- This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN HANOI
Upon arrival, when you leave the airport terminal please look for a tour guide displaying a welcome signboard with the Trails of Indochina logo and your name. Please refer to the Trip Preparation document which will be sent upon confirmation for specific details and a photo of the welcome signboard. Transfer to your hotel.
DAY 2: HANOI CULINARY EXPERIENCE AND HALF DAY CITY TOUR
At 08:30am, meet up with Mr. Dung, a key member of Hanoi Chef Association for a market tour. Having a decade-old experience working at a 4-star hotel, he can show you how to choose fresh ingredients. Enjoy sight, sound and flavor of the market. Then drive 40-min out of Hanoi to his beautiful private home for a private hands-on cooking class and stories of his participation in Culinary Festivals in France. Enjoy your own creations at lunch. Return to town for a quick city tour including a visit to the Temple of Literature, a cultural symbol and the first University for the sons of mandarins, a cyclo ride around the central lake and a walking tour through the bustling old quarter for street food stalls. Welcome dinner at Club de L’Orientale, a deluxe Vietnamese restaurant offering authentic Northern cuisine. Chairman of the Hanoi Gastronomy Club and the editor of Culinary Art magazine will join the dinner to provide an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine and the finer points of enjoying it.
DAY 3: HANOI STREET FOOD WITH Local chef AND AND DINNER HOSTED
This morning, enjoy breakfast like a Hanoian at Pho Vuong Restaurant – a bubbling bowl of Pho accompanied by coriander, bean sprouts, onion and either beef or chicken. The rural outskirt of Hanoi is not only famous of its pagodas, temples and communal houses but also for its varied handicraft villages. Head to Uoc Le village, legendary for its pork paste (Gio Lua), where the know-how is a strictly kept secret. Back to Hanoi for lunch at Ngon restaurant which set up like a countryside food market.
After lunch, start your street food tour with an overview of local ingredients by visiting a local food market with your local chef. With some background knowledge, it’s time to hit the streets and start your food adventure. Most street restaurants only serve one or two dishes – and each is prepared right in front of you. Walk down some small alleys and bustling streets and savor some of Hanoi’s specialties which are recommended and explained by your gastronome.
In the evening, visit the house of a musician couple – the husband is a flutist in the National Orchestra while the wife is a piano teacher – for home-cooked dinner that can accommodate up to 15 guests. Enjoy the meal hosted in the cozy dining room to understand the important role meals at home play in Vietnam. Chat and share with them life experiences. After the meal, enjoy a melodious performance of flute and piano. Come back to your hotel for the night.
DAY 4: HANOI - HALONG
Embark on a 3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay with a quick rest stop at Hong Ngoc Center – the best place to stop and stretch your legs en route. On arrival in Halong Bay, board your deluxe junk, settle into your cabin and prepare your appetite for an enjoyable lunch on deck. Mid-afternoon you will visit the mysterious atmosphere of Tien Ong cave, adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, then continue to the Cua Van fishing village, the largest community on the bay. This will allow a closer look into the lives of local fishermen before you transfer to a bamboo boat and are rowed slowly through the village with a museum and a school among floating houses. Back to the boat, a cooking class is offered with the chef if you are interested while your boat leisurely cruise be amazed or enjoy sunset cocktails and canapés on up top deck before served wonderful dinner on board tonight.
DAY 5: HALONG - HANOI/HANOI - HUE
Wake up early and partake in a Tai Chi class which is held on the upper deck. Visit Soi Sim Island, here you can relax in azure water of Halong Bay or enjoy over 200 steps to the up top for panoramic view of the whole bay. Back to the boat for boarding towards the shore while brunch is served on board, then, prepare your luggage and hand your key to the reception for check out. Arrive at the jetty late morning and transfer to airport with light snack provided en route. Depart for the flight to Hue. Upon arrival, meet and transfer to your hotel for check in.
DAY 6: HUE CITY TOUR AND COOKING CLASS
Hue served as an imperial capital to the Nguyen Lords, a feudal dynasty which reigned from the 17th to the 19th century. With splendid emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas and the remains of the Citadel, the city retains its royal charm. Start from your hotel with a 10 minute cyclo ride from your hotel to the Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO listed site. Enter through the towering main gate and you will appreciate the magnificent architecture and gardens while your guide explains about the events and the intrigue of the former royal court. Despite being bombed heavily, there are some incredibly well preserved sections still intact and others which are being lovingly restored. Driver will pick you up and drive back to hotel.
In the afternoon, start to walk through the local market with the chef to learn about local ingredients before returning to the open-air cultural complex- Set in a lush garden, the peaceful Ancient Hue site boasts a ceremonial gate backed by 8 protective pillars. More than just a restaurant, Ancient Hue has 5 distinctive ancient houses offering a glimpse of the city’s splendid past. Here, you will learn to prepare refined, imperial-style cuisine during a hands-on cooking demonstration which you can sample afterwards. Return to hotel.
