Tailormade tour Vietnam Culinary Odyssey tour Vietnam

11 nights/12 days

Ho Chi Minh City • Vinh Long • Can Tho • Hue • Hanoi • Ha Long

This 11-night tailor-made guided touring holiday for individuals is a perfect introduction to the culinary delights of Vietnam. Explore historic sites, visit local markets and learn to produce authentic Vietnamese dishes. You will be invited to dine in one of Hue’s magical garden houses and sip Vietnamese coffee in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £3,740 per person.

Luxury touring holiday with local guide of the culinary delights of Vietnam with visits to markets, street food, local delicacies, home meals, restaurant meals and sightseeing

This 11-night culinary odyssey of Vietnam is a tailormade touring holiday with local guides that delves into the culinary culture of Vietnam and introduces you to markets, local produce, how to cook Vietnamese dishes, meals with local families and in restaurants. There is also time for traditional cultural sightseeing of the major places of interest, so this tour is ideal for those who want to visit Vietnam, perhaps for the first time, but with an interest in food and cooking. Your tour stars in Ho Chi Minh City where one of the liveliest parts is Ben Thanh market, which you visit, before enjoying a cooking class with an English-speaking chef. South of Saigon a Mekong River cruise shows you fruit orchards and a market provides insights into rural life here. From Saigon you visit Danong and Dong Ba market, and later dinner in a ‘garden house’ where the owner prepares a traditional meal for you. In each place there is time for sightseeing of traditional buildings, monuments, temples and pagodas. In Hue a highlight is a boat trip to Tam Giang lagoon, where you see how locals dry fish naturally. You have two nights in Hanoi at the end of the holiday, where you also visit a local market and participate in the city’s street food. Popular light meals include Banh Cuon (fresh rice pancake cooked on site wrapped with mushroom and meat), Bun Cha (fresh rice noodle with grilled pork belly) and/or Sinh To (mixed tropical fruit). Another lunch included is Ca Lang, a fish fried with herbs and noodles. The tour also takes you to Ha Long Bay for an overnight stay on a classic junk.

Highlights

Ho Chi Minh City • Jade Emperor Temple • Cooking class in Saigon • Vinh Long • Cai Rang floating market • Can Tho • Hue • Dong Ba market • Tam Giang lagoon • Thien Mu Pagoda • Hanoi • Street food • Lunch at the ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ • Tran Quoc Pagoda • Ha Long Bay cruise • Pearl Farm

Day by day

Arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport, you will be met and driven to the Majestic Hotel, where you will stay for 3 nights. Here you will have a chance to relax before a welcome dinner.

After breakfast, your guide will arrive to show you around Ho Chi Minh City. Highlights include the Reunification Hall – an early colonial masterpiece constructed to accommodate the Governor General of Indochina. At the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, you will find it packed with every conceivable commodity. Lunch is included today. Next, visit the Jade Emperor Temple - one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam with superb effigies and remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell. Finish the day with a visit to a lacquer workshop to see the complex processes and meticulous workmanship involved in this traditional Vietnamese craft product.

Today will begin with a cooking class held at Ho Chi Minh City’s Cookery Centre. First visit a local market to investigate the local produce and how to purchase ingredients, followed by an introduction to Vietnamese culinary culture. Following this cultural hors d'oeuvres, you’ll get busy in the kitchen under the careful supervision of a Vietnamese, English-speaking chef. There is a whole range of menus from which to choose: each has been developed to ensure an all-round essence of Vietnamese cuisine. Taste the results of your efforts in the form of lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy some time at leisure. There’s plenty to see and do in the city. A popular route to wander is the centre of District 1, the historical quarter surrounded by many colonial buildings. Alternatively, you might be tempted with a cocktail (with a five-star price to match) at the Saigon Saigon Bar of the Caravelle Hotel with a 360-degree view on the top floor.

After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you will travel to Vinh Long where a Mekong River cruise will take you to visit the fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln, and some long-established cottage industries. You’ll drive further into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho. Upon arrival, call in at the Munir Ansay – an ancient Khmer style pagoda, renowned for its unique structural decorations. Lunch is included today. Continue on to your hotel in Can Tho where you’ll spend the night. Constructed in 1948 and modelled on Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat complex, the’ Three Treasures’ tower, the Munir Ansay pagoda has many intricate statues and pillars. Today, approximately a million Khmer people live in Vietnam, mostly in the Mekong Delta provinces.

After breakfast and a boat cruise, arrive at Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle. Lunch is included today. On your return to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll visit the beautiful and ancient Vinh Trang pagoda, three kilometres from the centre of My Tho. You should arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up at the Majestic Hotel. Vinh Trang pagoda is renowned for its architectural mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor styles. It’s located on a five acre (2 hectare) block with five buildings, two ornamental courtyards, 178 pillars and many valuable statues. The experience will give you a clearer understanding relationship between Vietnamese art and Buddhist beliefs.

