Embark on an in-depth exploration of the culinary offerings of one of the most unique destinations in Southeast Asia.
Cooking and eating are at the very heart of understanding Vietnamese culture, history and tradition. The word “eat,” translated to ăn in Vietnamese, is incorporated into words for everyday tasks like “speaking” (ăn nói) and “living (ăn ở), proving just how intertwined food is with life. As Luke Nguyen puts it in his book My Vietnam, “For Vietnamese people, food is our life; we are forever eating, cooking and talking about food. Food is communication – food is culture.”
As in many other aspects of Vietnamese culture, cuisine has a strong focus on creating balance – the yin and yang, the sweet and sour, the crunchy and soft – and combining these elements creates a feast for the senses.
On your trip, enjoy this diverse and delicious cuisine and see for yourself the differences from region to region. Have some early morning pho and tea street side from your blue plastic chair as Hanoi comes to life, a late night bánh mì in Hội An, an imperial-style dinner in Huế, or perhaps some cơm tấm from a stall in a market in Saigon.
Day 1 — Hanoi
Fast-track airport assistance through immigration. Private transfer to hotel for 3 nights. Welcome dinner with your guide.
Day 2 — Hanoi
Breakfast at a local food stall followed by a full day of flexible city touring with your private guide and driver while sampling various dishes and street food along the way.
Day 3 — Countryside Excursion
Morning excursion with private guide and driver for a village visit and lunch with a local family. Afternoon market visit.
Day 4 — Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay
Private transfer to Ha Long Bay for an overnight cruise. Welcome lunch followed by afternoon activities.
Day 5 — Hạ Long Bay to Hội An
Private transfer from Ha Long to airport. Flight to Hanoi. Arrival transfer to hotel for 3 nights. Evening at leisure.
Day 6 — Hội An
Full day of flexible touring with your private guide and driver. Highlights include a local market and sampling local street food along the way.
Day 7 — Hội An
Half-day excursion with private guide and driver to nearby fishing village. Lunch with a local family, and afternoon at leisure.
Day 8 — Hội An to Huế
Morning market visit and cooking class with private chef. Afternoon private transfer to hotel in Huế for a two-night stay. Traditional dinner hosted by a local artist in her home.
Day 9 — Huế
Breakfast at a local food stall followed by a full day of flexible touring with your private guide and driver. Highlights include local village known for noodles and sampling local street food along the way.
Day 10 — Huế to Saigon
Morning transfer to airport for flight to Saigon. Afternoon city and culinary touring with your private guide and driver.
Day 11 — Mekong Delta
Morning transfer to the Mekong Delta with your private guide and driver. Full day of touring. Overnight in Can Tho.
Day 12 — Mekong Delta to Saigon
Morning floating market visit with your private guide. Private transfer to hotel in Saigon, lunch at local restaurant en route, and evening at leisure.
Day 13 — Departure
Private transfer to airport for international departure.
Street food tour of Hanoi
Weave through the bustling intersections and alleys on a motorbike, stopping at markets and stalls along the way to learn about the ingredients and techniques used in the local cuisine. With your private culinary expert leading the way, sample some of the best street food options in the North such as bánh cuốn, delicate steamed rice sheets stuffed with mushrooms and pork, or bún chả, grilled pork patties over a bowl of herbs, veggies and noodles. Afterwards, relax at a local sidewalk café, enjoying an iced Vietnamese coffee while you sit and watch the city pass you by.
Lunch with a Local Family & Cultural Performance
Head out of the city to enjoy lunch with a local family. Pass through the scenic countryside to arrive at a village famous for its Vietnamese folk singing tradition, Quan Ho, recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Relax with some tea in their garden before sitting down to a spectacular sampling of traditional dishes. If feeling adventurous, be sure to partake in some shots of their homemade snake and rice wine! After lunch, enjoy a live performance featuring a selection of songs passed down from generation to generation.
Buddhist Blessing & Monastery Lunch
Observe and participate in a blessing ceremony with female monks, following along as they chant and pray. Following the ceremony, sit down with the head of the monastery for a vegetarian lunch featuring a sampling of typical dishes served at the monastery. In addition to gaining insight into how a Vietnamese Buddhist monastery operates, the cost of your visit helps to provide financial support for the monastery, which relies in part on donations.
Breakfast like a local
Although you may have to get up a little early and head out of the comforts of your hotel, experiencing a true Vietnamese breakfast is an absolute necessity. With your personal guide leading the way, head down a no-name alley that has nothing more than a tiny sign marking the location, to sit down for a bowl of the bubbling-hot broth from a cauldron of porky deliciousness. Or perhaps down a dirt road of a nearby fishing village for a dozen small, steamed rice cakes topped with pork and shrimp. Perfect options for your morning sustenance!
Visit to Noodle-Making Village
Head outside of Hue to the nearby village of Van Cu, famous for providing the noodles to the entire city for years on end. Meet with a local 4th generation noodle-making family where you can learn about their current process as well as how the method has evolved over time.
Dinner and Art in Huế
Spend the evening at a magnificently-restored home of a famous local artist. Grab some lemongrass tea and take some time before dinner to explore the property’s beautiful gardens and open-air gallery, housing some of the owner’s art as well as pieces from other Vietnamese artists. Shortly after, sit down for a wonderful multi-course introduction into the imperial cuisine of Huế as local musicians perform traditional folk music.
Prepare for an assault on the senses upon your arrival to this bustling capital! The largest city in the north is a cultural center and street food paradise not to be missed.