Day 1 - Hanoi arrival
Arrive in Hanoi, welcome by your guide and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure to recover from your long flight.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2 - Hanoi (B,L,D)
Start this day with a visit of the highly acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum. The museum is located near Hoan Kiem Lake and offers wonderful insight into the lives of Vietnamese women. Displays highlight Vietnam’s vast cultural diversity and educate on the significant role Vietnamese women play in Vietnamese society. Learn historic and modern-day traditions centered around births, weddings, motherhood, spirituality and more.
Then, explore the Temple of Literature. In 1076 Quoc Tu Giam - Vietnam"s first university also referred to as Van Mieu, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam"s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Eat for a good cause and have lunch at Koto Restaurant, close by the Temple of Literature.
Continue to the nearby mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (viewed from outside), and visit the former president’s house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary. Visit the small but iconic One Pillar pagoda before heading back to your hotel.
In the afternoon, take part in a hands-on cooking class in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter also known as the ‘36 streets’. Visit a neighborhood ‘wet’ market to learn about Vietnamese ingredients before proceeding to the home of a true Hanoian who learned her culinary skills from her grandmother, a former chef who once served the French elite, in the 1930’s. After visiting a local market to buy the day’s ingredients, learn how to prepare and cook true northern Vietnamese cuisine before sitting down to enjoy a delectable meal.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 3 - Hanoi - Halong Bay (B,L,D)
Following breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at your jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
Overnight on Halong Bay.
Day 4 - Halong Bay - Hanoi - Danang (B)
Enjoy your fresh morning in the middle of the bay, the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer to Hanoi airport for your flight to Danang.
Note: This tour may be subject to change depending on weather conditions.
In Danang, have a short transfer to your hotel located in Hoi An.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Where to have dinner in Hoi An:
Situated in an elegant traditional style building in the heart of Hoi An’s old town, Morning Glory offers ‘Street Food’ on the ground floor of the restaurant featuring Hoi An specialty foods. The upstairs balcony is perfect as the views are excellent over the street.
Secret garden is on one of the best addresses in Hoi An for traditional Vietnamese food. The location is in the middle of the old town down a hidden alley. Both the atmosphere and cuisine come highly recommended.
Located in the centre of Hoi An’s old town Mango Rooms serves original and creative cuisine that can only be described as Vietnam-Latin American-Japanese fusion. With a combination of refreshing flavours, beautiful presentations and a relaxing atmosphere Mango Rooms has one the heart of many loyal and happy customers.
More experimental than its sister restaurant Mango Rooms and with stunning views over the Thu Bon River and the Japanese Bridge, the food at Mango Mango is exquisite and the fruit cocktails are to die for. Perfect for a pre dinner aperitif whilst watching the sun set over the Japanese Bridge.
Located near the Japanese Bridge and in a quiet street, Mai Fish offers simple but delicious Southern and Central Vietnam food. This is the 3rd restaurant of Chef Duc with Mango Mango and Mango Rooms.
Day 5 - Hoi An (B,L)
When you think Asia and food, rice is usually the first thing that comes to mind. This is not surprising as rice is a major staple in the diet of many Asian countries, especially in Vietnam. You may have seen rice growing in Asian paddy fields. However, it is likely you do not know the sequence of Vietnamese rice cultivation. It is still a secret unbeknownst to most western tourists.
Start the day with a hotel pick up at 8:30 am. Begin your journey with a short bicycle ride through rice paddies to the countryside (a vehicle can be arranged for those preferring not to cycle). Arrive at a farm where you will be warmly welcomed with tea by a local family host. You will have the chance to visit their house. Your guide will explain the different steps of rice cultivation. Don traditional farming clothes and conical hats for sun protection. Then, start the fun part of the tour. Because learning is way better with practice, you will experience rides on a water buffalo and learn the how to plough, rake, carry water into the rice field, sow, pull up the rice seedlings, transplant rice, etc. Prepare yourself for a unique experience, and try not to fall into the mud! Afterwards, return to the house and learn how to make pancakes that you will be able to enjoy. Additionally, learn how to cook rice in the traditional way. Enjoy lunch with the host family before riding back to the hotel.
Note: this tour is non private and operated on a join in basis.
Free at leisure the rest of the afternoon.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 6 - Hoi An - Hue (B,D)
In the morning, discover Hoi An with a walking tour. Discover the charming, old-world trading port of narrow streets and traditional houses, former merchants’ homes, the town’s iconic 400-year old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market where an array of fresh ingredients are on offer.
In the afternoon, drive through Danang and climb over the Pass of Ocean Clouds and drop down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co before visiting the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world.
Enjoy an exclusive private dinner at the lovely Tha Om garden house. A Hue “nha vuon” usually consists of a main and back entrance, and a small wall, rockwork and plants in the front yard and in the house itself. In the middle of the garden, a binh phong (brick wall) rises in front of the house, serving as a defense and protection of the altar in the main room of the house. The path leading around the wall from the entrance gate is lined with tea bushes or apricot trees. The typical house is made with a timber frame and roofed with brick tiles. The whole house stands on big pillars placed on a round or square stone base, which is sometimes decorated. The altar of the family’s ancestors occupies the central room.
Overnight in Hue.