Your morning will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for a noon flight to Hue. When you arrive, you’ll be met by a guide and driven to visit the Imperial Citadel of Hue and the Dong Ba market. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure. In the evening, you will be invited to dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of a ‘garden house’. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You will spend 2 nights in Hue. The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.

Today head south-east to the outskirts of Hue for a visit to Thuan An market, followed by a short visit Tam Giang lagoon by boat. From there, a country road takes you to a small village where villagers continue the simple process of drying fish naturally (weather allowing). Return to Hue City for lunch. After lunch, drive to the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb. Each Royal Mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.

Your morning will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to the airport for your noon flight to Hanoi. When you arrive, you’ll be met by a guide and driven to the graceful Sofitel Metropole Hotel in downtown Hanoi, where you will spend 2 nights. In the afternoon, visit the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake. The centre of Hanoi, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Son temple and Hang Be (or Dong Xuan) market, a local market in the city’s centre and the bustling Old Quarter, is a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but a ‘must-see’ attraction. Today’s walk involves tasting and exploring Hanoi’s typical street food and snacks. Popular light meals include Banh Cuon (fresh rice pancake cooked on site wrapped with mushroom and meat), Bun Cha (fresh rice noodle with grilled pork belly) and/or Sinh To (mixed tropical fruit). As the day begins to wane, you may like to visit a small local café tucked away in a small alley in the Old Quarter. It’s a popular venue for its view over the Hoan Kiem Lake and its type of Vietnamese coffee.

This will be a day to explore Vietnam’s capital city, first escorted and, later after lunch, an opportunity to wander around the city’s Old Quarter and Hanoi’s elegant French colonial buildings and boulevards. Your guide will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction. Later visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his simple stilt house where he lived and worked and the museum in his honour. Enjoy lunch at the ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ restaurant to sample one of Hanoi’s typical specialities: Ca Lang. It’s a type of catfish, fried with herbs and fresh noodles. The dish is so popular that it gives its name to the street. The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure. When you leave the restaurant, you’ll be in the centre of the Old Quarter.

After breakfast, leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Board a wooden junk to take you through the Bai Tu Long Bay area. You’ll dock to visit one of the less visited caves in the Bay. From there, continue your cruise toward Cong Do area for swimming or kayaking though a hidden lagoon. The route is designed to avoid the busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay. For your two-day Ha Long excursion, you'll board the Red Dragon Junk, one of the best wooden boats on the Bay. It’s based on the model of the old Chinese court vessels with three barge sails, a wide transom and a rectangular superstructure. The boat has five cabins, accommodating for up to ten people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available and included in the price.

Wake to the fresh air of the bay with a swim or you can relax on the sundeck. After breakfast, continue your cruise to visit a fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity to explore the village and the hidden lagoon in a rustic rowing boat. The route will end at a Pearl Farm where you can see the whole process of making high quality pearls. Cruise back to the dock around noon where you will be picked up to return to Hanoi. After arriving at your hotel in the mid-afternoon, the remainder of the day will be your own.

After breakfast, you will be free until your driver arrives to take you to Noi Bai airport for your departure flight.

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,740 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG04

Luxury touring holiday with local guide of the culinary delights of Vietnam with visits to markets, street food, local delicacies, home meals, restaurant meals and sightseeing

Arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport, you will be met and driven to the Majestic Hotel, where you will stay for 3 nights. Here you will have a chance to relax before a welcome dinner.

After breakfast, your guide will arrive to show you around Ho Chi Minh City. Highlights include the Reunification Hall – an early colonial masterpiece constructed to accommodate the Governor General of Indochina. At the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, you will find it packed with every conceivable commodity. Lunch is included today. Next, visit the Jade Emperor Temple - one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam with superb effigies and remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell. Finish the day with a visit to a lacquer workshop to see the complex processes and meticulous workmanship involved in this traditional Vietnamese craft product.

Today will begin with a cooking class held at Ho Chi Minh City’s Cookery Centre. First visit a local market to investigate the local produce and how to purchase ingredients, followed by an introduction to Vietnamese culinary culture. Following this cultural hors d'oeuvres, you’ll get busy in the kitchen under the careful supervision of a Vietnamese, English-speaking chef. There is a whole range of menus from which to choose: each has been developed to ensure an all-round essence of Vietnamese cuisine. Taste the results of your efforts in the form of lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy some time at leisure. There’s plenty to see and do in the city. A popular route to wander is the centre of District 1, the historical quarter surrounded by many colonial buildings. Alternatively, you might be tempted with a cocktail (with a five-star price to match) at the Saigon Saigon Bar of the Caravelle Hotel with a 360-degree view on the top floor.

