Culinary Vietnam

7 days / 6 nights

This trip is designed to stimulate the senses by introducing visitors to the delicate aromas and spices that make Vietnamese food such a delectable experience. Starting in Hanoi, we bring visitors face to face with the sights, sounds and smells of the Old Quarter. Our first epicurean encounter is at Highway 4 Restaurant, famed for its blend of modern Vietnamese and traditional hilltribe cuisine. We learn some signature recipes before continuing our journey to Halong Bay, a stunning world heritage site where nature has run amok. After enjoying a night on a traditional junk, we travel south to Hoi An, a timeless trading port on the Thu Bon River. We visit a local market to shop for produce before travelling downriver to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Set amid ricefields on the banks of the river, it is an inspiring location to learn the art of the Vietnamese table. We leave some free time to soak up the charms of Hoi An or explore nearby Marble Mountains or the Cham Museum in Danang.

In brief

  1. Day 1: Arrive Hanoi. Old Quarter Tour and Water Puppets
  2. Day 2: Cooking Class at Highway 4 Cooking School. Afternoon Sightseeing. Dinner at Quan An Ngon.
  3. Day 3: Drive to Halong City. Overnight Cruise in Halong Bay.
  4. Day 4: Halong Bay.Transfer to Hanoi. Fly Danang and Drive to Hoi An.
  5. Day 5: Cooking class at Red Bridge School. Afternoon Old Town Tour.
  6. Day 6: At Leisure to Enjoy Hoi An and Surrounds.
  7. Day 7: Free Morning. Transfer to Danang Airport.

In detail

Day 1: Arrive Hanoi. Old Quarter Tour and Water Puppets

We arrive in Hanoi and transfer to our accommodation. Later we explore the bustling Old Quarter on foot. We walk through the vibrant street market before exploring a real hidden tube house. We take a rest and enjoy a tasty Vietnamese coffee while enjoying the fascinating view of the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem lake from the terrace of the house.

This evening, we attend a water-puppet theatre performance. The art of water puppetry began a thousand years ago, possibly in the flooded rice fields of Vietnam. Puppeteers today stand in waist-high water and manipulate their puppets in such a skilled way that you can’t help but be captivated by the performance. Music accompanies the action, including the dan bau, an instrument made from a dried watermelon rind that produces haunting sounds. After the evening entertainment we go for a sumptuous dinner at Wild Lotus Restaurant.

Day 2: Cooking Class at Highway 4 Cooking School. Afternoon Sightseeing. Dinner at Quan An Ngon.

Following breakfast our morning begins with a cooking lesson at Highway 4 Restaurant. Here we learn about the culture of Vietnamese cuisine. We will travel by cyclo to the local market. Here we will investigate all the weird and wonderful fresh produce. Our Chef will show us around and give us professional tips on how to pick good fresh ingredients. The visit to the market is an experience in itself! Having picked up our fresh ingredients its time for our class in Vietnamese cooking. Our culinary skills will be put to the test and we will be the judge of our own efforts. We enjoy a fabulous Vietnamese meal of our own making! In the afternoon, we will proceed to the most beautiful of Hanoi’s museums, The Ethnology museum. This showpiece provides a fascinating insight into the histories and lifestyle’s of the 54 ethnic groups of Viet Nam. Dinner at the kitchen garden restaurant of Quan An Ngon.

Day 3: Drive to Halong City. Overnight Cruise in Halong Bay.

After an early breakfast, we’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Our cruise will take us first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, we’ll be able to swim, climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan.

For your two-day Ha Long excursion, we'll be on board one of the best quality boats on the Bay, a wooden junk based on the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boat has four cabins, accommodating up to 8 people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise. Your cabin will be about eight metres square, and furnished with twin or double bunks, two fans, an air-conditioner, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en suite toilet and shower. All your meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board.

Day 4: Halong Bay.Transfer to Hanoi. Fly Danang and Drive to Hoi An.

We spend our last morning soaking up the beauty of Ha Long Bay. After lunch on the boat we dock around noon and make our way to Hanoi and then continue by plane to Danang. A short drive South brings us to the charming town of Hoi An. After settling in we’ll go for an evening meal in the snazzy Mango Rooms Restaurant.

Day 5: Cooking class at Red Bridge School. Afternoon Old Town Tour.

Situated on the banks of the Hoi An River, the Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School is designed to meet the growing demand from local and international travellers, for a quality Vietnamese dining experience with personal service and individual style. You’ll start this morning with an experience of Hoi An market colour by amazing sights, sounds and aromas. Next is a 25-minute leisurely boat trip along the Hoi An River to the school where you can investigate its herb and vegetable garden before learning how to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Having enjoyed the fruits of our labours we spend the afternoon exploring the port town of Hoi An. Recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; this is a trading port dating back to the 16th century. Because of its location on the Thu Bon River, Hoi An became a magnet for merchants from all over the world. Today its streets display a rich mix of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and European architecture and culture. Explore the small town on foot. Here the streets, historical temples, centuries-old shopkeepers’ houses, and artisans’ quarters evoke an earlier time, when silks and brocades, ivory, fragrant oils, fine porcelain, innovative weaponry, and raw minerals were hawked by enterprising merchants and manufacturers. Visit Tan Ky House, a late 18th-century merchant’s residence. The Tan Ky family, very successful silk, tea, and rice traders originally from China, lived here for seven generations and amassed quite a collection of paraphernalia. The house itself is a fine example of combined Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese architecture, typical of the older houses in Hoi An. The Fukhien Association, also known as the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, was founded as a place where minority Fujian Chinese could hold meetings. Later it became a temple for the worship of Thien Hau, goddess of the sea and protector of fishermen and sailors. We enjoy dinner at the superb Morning Glory Restaurant.

Day 6: At Leisure to Enjoy Hoi An and Surrounds.

We leave today free to enjoy the atmosphere of this spiritually, culturally and historically enriching town. Wander the old streets to experience the diverse influences in the architecture, a testament to the sailors, traders and explorers who passed through here in centuries gone by. Take the measure of a tailor shop, as Hoi An is one of the best places in Vietnam to get clothes made. Rent a bicycle and explore beautiful Cua Dai Beach, one of the loveliest stretches of sand on the coast.

For something more ambitious or adventurous, consider a trip to the atmospheric old Cham city of My Son, nestled under the shadow of Cat's Tooth Mountain. Or explore the caves and shrines of Marble Mountain. Hoi An has a wealth of experiences and adventures to offer and is one of the nicest places in Vietnam to explore at leisure.

Day 7: Free Morning. Transfer to Danang Airport.

Free for leisure at your hotel or wandering around the town until its time to depart