DAY 1: ARRIVAL HANOI
Arrive at Noi Bai Airport and coach transfer to hotel. Take a cyclo, the Vietnamese version of the rickshaw to Indochine Restaurant for an introduction to Vietnamese food. Set in a beautifully restored French villa, Indochine serves specialties originating primarily from southern Vietnam .
You will no doubt be introduced to “nuoc mam”, a fermented fish sauce that compliments most dishes in Vietnam and “cha gio”, Vietnamese spring rolls. The staff are attired in traditional costume and musicians perform classical Vietnamese songs. (OVERNIGHT IN HANOI )
DAY 2: HANOI’S SPECIALTIES
Hanoi, the present day capital of Vietnam is a city of tree-lined boulevards and lakes with a unique blend of French colonial buildings and Chinese inspired Vietnamese architecture.
A full day to explore this fascinating city takes in the One Pillar Pagoda, the Fine Arts Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Lake of the Restored Sword and the bustling ’Old Quarter’, with its 36 ancient streets. Lunch at “Cha Ca La Vong” serving seasoned fish. In the evening a visit to a performance of the famous water puppets is followed by dinner at the Le Tonkin restaurant, which specializes in superbly prepared northern Vietnamese cuisine.
Northern Vietnamese food has a strong Chinese influence with stir-fried dishes and less spicy food popular. Specialties of Hanoi include “Cha Ca” Hanoi and the ubiquitous noodle and meat soup known as “Pho” which is usually eaten at pavement food stalls for breakfast. (OVERNIGHT IN HANOI )(B/L/D)
DAY 3: HANOI-HALONG BAY / ABOARD
Depart at 8.30 am from your hotel in Hanoi and heading for Halong Bay, some 175km from Hanoi, driving time for 3 hours.
Enjoy the journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffalo and everyday Vietnamese village life.
Arrive in Halong and board the traditional sailing junk. Whilst cruise the exquisite waters sample the regions fresh seafood. Visit the recently discovered Surprise Grotto with its great views, and on the next island see the yawning mouth of Bo Nau Cave.
Alternatively journey to Dau Go Cave and nearby see the famous stalagmites and stalactites of Thien Cung Cave.
Enjoy a swim in the emerald waters of Halong Bay at any spot that you wish to visit.
Watch the sun set over the bay whilst enjoying a delicious dinner. Overnight on board junk. (B/L/D)
DAY 4: HALONG CRUISES- HANOI- HUE/ FLIGHT
Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Halong City. En route the junk weaves through strange-shaped rock formations that invite comparisons from fighting cocks to dragons and even General de Gaulle’s nose!
After another wonderful fresh seafood lunch on board disembark at the dock at Halong City.
Transfer back to Hanoi airport by road for your flying to Hue ancient city (central part of Vietnam).
On arrival in Hue transfer to the hotel. In the evening, cyclo ride to Tinh Gia Vien restaurant for dinner. Food in Hue is spicy with considerable use of chili reflecting its imperial roots is often presented in carefully displayed small servings, a kind of Oriental nouvelle cuisine. Overnight Hue (B/L/D)
DAY 5: COOKING CLASS - ROYAL BANQUET
In the morning, we follow Mrs. Cuc, the owner of Y Thao Garden House to Dong Ba central market, where she gives an instruction on how to choose food for our cooking lesson at 9:30 at Y Thao Garden House.
Lunch is the food we prepare.
In the afternoon, travel by Dragon Boat on the romantically named Perfume River to Thien Mu pagoda standing on the riverbank with its seven-storey tower.
Transfer by car to the Imperial Citadel from which the Nguyen emperors once ruled Vietnam.
Royal banquet at the Huong Giang Hotel on the banks of the Perfume River. (OVERNIGHT IN HUE)
DAY 6: HUE IMPERIAL CITY - HOIAN ANCIENT TOWN
In the morning, drive to visit Tu Duc Mausoleum with its traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Leave Hue mid-morning for a scenic journey on Highway One. The road passes by vivid green fields of rice and the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co with its blue lagoon and deserted sandy beaches before climbing over the dramatic Pass of Mountain Clouds.
Lang Co is well known for its fresh seafood restaurants and a lunch of locally caught shrimps and squid on the edge of the lagoon is a must. Once over the mountain pass, the road drops down to Danang. Stop off at Danang to visit the famous Non Nuoc Beach, once a ’rest and recreation’ resort for American servicemen, and pass by the sacred Marble Mountains whose caves contain dozens of Buddhist shrines. Arrive at the former trading port of Hoi An around five in the afternoon.
Transfer to hotel and stroll down to the picturesque river front for a refreshing drink before dinner at Tam Tam Restaurant, located in a meticulously restored colonial property and appropriately run by a French expatriate. (OVERNIGHT IN HOI AN)(B/L/D)
DAY 7: HOI AN- FUSION CUISINE
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Hoi An was a major Asian trading centre and much remains as it was then.
A morning walking tour of the ancient town center takes in former merchants’ houses, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market. For lunch, try the local specialty, “cao lau”, a delicious soup made with noodles, pork and greens.
This is an original dish found only in Hoi An and made using the water from the town’s ancient well (duly boiled).
The afternoon is free to cycle through rice paddies to the nearby beach, shop for souvenirs among the antique shops and art galleries or just sit at a pavement café and soak in the atmosphere of this friendly little town.
For dinner, visit a Hoi An institution, the White Lantern Restaurant, whose the owner, Ms Vy, dishes up sumptuous five-course meals featuring Hoi An’s unique cuisine.
Expect to sample more Hoi An delicacies like “hoanhthanh” and “banh vac”. (OVERNIGHT IN HOI AN)(B/L/D)
DAY 8: HOIAN- DANANG-HOCHIMINH CITY/ FLIGHT
Transfer to Danang Airport after breakfast for the early flight to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now officially known.
Transfer to hotel on arrival. After a lunch of “pho” on Pasteur Street, a half day city tour includes the
Unification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and Cholon, the city’s lively Chinatown. Dinner at one of HCMC’s best-known restaurants, Vietnam House. The cuisine of the south uses many herbs and spices and has been influenced by Cambodia, Thailand and India, among others. Curries using coconut milk are an example of this influence.
The south also has a wide selectionof tropical fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in the cooler north. (OVERNIGHT IN HO CHI MINH CITY )(B/L/D)
DAY 9: MEKONG DELTA- EXOTIC FOOD
Full-day trip to the watery world of My Tho in the Mekong Delta, just a couple of hours by road from the hustle and bustle of HCMC.
Take a boat trip along the narrow waterways overhung with dense vegetation and try exotic fruits in one of the many orchards. Try the local specialty of Elephant’s Ear Fish at a riverside restaurant.
A fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the people who work, rest and play on the mighty Mekong and its numerous tributaries.
Finally to Indochina Restaurant in HCMC, where we can enjoy the chef’s cooking demonstration in the restaurant’s airy, open-plan kitchen.
Dinner at this beautifully restored colonial villa is the last supper our culinary tour through Vietnam . (OVERNIGHT IN HO CHI MINH CITY )(B/L/D)
DAY 10: SAIGON DEPARTURE
The morning is free until transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for departure flight. Cam on va chao tam biet(B)