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On this 10 day luxury tour, you will learn much about the charming capital of Hanoi, HCMC, Hue, Halong Bay and more. Not only that, but after sampling the country’s finest cuisine, you will be become your own chef as you take part in cooking classes. You will get to know all about the local cuisine by sampling and creating a variety of local dishes… and hopefully be enticed to come back for more!
Upon arrival at Noi Bai Airport, you will be transferred to your hotel. Then, you’ll take a cyclo (the Vietnamese version of the rickshaw) to Indochine restaurant for an introduction to Vietnamese food. Set in a beautifully restored French villa, Indochine serves specialties originating primarily from southern Vietnam. You will no doubt be introduced to "nuoc mam" (a fermented fish sauce that compliments most dishes in Vietnam) and "cha gio" (Vietnamese spring rolls). The staff is attired in traditional costume and musicians perform classical Vietnamese songs. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Hanoi, the present day capital of Vietnam, is a city of tree-lined boulevards and lakes. It boasts a unique blend of French colonial buildings and Chinese inspired architecture. You will have a full day to explore this fascinating city and visit the One Pillar Pagoda, the Fine Arts Museum, the Temple of Literature, the Lake of the Restored Sword and the bustling “Old Quarter”, with its 36 ancient streets. You’ll have lunch at "Cha Ca La Vong" and enjoy seasoned fish. In the evening, you can take in a performance of the famous water puppets, followed by dinner at the Le Tonkin restaurant, which specializes in superbly prepared northern Vietnamese cuisine. Northern Vietnamese food has a strong Chinese influence, with stir-fried dishes and less spicy food being among the most popular. Specialties of Hanoi include "Cha Ca" Hanoi and the ubiquitous noodle and meat soup known as "Pho", which is usually eaten at pavement food stalls for breakfast. You’ll spend another night in Hanoi.
Upon being met at your hotel at 8:30 am, you will be driven to Halong City, approximately 3 hours away. Once at Halong City, you will board our private boat for a 4 hour cruise of this stunning area, stopping along the way to visit one of the limestone caves in the area. As you cruise, our boat staff will serve a sumptuous local seafood lunch. After 4 hours, you will cruise back to the harbor and transfer to your hotel in Halong City. In the evening, a barbecue of local specialties will be served before you retire for the evening.
You will return to Hanoi by road, with a picnic lunch before transferring to Hanoi Airport for an early afternoon flight to Hue. Flight time varies depending on day of week. Upon arrival in Hue, you’ll transfer to the hotel and settle in. In the evening, you will take a cyclo ride to Tinh Gia Vien restaurant for dinner. Food in Hue is spicy, with considerable use of chili, reflecting its imperial roots. It is often presented in carefully displayed small servings, a kind of Oriental nouvelle cuisine. You’ll then spend a restful evening in Hue.
In the morning, you will meet Mrs. Cuc, the owner of Y Thao Garden House, who will take you to Dong Ba central market. She will provide instruction on how to choose food for your cooking lesson at 9:30 at Y Thao Garden House. You must pay careful attention, because you will be preparing your own lunch! In the afternoon, you will travel by Dragon Boat on the romantically named Perfume River which leads to the Thien Mu pagoda, standing on the riverbank with its seven-story tower. You will then transfer by car to the Imperial Citadel, from which the Nguyen emperors once ruled Vietnam. Then you’ll have a royal banquet at the Huong Giang Hotel on the banks of the river before an overnight stay.
In the morning, you will drive to visit Tu Duc Mausoleum with its traditional Vietnamese architecture. Leaving Hue mid-morning, you’ll enjoy a scenic journey on Highway One. The road passes by vivid green fields of rice and the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co with its blue lagoon and deserted sandy beaches. Then you will experience climbing over the dramatic Pass of Mountain Clouds. Lang Co is well known for its fresh seafood restaurants and a lunch of locally caught shrimps and squid on the edge of the lagoon is a must. Once over the mountain pass, the road drops down to Danang. You’ll stop off at Danang to visit the famous Non Nuoc Beach, once a 'rest and recreation' resort for American servicemen. You’ll also and pass by the sacred Marble Mountains whose caves contain dozens of Buddhist shrines. Upon arrival at the former trading port of Hoi An around five in the afternoon, you’ll go to your hotel and stroll down to the picturesque river front for a refreshing drink before dinner at Tam Tam Restaurant. It is located in a meticulously restored colonial property (run by a French expatriate) and is the perfect end to your day before you retire for the evening.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Hoi An was a major Asian trading centre and much remains as it was then. A morning walking tour of the ancient town center will take you to former merchants' houses, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market. For lunch, you can try the local specialty, "cao lau", a delicious soup made with noodles, pork and greens. This is an original dish found only in Hoi An and made using the water from the town's ancient well (duly boiled).
In the afternoon, you will have cooking class at Red Bridge Restaurant, visit Hoi An’s colourful market, and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy market. We board the Red Bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. On arrival, we explore the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden, before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s well-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours – each dish is first demonstrated by the Red Bridge chef’s, before we prepare the same dish ourselves. Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration). After the lesson, we sit down and eat exactly what we have cooked.
You will transfer to Danang Airport after breakfast for the early flight to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now officially known. After checking in to your hotel, you’ll have a lunch of "pho" on Pasteur Street. Next up is a half day city tour which includes the Unification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Saigon Post Office and Cholon, the city's lively Chinatown. You’ll then have dinner at one of HCMC's best-known restaurants, Vietnam House. The cuisine of the south uses many herbs and spices and has been influenced by Cambodia, Thailand and India, among others. Curries using coconut milk are an example of this influence. The south also has a wide selection of tropical fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in the cooler north. You experience all of this before retiring for a restful overnight stay.
Next you will have a full-day trip to the watery world of My Tho in the Mekong Delta, just a couple of hours by road from the hustle and bustle of HCMC. You’ll take a boat trip along the narrow waterways, overhung with dense vegetation, and try exotic fruits in one of the many orchards. You can try the local specialty of Elephant's Ear Fish at a riverside restaurant. This will give you a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the people who work, rest and play on the mighty Mekong and its numerous tributaries. Finally, you’ll dine at Indochina Restaurant in HCMC, where you can enjoy the chef's cooking demonstration in the airy, open-plan kitchen. Be sure to try as much as you can since this dinner at this beautifully restored colonial villa is the last supper your culinary tour through Vietnam.
The morning is free until you are transferred to Tan Son Nhat Airport for your departing flight.
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