Day 7 - Hue (B,L)
Formerly the capital of Vietnam and the Kings’ City, Hue has a strong royal heritage. Hue food is unique to Vietnam and Hue offers a variety of “Royal” restaurant cuisine. Get a hands-on experience with a cooking class and enjoy the taste of Hue’s local delicacies such as Hue pancakes. Learn how to prepare delicious Hue recipes in the beautiful, traditional Garden House of Y Thao. Set in a lush green garden near the Citadel, Y Thao is a charming ancient house filled with collectibles.
Start an exclusive cooking class where you will learn how to prepare a Hue “Royal” meal. You will prepare 4 or 5 courses ranging from traditional Vietnamese spring rolls to a delicious banana leaf salad. The cooking class takes approximately 2 hours. Finally, enjoy the delicious and beautiful dishes you just made. With this tour, gain a deeper knowledge and feeling of Ancient Hue.
In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of this beautiful city. Start at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. The ancient citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern (the Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war) but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today. From here take a cyclo through dai noi ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax; full of lotus flowers in summer there are many local style coffee shops around the lake where university students come to study. After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument, depart to the tomb of the former emperor Khai Dinh which is traditional Vietnamese in design with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue. Before heading back to your hotel take time to stroll around Dong Ba Market with your guide. The market is another of the must see sites in Hue, the stalls are teeming with color and a great place to catch a glimpse of everyday life.
Where to have dinner in Hue:
Le Parfum, the beautiful restaurant of La Residence offers delicious Vietnamese or Western menus in a nice setting.
Les Jardins de la Carambole, a lovely restaurant set in a reconstituted French colonial villa and located near the Imperial Citadel offers some Hue specialties such as Bun Bo Hue (noodle soup with thick rice noodles) or Banh Khai (fried rice pancake).
Overnight in Hue.
Day 8 - Hue - Ho Chi Minh City (B,D)
After breakfast transfer to Hue Airport for the short flight to Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to hotel.
Where to have lunch:
A terrace restaurant located at the corner of two of the oldest boulevards of Saigon – Nguyen Hue and Le Loi. Established in the 1930s", SH Garden is a restaurant where romantic memories of an old Saigon can suddenly come to you. A variety of delicious traditional Vietnamese dishes are served in a nice and simple family style. To reach the restaurant, you take an old and unique wooden elevator that brings you to a banana and lemon grass garden on the terrace.
This ‘art’ style restaurant attracts a mostly Vietnamese clientele. Hidden on a quiet suburban street, Cuc Gach Quan serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine in a homely and atmospheric setting.
Hoa Tuc means opium flower and is a central venue located in the courtyard of the former opium refinery manufacture. Inside, the interior is art deco which combines black, purple and pastel colours. Hoa Tuc serves excellent, authentic Vietnamese cuisine and the outside courtyard is perfect for dinners.
In the afternoon, depart your hotel for a tour of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City. Your program includes the Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace it was towards this modern building that North Vietnamese tanks seized on the morning of April 30 1975, as Saigon fell. This fascinating building is filled with history still fresh in the minds of many. From there stroll (your vehicle will be available at all times) to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. After this historical visit continue to the War Remnants Museum where exhibition halls display imagery of both the French and ‘American’ wars. Continue to the Jade Emperor Pagoda located on the fringes of district 1. Dating from 1909 and built by Cantonese Buddhists this quiet oasis was designed using feng shui principals showcasing ornate statues and effigies.
After having experienced the frenzy of Saigon by day, discover the lively local streets by night. Join local people and enjoy an authentic Vietnamese evening. Start the tour at around 6:30 pm. The first stop is a public park where local people enjoy some dancing exercises. They gather here when the sun goes down to socialize and dance together. It is up to you to dance with them or just watch. Then, after a short walk, try your first meal of the evening. “Banh xeo” is a large rice pancake filled with vegetables, shrimps and pork. Hidden in a small alley, this local street restaurant has become very famous and serves some of the best “banh xeo” of Saigon. The second stop is a street food place located near Tan Dinh Market. There, enjoy a delicious local soup, inspired by Chinese recipes. After another short walk, it is time for a tasty “com suon non nuong muoi ot”, a local dish from HCM with rice and pork ribs. After crossing a busy intersection, indulge yourself with a delicious dessert and a Vietnamese café. Finally, after 10 minutes walking, enjoy the end of this evening at a live music café playing piano or Vietnamese songs. At the end of the tour return to your hotel (around 10:30 pm). Note: Places are subject to change upon availability.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 9 - Ho Chi Minh City (B,L,D)
Located in suburban Ho Chi Minh City away from the well trodden tourist path, this is not just a cooking class but a genuine insight into a Vietnamese kitchen. Start from your hotel for a local suburban Ho Chi Minh City market (whilst it’s still busy) with your host, to shop for ingredients, all at a leisurely pace. You’ll then head back to the house to start your cooking, where you’ll eventually devour the results for lunch! Your host is a great cook and more than happy to show you around their local market and share some of their favourite dishes. A selection of dishes can be made from a menu, rather than having a set cooking class menu see what tickles your fancy. After your lunch return to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.
Free at leisure the rest of the day to explore Ho Chi Minh City at your own pace.
Enjoy a last blast of savors at Mandarin Restaurant, a beautiful, charming and traditional place. You may have the opportunity to meet the chef and have a cooking demonstration.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10 - Ho Chi Minh City Departure (B)
Departure day. At leisure until transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for onward flight.