten. In the afternoon, choose to take in Hanoi at your own pace or take a city tour and see sights like the remarkable Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda. Then cook up some of Hanoi’s classic dishes in a cooking class and eat the bounty for dinner in the leafy surrounds of the Hanoi Cooking Centre. To cap off an excellent night, experience something well off the tourist trail – sipping tea in a hidden Hanoi teahouse.
ACCOM: Hotel - 2
Days 3-4 Halong Bay/Overnight Train
Leave Hanoi behind and journey through the countryside towards Halong Bay. Stop for lunch at a local roadside restaurant before arriving at the harbour and feasting eyes on our home for the night - a traditional junk boat. Set sail on emerald-green waters, gliding between limestone karsts and soaking in the old-world tranquillity that is unique to Halong Bay. Visit the fishing village of Cua Van, which bobs colourfully on the water, go kayaking around the still waters or explore the limestone caves that are dotted around the bay. As the sun begins to set, relax on deck with a drink before indulging in a feast of seafood and local delights that has been exquisitely prepared by onboard chefs. Sleep soundly on gentle waters and wake to breakfast overlooking the sleepy sight of Halong Bay in the morning. Slowly sail back to Bai Chay Harbour and then return to Hanoi. Perhaps spend the afternoon exploring Hanoi’s Old Quarter, people-watching in a café or enjoying a rice-wine tasting before grabbing a delicious takeaway from KOTO, an inspiring restaurant that supports street kids, and taking the Reunification Express overnight train to Hue.
ACCOM: Overnight boat - 1, Overnight sleeper train - 1
Day 5 Hue
With the Perfume River running through it, Hue is a beautiful city with a rich culture and much talked-about cuisine. This former royal capital is a treat for the tastebuds so get stuck straight in by breakfasting on the local specialty, bun bo hue (beef and vermicelli noodle soup). Then, stretch legs on a walking tour around the city exploring Hue’s fascination Imperial Citadel and the striking Thien Mu Pagoda. After a long day exploring the sights, perhaps tuck into an imperial-style street banquet. Taste dishes like banh khoai (crepe stuffed with prawns and pork), nem lui (marinated minced pork and salad rolled in rice paper) or banh bot loc (rice dumplings filled with prawns and pork) and be in food heaven while the bustle of the city passes by.
ACCOM: Hotel - 1
Days 6-8 Hoi An
Eating at Hue’s Dong Ba Market is a great breakfast option as you can also explore the myriad stalls selling all the flavours of Vietnam. Perhaps buy some moreish me xung (sesame and peanut toffee) to fuel the dragon boat ride down the Perfume River to the picturesque tomb of Vietnam’s last emperor, Tu Duc. Call by a nunnery set among the trees, where a lunch of Hue’s famed Buddhist vegetarian cuisine awaits. Say farewell to Hue, travelling past luscious rice paddies and over the Hai Van Pass to the extraordinary city of Hoi An. Take a walk around the ancient streets that are lined with colourful lanterns, historic architecture and endless tailors. Tonight is a real treat, eating at the renowned Ba Le Well restaurant where banh xeo (savoury crispy pancake) is the specialty. It’s a local hangout and is always full to the brim due to the food being so good. Be shown how to prepare banh xeo by enthusiastic staff and indulge in dishes made from the freshest of ingredients while surrounded by the laughter and chatter of locals. Greens, herbs, pancakes, satay, rice paper, spring rolls and pork skewers magically appear so it’s best to be hungry as the food just keeps coming! The next morning, join the Morning Glory Cooking School for a wonderful day cooking up a feast of Vietnamese favourites. Cycle through the herb gardens of Tra Que village, learning about the incredible herbs that grow there, before donning an apron and chopping, stirring and rolling up a colourful banquet of epic proportions. The rest of the day is then free to explore. Perhaps get some clothes made, cross the ancient Japanese Bridge or sit at a riverside restaurant lit by lanterns all the colours of the rainbow. Either spend the last day in Hoi An at your leisure or choose to visit the fish markets at dawn, take a bike and boat trip that visits the area’s small islands or have a swim and seafood dinner on An Bang Beach.
ACCOM: Hotel - 3
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City
Take a quick flight to Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City. Lunch on mouth-watering banh canh (thick noodle soup) before going on a city tour, taking in the provocative War Remnants Museum, beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral and finishing up at the expansive Ben Thanh Markets. Explore the market’s incredible array of products - it's a great place to pick up souvenirs, clothes and kitchen gadgets - and be spoilt for dinner choices. There are many great cafes, bars and places to hang out in Ho Chi Minh City so perhaps take to the streets and get a taste of the city’s pulsating nightlife.
ACCOM: Hotel - 1
Day 10 Mekong Delta Homestay
Traverse the winding waterways of the Mekong Delta, cruising through the Cai Be Floating Market to see boats piled high with colourful produce. Buy ingredients from buoyant sellers and check out some of the enterprising industry along the river’s banks. Sail past local farms set on canal ways before arriving at our delightful homestay. Get to know our hosts as they teach the group how to make traditional regional dishes and share a delicious meal with the family.
ACCOM: Homestay - 1
Days 11-12 Ho Chi Minh City
Wake with the birds and help prepare a tasty breakfast with our hosts before taking to waters once again. Head for the startling Vinhlong Markets, detouring via an impressive floating village. Return to the city and meet the Van family. Experts in southern Vietnamese cuisine, they will show you how to create the delicate balance of flavours that makes the food of Vietnam so amazing. Savour the atmosphere and the end results then spend the evening either relaxing at the hotel or taking in the night-life one last time. Farewell this incredible culinary adventure the next morning after breakfast.
ACCOM: Hotel - 1