Travel to Vietnam and savour its culture and cuisine from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

Chop, slice and eat your way through Vietnam, experiencing one of the freshest and most fragrant cuisines on the planet. From pho and ancient buildings in Hanoi, banh khoai and imperial citadels in Hue, banh xeo and lantern-lit streets in Hoi An and banh canh and pulsating markets in Ho Chi Minh City, experience Vietnam’s cuisine and its tightly woven place within its culture. Drink in cafes and beer halls that sprawl out over city streets, buy fruit from wicker baskets draped over a vendor’s shoulders and sit at market stalls as aromatic noodle soups are whipped up in front of you. Experience all of Vietnam’s iconic sights, spend time cooking with some of the country’s top food experts and get a true taste of Vietnam on this delectable Real Food Adventure.

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Countries
Vietnam
Themes
Food
Code
TVZY
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
492kg 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

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 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 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.
Your trip comes to an end this morning. You're free to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
11 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners
Transport
Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private vehicle, Taxi
Accommodation
Homestay (1 night), Hotel (8 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

Dates

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Important notes

PASSPORT DETAILS:
Please provide your full name as per passport (including middle names on your passport), and passport number at time of booking. These details are required for the internal flight and train tickets. Please check your booking information exactly matches your passport. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Real Food Adventure - Vietnam trips score an average of 4.86 out of 5 based on 194 reviews in the last year.

Real Food Adventure - Vietnam , August 2016

Real Food Adventure - Vietnam , August 2016