This program highlights the culinary traditions of northern and central Vietnam. Profoundly influenced by the national cuisines of France, China, and Thailand, Vietnamese cooking is highly innovative and makes extensive use of fresh herbs, lemongrass, and lime. (The French colonial influence also means superb crusty baguettes and sweet pastries in the heart of SE Asia!) Enjoy cooking classes with renowned instructors, home visits, local markets, and an overnight cruise. Explore Vietnam’s history and traditions through the art of food.
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival in Hanoi, meet our representative and transfer to your hotel. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and an important center of historical and cultural significance. The city has been inhabited since at least 3000 BC. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Start your morning with a tour of Hanoi. Visit the One Pillar Pagoda to admire the colorful lotus pond and then continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam. It was originally a space to honor Confucius and today celebrates the doctorates and scholars of Vietnam. Hop on for a cyclo ride around the Old Quarter to explore the local daily life of Hanoians. Conclude with a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son temple, symbolic images of Vietnam’s capital.
Your evening is reserved for a street food walking tour in the old quarter of Hanoi along the perimeter of the market. Dozens of street hawkers sell a staggering variety of produce from live seafood to exotic fruits and spices. Your local guide will give you an insight into the intricacies and traditions of Vietnamese food culture including details on ingredients and historical backgrounds of popular northern dishes. You eat as we go, trying seasonal fruits and sampling a tasty French-inspired snack from a street cart.
Walking through the maze of bustling streets that make up Hanoi’s Old Quarter, tempt your taste buds with the famed Hanoi dish such as Bun Cha Hanoi and Banh Cuon at a local eatery. Watch in awe as the skilled chefs demonstrate for you how this tasty dish is put together. Continuing into the atmospheric heart of the Old Quarter, wander past street stalls and quiet residential lanes where you can observe local life that has changed little since Hanoi was founded over 1000 years ago.
Your next two snack stops are at outdoor barbeque stalls. Sit with the Hanoi locals and sample various meat, vegetable and bread specialties that are flame grilled over hot coals for extra flavor. It’s then time for dessert as you venture down a small alley to join in the local tradition of feasting on fresh fruit served in a cup and smothered with crushed iced and condensed milk – this specialty is one not to be missed!
Your local guide will then take you to one of Hanoi’s best kept secrets, a hidden street food restaurant to taste Banh My Hanoi, Vietnamese Rice Wine and famous Egg Coffee. This hidden café is one of the few left in the narrow streets inside the old quarter of Hanoi.
Return to your hotel and overnight.
Hanoi / Duong Lam
After breakfast, drive one hour north of Hanoi to the ancient village of Duong Lam. Duong Lam was one of the first villages in the country to be recognized as a national relic. Some of its houses are said to be 400 years old and the villagers claim that two kings of Vietnam were born here. Stroll around and enjoy the ambiance that is becoming very rare in the fast developing and modern Vietnam, the authentic country scene dotted with ancient houses and temples. Lunch will be served in a house of a local family.
In the afternoon continue to visit Bat Trang Village: Located 30 km from Hanoi, Bat Trang is one of the most well-known handicraft villages in Vietnam. They are reproductions of various traditional styles which are renowned to the world for their harmonious beauty, original shape, enameled screen and drawing stroke. They come in many forms and sizes, from dinner sets and bowls to vases and lamp bases, from statues of Buddha to small figurines of animals. You will see the complete production procedure, starting from preparing the clay, shaping the items, drawing and putting them into the kiln.
Return to Hanoi for an evening at leisure. Overnight.
Hanoi - Ha Long Bay
After breakfast, drive to Ha Long (3 hours) and board your overnight cruise. Ha Long is known for turquoise waters and towering limestone islands topped with rainforests. During lunch, cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay and Ha Long Bay to visit Cua Van Fishing Village. At the village, which has a population of about 600 residents living in 150 floating houses, guests can choose between kayaking through the village or visiting on small bamboo boats (sampans) rowed by the villagers.
