SAPA – HANOI
HANOI – SAPA
HANOI – FLY TO DANANG – HOI AN
PHU QUOC ISLAND – FLY HO CHI MINH CITY & DEPARTURE
FLY TO HO CHI MINH CITY
HO CHI MINH CITY – MAKONG
MAKONG – FLY TO PHU QUOC ISLAND
PHU QUOC ISLAND
HO CHI MINH CITY – FLY TO SIEM REAP (CAMBODIA)
SIEM REAP – DEPARTURE
BE READY FOR A NEW SENSATION, A MIX OF GASTRONOMIC, SCENIC AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
STREET FOOD, OVERNIGHT TRAIN TO SAPA
HIKE AND MEET TRIBAL VILLAGERS IN SUPER-SCENIC SAPA
DISCOVERING THE TRIBAL HILLTOWNS OF SAPA
TOUR STREET FOOD STALLS WITH A RESIDENT FOODIE AND OVERNIGHT TRAIN TO HANOI
DISCOVER THE SILK TAILORING SHOPS
DISCOVER HOI AN’S ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE
VISIT TO LOCAL MARKET AND COOKING CLASS
GOING TO MARKET IN SAIGON
FLOATING MARKETS OF THE MEKONG
LEARNING ALL ABOUT RICE IN THE MEKONG
VISIT PEPPER PLANTATIONS ON THE GORGEOUS ISLAND OF PHU QUOC
ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES IN FORMAL AND HOME-STYLE COOKERY CLASSES
EXTENSION TOUR OF SIEM REAP
ANGKOR WAT AND TA PROHM
BENG MEALEA, BANTAEAY SREI
“An com chua?” “Have you eaten yet?” is a traditional Vietnamese greeting. And eat we shall as we explore Vietnam from north to south. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a photographer, or in search of a more authentic way to experience Vietnam, this is the trip for you.
Each day delivers new sensations, a mix of gastronomic, scenic and cultural experiences:
· Tour street food stalls with a resident foodie
· Dine at a Canadian chef’s top Hanoi restaurant
· Hike and meet tribal villagers in super-scenic Sapa
· Discover Hoi An’s ancient architecture
· Visit pepper plantations on the gorgeous island of Phu Quoc
· Roll up your sleeves in formal and home-style cookery classes
The signature tastes of Vietnam are the signposts along our route; find your favourite pho, (should be beef be boiled, stir fried or grilled?), discover the traces of French influence in the baguettes used for Bánh mì, restore your energy with the addictively delicious iced coffee, cà phê sữa đá. We’ll dine in fabulous small cafés, traditional and fusion restaurants and favourite street stalls.
We’re staying in a carefully selected mix of small boutique style hotels in city centres and beautiful resorts beside rivers and oceans. We’ll be travelling by plane, train, small coach and tuk-tuk. Most meals and all activities are included.
To complete this trip, we suggest you consider adding a visit to Siem Reap visiting the landmark ‘must-see’ Angkor Wat and the alluring, more remote temples of the jungle.
ITINERARY IN DETAIL
Day 1 Arrive Hanoi
Vietnam is one of the world’s great destinations, filled with beautiful landscapes, amiable people, and a culture that has bent to many winds yet has remained deeply rooted in its traditions. You will be met on arrival and transferred to our hotel with the afternoon free to rest up before our briefing and welcome dinner this evening. Overnight: Silk Path Boutique Hotel, Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi: Cooking class
Roll up your sleeves this morning to join a cookery class and prepare some old Hanoian favourites like caramel pork, banana flower salad, and prawn and omelet spring roll. This afternoon explore the Old Quarter of the city where a deep appreciation for thinkers and artists in society is still felt. This part of the city is known at Pho Co (36 streets). The name dates back to the 1200s when every form of craft, from potters to metal smiths formed guilds and practiced their trade on single blocks.
Day 3 Hanoi: Street food, Overnight train to Sapa
Join a specialist food writer for a street food tour. Start the day with the locals enjoying Hanoi’s celebrated beef and rice noodle soup, Pho. Then, continue to a local market to taste some of the ingredients used in the local cuisine and to watch the busy buying and selling rituals. There are fantastic photo opportunities in this bustling, vibrant and colorful scene. Stop for Vietnamese ca phe (coffee) or tra (tea) at a sidewalk café in the historic French Quarter, snack on phở cuốn, a grilled beef and rice noodle roll, lunch on bún chả and end with bia hoi, where they serve fresh draft beer and tasty snacks. In the late evening, we board the train for the overnight journey to Sapa.
Day 4 Sapa
Arrive into Lao Cai early this morning and have breakfast at a local restaurant. Visit the weekly Can Cau Market where minorities such as Flower Hmong, Black Zao and Phu La ethnic groups from surrounding villages gather to buy and sell an array of products. After lunch in Bac Ha town, head out toward Lao Cai, then drive to the former French hill station of Sapa via a panoramic winding road through the terraced mountainsides. En-route, there are opportunities for walks and hikes along the trail in the Ta Phin Valley, home of the Red Zao families, famous for their handicraft skills.
Day 5 Sapa
This morning enjoy a cooking class in a mountain lodge overlooking the beautiful Muong Hoa Valley and terraced rice fields. Start with a walk around the market to select the ingredients and then get into the kitchen to prepare a flavourful North Vietnamese meal. In the afternoon take a walk in the town of Sapa and explore the valley, visiting the small communities of Cat Cat and Sin Chai where Hmong people have settled. It’s a spectacularly scenic area.