After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you will travel to Vinh Long where a Mekong River cruise will take you to visit the fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln, and some long-established cottage industries. You’ll drive further into the Mekong Delta to Can Tho. Upon arrival, call in at the Munir Ansay – an ancient Khmer style pagoda, renowned for its unique structural decorations. Lunch is included today. Continue on to your hotel in Can Tho where you’ll spend the night. Constructed in 1948 and modelled on Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat complex, the’ Three Treasures’ tower, the Munir Ansay pagoda has many intricate statues and pillars. Today, approximately a million Khmer people live in Vietnam, mostly in the Mekong Delta provinces.

After breakfast and a boat cruise, arrive at Cai Rang floating market on the Mekong Delta. Both the journey and the market provide insights into the rural Mekong Delta lifestyle. Lunch is included today. On your return to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll visit the beautiful and ancient Vinh Trang pagoda, three kilometres from the centre of My Tho. You should arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up at the Majestic Hotel. Vinh Trang pagoda is renowned for its architectural mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor styles. It’s located on a five acre (2 hectare) block with five buildings, two ornamental courtyards, 178 pillars and many valuable statues. The experience will give you a clearer understanding relationship between Vietnamese art and Buddhist beliefs.

Your morning will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for a noon flight to Hue. When you arrive, you’ll be met by a guide and driven to visit the Imperial Citadel of Hue and the Dong Ba market. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure. In the evening, you will be invited to dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of a ‘garden house’. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You will spend 2 nights in Hue. The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.

Today head south-east to the outskirts of Hue for a visit to Thuan An market, followed by a short visit Tam Giang lagoon by boat. From there, a country road takes you to a small village where villagers continue the simple process of drying fish naturally (weather allowing). Return to Hue City for lunch. After lunch, drive to the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb. Each Royal Mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.

Your morning will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to the airport for your noon flight to Hanoi. When you arrive, you’ll be met by a guide and driven to the graceful Sofitel Metropole Hotel in downtown Hanoi, where you will spend 2 nights. In the afternoon, visit the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake. The centre of Hanoi, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the Ngoc Son temple and Hang Be (or Dong Xuan) market, a local market in the city’s centre and the bustling Old Quarter, is a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but a ‘must-see’ attraction. Today’s walk involves tasting and exploring Hanoi’s typical street food and snacks. Popular light meals include Banh Cuon (fresh rice pancake cooked on site wrapped with mushroom and meat), Bun Cha (fresh rice noodle with grilled pork belly) and/or Sinh To (mixed tropical fruit). As the day begins to wane, you may like to visit a small local café tucked away in a small alley in the Old Quarter. It’s a popular venue for its view over the Hoan Kiem Lake and its type of Vietnamese coffee.

This will be a day to explore Vietnam’s capital city, first escorted and, later after lunch, an opportunity to wander around the city’s Old Quarter and Hanoi’s elegant French colonial buildings and boulevards. Your guide will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction. Later visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his simple stilt house where he lived and worked and the museum in his honour. Enjoy lunch at the ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ restaurant to sample one of Hanoi’s typical specialities: Ca Lang. It’s a type of catfish, fried with herbs and fresh noodles. The dish is so popular that it gives its name to the street. The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure. When you leave the restaurant, you’ll be in the centre of the Old Quarter.

After breakfast, leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Board a wooden junk to take you through the Bai Tu Long Bay area. You’ll dock to visit one of the less visited caves in the Bay. From there, continue your cruise toward Cong Do area for swimming or kayaking though a hidden lagoon. The route is designed to avoid the busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay. For your two-day Ha Long excursion, you'll board the Red Dragon Junk, one of the best wooden boats on the Bay. It’s based on the model of the old Chinese court vessels with three barge sails, a wide transom and a rectangular superstructure. The boat has five cabins, accommodating for up to ten people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available and included in the price.

Wake to the fresh air of the bay with a swim or you can relax on the sundeck. After breakfast, continue your cruise to visit a fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity to explore the village and the hidden lagoon in a rustic rowing boat. The route will end at a Pearl Farm where you can see the whole process of making high quality pearls. Cruise back to the dock around noon where you will be picked up to return to Hanoi. After arriving at your hotel in the mid-afternoon, the remainder of the day will be your own.

After breakfast, you will be free until your driver arrives to take you to Noi Bai airport for your departure flight.

