Vietnam is a foodie’s paradise, and part of the pleasure is discovering the endless variety across northern, central and southern cuisines. Your Gourmet Vietnam tour will include stops at highly regarded restaurants and cooking schools, along with some must-see cultural highlights. This is an insider’s look at a cuisine that is wildly popular in global cities like Paris, London and New York.
- Feeling the metropolitan pulse of Ho Chi Minh City and experiencing its highlights
- Visiting the imperial city of Hue and enjoying a cruise along the Perfume River
- Taking time out in Hoi An, a small, traditional town boasting tailors and riverside dining
- Soaking up the hustle and bustle of Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh city
Welcome to Vietnam! Your gourmet experience begins in Ho Chi Minh City. After arrival at the airport your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Depending on your flight arrival time, you can spend the day at leisure or a visit to the historic Cu Chi Tunnels can be arranged.
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh city tour
Your journey begins in the morning with an introduction to Vietnam’s vibrant southern metropolis by private car. Set off into the bustling morning atmosphere of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, en route to a collection of its most famous landmarks. Start your journey at the Central Post Office and Opera House, both colonial-era architectural masterpieces with dazzling French design. From the Post Office, walk onward to the nearby Reunification Palace, so-called for the building’s integral part in the reunification of the country following the war. Explore the stately meeting rooms within the Palace’s interior before enjoying beautiful third-storey views across its vast grassy lawns and gardens.
Then, pay a visit to the War Remnants Museum for a first-hand look at the mid-twentieth century war through the eyes of the Vietnamese people. By private car, make your final stop before lunch at Ben Thanh Market for a glimpse at the city’s bustling commercial heart. At Mandarin Restaurant, enjoy a freshly-prepared Vietnamese lunch, accompanied by a cooking demonstration, before your private car continues on to the Chinatown District.
This afternoon, swap your private car for one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most charming modes of transportation – a cyclo! Wander through a small fruit market before taking off on your cyclo. This traditional rickshaw takes you for a leisurely journey into the winding alleyways of the Chinatown area, arriving at Cha Tam Church and Chua Ong Pagoda, a stunning example of Chinese-inspired architecture. By foot, head down a traditional herbal medicine street for a closer look at how locals use herbal remedies for everything from headaches to energy boosts! With a tea bag as your souvenir, wave goodbye to the friendly owner and head onward to Bitexco Building – a glittering example of modern architecture in the city. As the fifth highest building in Asia, the views from the EON Cafe Shop offer unrivalled panoramas of the sunset. Enjoy a leisurely cocktail as the sun dips below the horizon for the perfect wrap up to your afternoon. Your car will take you back to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the evening by exploring the city’s bustling nightlife or tuck in early for the evening.
Day 3: Cooking class in Saigon
Your culinary adventure begins early in the morning at the busy Ben Thanh Market, considered by many to be the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Sitting across from some of downtown’s tallest buildings, the market hosts vendors selling everything from blue jeans to raw fish. In the produce section you will pick out all your ingredients to use in your class, but don’t worry your chef will be on hand to guide you through all the weird and wonderful vegetables and herbs there.
With your ingredients bagged, head to the Mai Home cooking class for a hands-on cooking lesson in a large traditional home. Vietnamese food is healthy and simple to cook, using many local fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. The class is designed for personalised attention and lots of fun. Try your hand at creating some typical dishes like fresh spring rolls or a claypot! After all the dishes have been made, sit down to lunch and taste your handiwork.
Day 4: Mekong Delta Le Jarai cruise
This morning depart from your hotel and drive approximately two hours to Ben Tre, and the gateway to the Mekong Delta. Here, you will board a small boat to start your sightseeing tour of the labyrinthine waterways. Known also as the rice bowl of Vietnam because of its large rice production, the area has also diversified into activities related to aquaculture, rearing of animals, cash crops and fruit trees.
Visit a brick factory, then board a small boat and meander through the canals and waterways before stopping at a small homemade coconut processing plant to see how coconuts have been turned into oil, candy and woven mats that are later sold in the market. After the boat trip you will have a short walk to a local village to see mat weavers at work before jumping on the delta’s version of a tuk tuk and travelling down country roads to the pier. Here you will board the beautiful teak boat, the Le Jarai, and continue your cruise along the river. While on-board, join in the demonstration of Vietnamese cooking before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialties. After lunch, relax on the top deck and take in the scenery back to Ben Tre where, on arrival, you will transfer back to Ho Chi Minh, arriving late in the afternoon. Enjoy another night on the town or rest up for another big day.
Day 5: Fly to Danang – Transfer to Hoi An
Meet with your guide after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your flight to Danang. Upon arrival your guide will be waiting to take you on a 40-minute drive to the central-coast town of Hoi An, a restored 15th century fishing village. Many of Hoi An’s colourful buildings have been lovingly refurbished. The UNESCO recognized town has one of the most charming and distinct vibes in all of Southeast Asia.