Day 6 Overnight train to Hanoi
Travel back to Lao Cai today, either by road or by foot; there is a beautiful walking path to Sa Seng Village which leads through a narrow valley between two high mountains, and then a pretty trail to Hang Da Village. There are spectacular photo opportunities here and the landscapes are dramatic. If you would prefer there is the option of travelling by coach. After dinner at the railway hotel, board the train to back to Hanoi.
Day 7 Fly to Danang, drive to Hoi An
Arrive into Hanoi early this morning and have breakfast at a local restaurant. Transfer to the airport for the short flight to Danang and the drive to Hoi An. There is time to relax in our gorgeous resort this afternoon or venture out to discover the silk tailoring shops the city is famous for. Dinner this evening is at one of Hoi An’s most interesting restaurants featuring a creative Vietnam-Latin American-Japanese fusion!
Day 8 Hoi An
Hoi An is famed for its architecture and relaxed lifestyle which have changed little over the years. A leisurely walking tour is the best way to see this ancient town center and visit the former merchants’ homes, the four-hundred-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, and a Chinese Communal Hall. We’ll also visit with local fisherman to learn how to spread a traditional Vietnamese fishing net, called a thung chai, from a small round bamboo basket boat.
Day 9 Hoi An
Start the day with a visit to Hoi An’s colourful market to experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas and learn about the local fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Then enjoy a cooking class featuring a selection of street food dishes at Ms Vy’s Market Restaurant. Ms Vy is a local celebrity and an expert on the cuisine of Hoi An. Enjoy the fruits of our labour over lunch and then the afternoon is free to relax at the resort or browse in Hoi An’s art galleries and silk shops.
Day 10 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
Transfer to Danang Airport for the short flight to Saigon. Get to know the city this afternoon in a walking tour along Antiques Street (Le Cong Kieu), where genuine antiques are mixed in with genuine fakes: Aladdin oil lamps, carved wooden chests, opium pipes, abacuses, etc. Visit the Beaux-Arts Museum, a superb neo-colonial building home to various modern arts. Explore the art galleries surrounding the museum, where local artists display their talent. A visit in Ho Chi Minh City would not be complete without a taste of its best ice cream - Fanny’s, a quaint little French parlor offering everything from durian to lychee sorbet.
Day 11 Floating markets of the Mekong
A two-and-a-half-hour drive takes us to the Mekong Delta town of Cai Be where we board the Mekong Queen to explore the Delta. Start at the colourful Cai Be floating market, then cruise to Dong Phu, Binh Hoa Phuong, and Anh Binh Islands, lush green islands set in the large networks of meandering rivers, crossed with countless arroyos. Lunch awaits us at a lovely colonial style villa serving ‘elephant ear fish’ grilled then wrapped in rice paper together with fresh herbs. After lunch, it’s back on board to discover the beautiful landscapes along the river. Head back to Ho Chi Minh City by road at the end of the day.
Day 12 Fly to Phu Quoc Island
This morning’s cooking class features some essential Vietnamese dishes such as Grilled Pork Chops, Vietnamese Pancake with Mung Bea, Pork and Seafood Stuffing, Chicken Breast with Spicy Sauce and Sweet Basil, as well as how to cook a multitude of different rices. After lunch, transfer to the airport for the short flight to Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island. On arrival we transfer to our gorgeous seaside resort for a two-night stay.
Day 13 Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc is most famous for its production of nuoc mam, the fish sauce that is an essential part of any meal in Vietnam. There are numerous variations on the proportions of fish sauce, lime juice, water, crushed garlic, and chilies, as well as additions (such as ginger), and we’ll get the secrets today in our visit to some local producers. The island is also famous for its pepper plantations; there was a time when every French table had a shaker of Phu Quoc's finest. Visit a producer to see how pepper is harvested and prepared. Celebrate our Vietnam Culinary Tour with a seaside dinner this evening.
Day 14 Fly Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart
Morning at leisure before the transfer to Phu Quoc Airport for our return flight to Ho Chi Minh City to connect with our departure flight home. Or consider extending your stay with our visit to Siem Reap to explore the magnificent site of Angkor Wat.
Optional Post Tour Extension to Siem Reap
Day 14 Fly to Siem Reap
Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, the historic Cambodian city, home to the remarkable temples of Angkor Wat. Begin our explorations at the Rolous Group of temples, the earliest examples of the great Khmer temples.
Day 15 Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm
Visit the world’s largest religious temple, magnificent Angkor Wat, considered a masterpiece of Khmer architecture. The temple has been occupied continuously by Buddhist monks and is well preserved. Visit the Temple of Angkor Tom with its stunning Bayon Temple in the exact centre of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur, famous for the 54 towers with four enigmatically smiling faces. Then visit the magical Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground.
Day 16 Beng Mealea, Bantaeay Srei
This morning, travel out to Beng Mealea. Due to its location outside the main temple area, it is rarely visited, but it is one of the most spectacular of all Angkor Temples. Its towers and walls are completely collapses and the temple is dominated by jungle with trees and vines covering the buildings and emerging from doorways. Banteay Srei, the citadel of women, is a tiny, enchanting temple build of red sandstone and is the most Indian of all the temples here. Back in Siem Reap, there is time at leisure before dinner.
Day 17 Depart Siem Reap
We are transferred to the airport for homeward bound flights today.