Back on board, there will be free time before a Vietnamese Cooking Class. Dinner is a sumptuous buffet featuring an array of salads, seafood, meat dishes, seasonal fresh fruits, and desserts. After dinner, relax in the dining room and lounge or on the upper deck and enjoy the second happy hour. Also, experience squid fishing from the boat with help from the crew. Overnight.
Ha Long Bay - Hanoi - Hue
Enjoy coffee, tea, and breakfast pastries before a morning walking tour of Titov Beach Island. About one hour is spent on the island allowing time for a climb to the peak for a spectacular view of the Bay. There will also be an opportunity to visit the beach for a swim. Back on board it’s time for final packing and freshening up before enjoying a full breakfast buffet, including traditional Vietnamese Noodles (Pho). After breakfast, relax in the dining room and lounge or on the deck enjoying the last Bay views before disembarkation.
Return to Hanoi (3 hours) and transfer to the airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Hue owes its charm partly to its location on the Perfume River – picturesque on a clear day, atmospheric even in less flattering weather. Today the city blends new and old as sleek modern hotels tower over crumbling 19th-century Citadel walls. Overnight.
Morning at leisure. In the afternoon, enjoy a cooking class specializing in Hue cuisine. Of the 2,700 Vietnamese dishes, nearly two-thirds hail from Hue, the country’s royal capital from 1802 to 1945. Hand-selected chefs churned out dishes as part of a rotating mix of 52-course meals for the kings. Very few of the dishes have ever been served outside this central Vietnamese city of 135,000. Many of Hue’s dishes are small bite-sized dishes, often made with glutinous rice rolls coated in dried shrimp. A typical basic Hue meal is clam rice, mussel rice, or water fern cake. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Hue - Hoi An
In the morning, drive to Hoi An (3 hours). Nestled on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An is known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses, and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.
Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour of Hoi An Old Town with boat ride. Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge, Tan Ky old house, a handicraft market where you can observe the artists at work making beautiful silk lanterns, the Cantonese Assembly Hall, and temples and pagodas in the Chinese architectural style.
In the evening you will enjoy a show in Hoi An. Experience the richness of Vietnamese culture with this spectacular hour-long show that mixes acrobatics, theatre, traditional music and poetry. Overnight.
In the morning, visit Cam Thanh Village. Spend a leisurely day cycling through the scenic and peaceful countryside of Vietnam.
After passing through the town and villages of rice fields, you will arrive at Van Lang fishermen village and Bay Mau water coconut forest - 7 hectares of mangrove forest, canals, and houses covered in water coconut leaf. This place played refuge to people and local soldiers during the Vietnam War and presently it is famous for its abundance of seafood. En-route you will stop at Ba Le market, schools, and sacred spaces.
In the village you will be warmly welcomed with green tea by Mr. Han and his family. There you will have free time to stroll through the village before rowing a basket boat with the locals and learning their traditional fishing techniques in the water coconut forest.
After returning to Mr. Han and his family, enjoy a traditional therapeutic foot bath with medicinal herbs before preparing lunch with a local family. Lunch will feature many local dishes including Tam Huu spring rolls, Banh Xeo local pancakes, and grilled fish in banana leaf among many other Vietnamese delicacies.
After a rest, return to your hotel for an evening at leisure. Overnight.
In the morning, drive to Da Nang (2 hours) and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!
8 nights of hotel accommodations
Daily breakfast / All meals on the Ha Long Bay cruise
Private air-conditioned vehicle with driver for touring and transport
Comprehensive touring as listed in the itinerary, including a private English-speaking guide and entrance fees to the monuments
Street food tour in Hanoi
Cooking demonstrations in Ha Long and Hue
Village visit and family lunch in Hoi An
Private airport transfers with representative
Road/Interstate taxes, fuel surcharges, and parking fees