DAY 7: HUE - HOI AN
Mid morning, we visit the elaborate Khai Dinh Royal Tomb where architecture and atmosphere showcases influences from both eastern art and western designs. Hue is the center of Buddhism in Vietnam. With more than 400 Buddhist temples and pagodas, it has strong influence to local people. Thien Mu pagoda (Heavenly Lady pagoda) is one of the oldest and prettiest religious buildings in this city. After strolling around the pagoda, sit down and interact with the head monk Thich Quang Dung, to get a glimpse of Buddhist movement in Vietnam and the daily life of a monk.
The scenic 3,5-hour drive over Pass of the Ocean Clouds brings you to the ancient town Hoi An. Opt to stroll around the colorful market with stalls brimming with tropical specialties including silk, which can be turned into fashionable garments within a day.
DAY 8: HOI AN COUNTRYSIDE AND CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Start the day early with a welcome drink served at the Hai Café. After a short introduction, travel 10 minutes to Tra Que Organic Village, and walk through the market gardens where local farmers work their fields using the traditional methods of hundreds of years ago. Pick fresh saw-tooth coriander and Vietnamese mint for your cooking lesson later today, before trying a special herbal drink at a local home. Transfer onwards to the Red Bridge Cooking School where you have a chance to freshen up before beginning your class. Work together with the Red Bridge Chef who teaches you the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food from scratch. Use the freshest ingredients and traditional Vietnamese utensils to prepare four famous dishes, including the national dish ‘Pho’. After class, enjoy a short feedback session and take the chance to savour the dishes you have prepared. Bid farewell to the chef and board a local boat for a short cruise along the Hoi An River back to central Hoi An. (Note: max 8 pax only). Late Afternoon is free at leisure to explore the town on your own.
DAY 9: HOI AN WALKING TOUR
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was a prosperous trading port. Today, this World Heritage-listed ancient town boasts well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets and unique cuisine, allowing visitors a glimpse of its illustrious past. The narrow lanes are ideal for a guided walking tour. There is plenty to visit including the old merchant’s houses with influences from Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture; the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge; the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation with outstanding wood carvings; and the colourful market with stalls brimming with local specialties including silk, which can be turned into fashionable garments within a day or two. Come back to your hotel and the rest of day is free at leisure for own shopping.
DAY 10: HOI AN - DA NANG/ DA NANG - SAI GON
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Danang for the morning flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, transfer to downtown. Embark on a walking tour to admire Saigon’s historic landmarks including a stroll down Rue Catinat of Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American' will reveal more colonial classics; the Opera House, a three-story classical theatre built to entertain the French colonists (outside visit); the former Hotel de Ville constructed for the French bureaucrats of Indochina in 1901, now The People's Committee building with no public access; the Notre Dame Cathedral, a stunningly massive red-brick edifice with twin spires, a clear reminder that French once ruled this city (open only 3-4pm everyday otherwise just outside visit); the Central Post Office influenced by Renaissance architecture; and the former Presidential Palace, headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war. Lunch is at the small Wrap & Roll restaurant where you will experience various types of local food that can be wrapped and rolled. Free at leisure. This evening, about 0600pm, travel to Saigon Culinary art center for a private cooking class on typical southern Vietnamese dishes, followed by a dinner that you have cooked yourself.
DAY 11: SAI GON - MEKONG DELTA
Depart for a 1.5 hour drive from Saigon to Ben Tre, one of the country's southern provinces, situated in the Delta of the Mekong River. Take in the lush surroundings of rice paddies and fruit farms alongside the highway as you leave behind the busy city. Arrive at the waterfront pier and embark on an enjoyable motor boat excursion, take a glimpse at the Delta scenery, houses built on stilts and local fish farms along the way. Upon arrival at Turtle island, visit a local house and be introduced to the owner, sample freshly picked fruit and coconut milk while relaxing in the natural surroundings of fruit orchards. Chat with your host and stroll through the garden to get an insight into daily farming life. Take some time to enjoy a leisurely walk through the village observing tropical gardens along the way. You will have the chance to see a family run-business where they make coconut candy directly in front of the pier. Continue on your journey by sampan, be paddled by a personalised rower while you take the time to discover the maze of small canals. Bid farewell to your friendly boat rower, take a short stroll under through a shaded area of coconut gardens before reaching a rest-stop to enjoy a cup of honey tea and a traditional folk song performance. Lunch will be served at My Tho, taste some local delicacies before returning to Saigon mid afternoon.
DAY 12: DEPART SAI GON
Free time until you transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
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