Holiday price guide From about £3,740 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG04

Our prices include ● Return scheduled flights with Malaysian Airlines into Ho Chi Minh City and out of Hanoi
● Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
● Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above (Please note: pick-ups will be by a guide and driver or, where a guide is not necessary, a driver only. All unaccompanied drivers will be briefed in advance and will carry a mobile phone to ensure smooth transfer arrangements).
● Domestic flight tickets: Ho Chi Minh – Hue and Hue – Hanoi including domestic airport taxes.
● Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
● 4 nights’ bed and breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Can Tho
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hue
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hanoi
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast on the Ha Long river boat cruise
● The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary (please note: guides will be on hand from pick-up until guests’ return to their hotel or reaching their destination). Free days or part days will not include the services of a guide unless requested and included in the final itinerary.
● Cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City
● Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
● Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants, or picnics where no suitable restaurant is available.
● VAT and other taxes
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, payable locally to the hotel
● Visas – our local agent in Vietnam offers a free visa service
● Meals, except as specified above
● Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses
● Camera fees where applicable
● There may be supplements for compulsory Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve gala dinners, sometimes payable locally

Luxury touring holiday with local guide of the culinary delights of Vietnam with visits to markets, street food, local delicacies, home meals, restaurant meals and sightseeing

About Vietnam

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Vietnam transports travellers to this serene and vast country. Tracing a long, languid curve down the eastern edge of South East Asia, Vietnam is a land of extraordinary natural beauty. Soaring mountains and swaying rice fields, sweeping beaches and the mighty Mekong, Vietnam has it all, with Halong Bay and its iconic limestone towers the jewel in the country’s dazzling crown. Surviving war after war, colonial rule and communism, Vietnam’s people are determinedly upbeat and inventive, imbuing its cities with a crackling energy almost 24 hours per day. Hanoi is its bristling capital, with elegant colonial buildings overlooking avenues buzzing with motorbikes; old, imperial capital Hue is the cultural heartbeat, with palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, and a biennial arts festival worth the airfare alone; Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon as it’s still universally known – is all hustle and bustle, an intoxicating blend of the old and the new, with teeming markets dwarfed by towering skyscrapers. If Vietnam’s cities prove too much, the Mekong Delta provides an ancient, intoxicating foreverness of rice fields and sleepy villages, with river trips taking you along the country’s timeless lifeblood. Inland, peasant women in conical hats still tend to their fields, children ride buffalos along country paths and farmers scratch out a living from rice fields cascading down the sheerest of hillsides. But if Vietnam’s hilly countryside is beautiful, its coastline is simply stunning. With its smattering of limestone karsts rising out of the mist, Halong Bay is the undoubted showstopper, but there are also some stunning beaches. Hoi An and Danang are blessed with sweeps of sand and offer a choice of water sports to match anywhere in Asia. A stunning country of vivid colours and dramatic landscapes, with sensational food, exquisite boutique hotels, and a warmth of welcome that will surprise and overwhelm, Vietnam ensures a wonderful holiday.

Highlights of Vietnam

Boat trips on Halong Bay, with the more adventurous able to explore its caves and secret lagoons by kayak, paddling around its limestone peaks; the long, sweeping beaches of Nha Trang; Vietnamese cuisine, bursting with fresh, vivid spices, as delicious in roadside food stalls as in top restaurants such as Mango Rooms in Hoi An; historic, riverside Hoi An, with superb galleries, particularly Apricot and Mai Tai galleries in the Old Quarter, and Dong Phong Art Gallery in the French Quarter; full-moon ‘Legendary Nights’ in Hoi An, when vehicles are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets; explore Phong Nha Cave, the largest and most impressive cave in the country; cycle through Ho Chi Minh City, the city where bike is king; the beaches and unique Cham architecture of Quy Nhon; the rugged mountain retreat of Sapa, home to a plethora of minority tribes, and gateway to the Tonkinese Alps; the mountain town of Dalat; Cat Tien National Park, a lush refuge for city dwellers with ample hiking and bird-watching, plus elephants, crocodiles and the endangered Javan rhino; the beaches of Mui Ne; river trips on the Mekong river, past river towns and sleepy villages, floating markets and fish stalls; the white-sand beaches of Phu Quoc, a little developed forested island gem; Hue, the old imperial capital and now the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam.

Travel around Vietnam

The 1,600-mile Vietnamese railway system, operated by Vietnam Railways, runs along the coast between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and links the capital with Hai Phong and northern towns. While sometimes even slower than buses, trains offer a more relaxing way to get around and more room than the jam-packed buses. Vietnam has an enormous number of rivers that are at least partly navigable, but the most important by far is the Mekong River and its tributaries. Scenic day trips by boat are possible on rivers in Hoi An, Danang, Hué, Tam Coc and even HCMC, but only in the Mekong Delta are boats used as a practical means of transport. Boat trips are also possible on the sea. Cruising the islands of Halong Bay is a must for all visitors to north Vietnam. In the south, a trip to the islands off the coast of Nha Trang is popular.

Facts in brief

Capital Hanoi
Airport There are three international airports in Vietnam. They are Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and Da Nang Airport in Da Nang.
Size 128,000 sq. miles
Population 95 million
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