Hoi An is full of interesting things to see and do, including expert tailors, art galleries and boutiques. Not to mention the delicious noodle dishes. At night, the riverside promenade becomes one of Vietnam’s few pedestrian-only streets. Watch as locals light floating candles and set them free on the Thu Bon River.
Day 6: Cooking class in Hoi An
After a refreshing night’s sleep, visit a local produce market before cruising along the Thu Bon River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Here you will tour the school’s herb gardens and enjoy an informal cooking lesson. Your chef will explain the secrets of popular Hoi An specialties. The town is famous for dishes like Cao Lau, a medley of a yellow noodles, pork slices and pickled hot peppers, and Mi Quang, a noodle dish featuring boiled quails eggs and chunks of baked rice cakes. After learning some indispensable culinary techniques and sampling some delicious specialties, enjoy the rest of your evening in Hoi An with a stroll along the riverside promenade. Don’t forget to float traditional lanterns along the river –it’s a local rite of passage that everyone must try!
Day 7: Transfer to Hue
After breakfast, drive along one of Vietnam’s most beautiful stretches of road, the Hai Van Pass and on to the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue. Spend your afternoon exploring the Citadel, once the seat of power for the Nguyen Dynasty, and take a boat ride down the Perfume River to ancient temples and pagodas. In the evening, enjoy a talk by a local chef to learn about the regional cuisine before feasting on an authentic Hue dinner. You must try the petite, tapas-sized cakes made from rice or tapioca flour – they are delicious!
Day 8: Hue – Fly to Hanoi
After breakfast, visit Emperor Minh Mang’s Mausoleum, perhaps the most impressive of all the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors’ Tombs. The tomb is a complex of 40 various buildings made up of palaces, temples and pavilions. It is said to be a perfect combination between nature and man-made architecture that sits in balance with the surrounding landscape.
In the afternoon, take a northbound flight to Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. After checking into your hotel, enjoy dinner at one of Hanoi’s oldest restaurants. The specialty here, “Cha Ca,” is an aromatic blend of grilled fish, fresh dill, peanuts and vermicelli rice noodles. Afterwards, explore some of the city’s nocturnal delights or head back to your hotel for some well-deserved rest.
Day 9: Hanoi city tour
After a refreshing night’s sleep, start your journey to the highlights and hidden gems of Hanoi at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This imposing structure houses the remains of the revered former president who led Vietnam’s campaign for independent from colonial rule. Next, head onward to the Temple of Literature, an ancient collection of courtyards, gardens and Chinese-styled architecture built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius. Considered the oldest university in Vietnam, the Temple of Literature dates back nearly one thousand years!
For lunch, sit down for a traditional Vietnamese meal with a contemporary twist at Home Restaurant, a boutique eatery within the quiet Truc Bach lake area. The yellow walls and rustic décor here hark back to Hanoi’s past life as a French colony.
Follow your guide’s lead while you weave through some of the Quarter’s 36 streets named for the products historically sold here. Along the way, pass by some of the only remaining streets that continue selling the goods of their namesake, including Tin and Bamboo street. Head through labyrinthine back alleys well off the tourist trail and see Hanoi at its authentic best. Peer into temples and traditional houses, hear the stories of the ancient city and meet the people who call this fascinating city home. Wrap up your guided walk with a strong Vietnamese coffee at a café overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake – an important symbol of Vietnamese folklore – before heading to your final stop at Ngoc Son Temple on the tiny island on the lake. Enjoy a water puppet show for a look at traditional performance art in Vietnam before heading back to your hotel.
Day 10: Cooking class in Hanoi
Begin the tour with a visit to Chau Long Market. Here you will browse hundreds of stalls, and interact with vendors selling everything from garlic to tapioca flour. Take in all the colours, sights and smells! Hanoi’s markets are world famous, and you’ll quickly see why. Part of the pleasure is discovering local herbs, vegetables and salad greens that are never sold in Western countries. Ask your guide to explain their various uses.
Next, settle in at Hanoi Cooking Centre, a restored building on the edge of Hanoi’s famous old quarter owned by an experienced chef and cookbook author. Over a welcome tea, your instructor will explain the basics of Vietnamese cuisine, which is known for its heavy emphasis on fresh herbs, spices and greens. At your workstation, try to follow the instructor’s lead! After the class, move to the centre’s second-floor dining room to sample your creations along with a beer or glass of wine. Before leaving you’ll also receive a selection of recipe cards to help you recreate Vietnamese dishes at home!
After your informative culinary lesson, head back to your hotel or spend the rest of your last evening in Vietnam while exploring the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Day 11: Depart Hanoi
Time to savour some last sights, sounds and snacks with what little time you have left in the city! Your guide will then be waiting to transfer you to the airport for your onward flight.