Beyond the Banh Mi
||Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse, delicious and a feast for your eyes as much as your tastebuds. Nuanced and balanced flavours, delicately herbed and spiced dishes; here is a cuisine that harbours a range of international influences, from French to Indian. The north's cuisine is more traditional, while the dishes of the south are more exotic and liberal. The cuisine of central Vietnam is quite distinct too, using different spices. A cooking class at Hanoi's famous KOTO restaurant is the introduction to this culinary extravaganza. We discover the capital’s graceful charms before enjoying a boat cruise on stupendous Halong Bay. In the former capital of Hue we explore the citadel and the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before indulging in Hue's famous 'royal' cuisine. In Hoi An, we spend a full day visiting local farmers and picking fresh vegetables from market gardens for our cooking class at the exotic Red Bridge Cooking School. After some leisure time in this charming old town, our journey continues south to vibrant Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), where the trip's highlight is a lesson on preparing southern Vietnamese cuisine. After taking in some 'must-see' sights of Saigon, a day trip to the Mekong Delta, the renowned cornucopia of Vietnam, is a great and fitting way to end this culinary journey.
Why we love it:
- This is a culinary journey with a focus on exploring the different food and beverages of Vietnam.
- Vietnamese cuisine is diverse, delicious and a feast for your eyes as much as your tastebuds.
- Nuanced and balanced flavours, delicately herbed and spiced dishes; here is a cuisine that harbours a range of international influences, from French to Indian.
- The north's cuisine is more traditional, while the dishes of the south are more exotic and liberal. The cuisine of central Vietnam is quite distinct too, using different spices.
- A cooking class at Hanoi's famous KOTO restaurant is the introduction to this culinary extravaganza.
- Discover the capital’s graceful charms before enjoying a boat cruise on stupendous Halong Bay.
- In the former capital of Hue you will explore the citadel and the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before indulging in Hue's famous 'royal' cuisine.
- Spend a full day visiting local farmers and picking fresh vegetables from market gardens for a cooking class at the exotic Morning Glory Cooking School in Hoi An.
- A lesson on preparing southern Vietnamese cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City is also a highlight.
- A homestay visit to the Mekong Delta, the renowned cornucopia of Vietnam and a fertile region made up of a maze of canals brimming with life, markets and tropical fruits.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1-2: Hanoi
Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 2 dinners
Accommodation: Lan Vien Hotel or similar, Hanoi
- Our culinary expedition of Vietnam will start with an evening of revelry at one of Hanoi’s famed beer halls. The garish bright plastic chairs and fluoro lights belie the excellent food and fresh, cold beer that lies within.
- Nom hoa chuoi (banana flower salad) and ga nuong (barbecued chicken) are just some of the excellent food offerings available. Joining the locals at such an institution is a wonderful way to be introduced to the gastronomic delights of Vietnam.
- You will awake in the morning to a bowl of steaming, aromatic pho (beef noodle soup), before exploring the winding laneways of the Chau Long Market. Next you will have the opportunity to taste some of northern Vietnam’s best street food offerings, including their tooth achingly sweet Vietnamese coffee, black sticky rice and betel nut.
- Lunch at the Don Xuan Markets uncovers even more incredible delights. This is known to be the hub of Hanoi’s best street food, bun cha (barbecued pork noodle soup) or nem cua be (crab spring rolls) are difficult to pass up.
- The afternoon will be free for you to explore Hanoi. There will be an optional city tour for those interested, which will take you to Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda, among other remarkable sights.
- You will finish the day with a cooking class at Hanoi Cooking Centre, before indulging in the fruits of your labour over dinner in the beautiful leafy surrounds of the centre.
- Before retiring, you will be taken right off the tourist track and in to one of Hanoi’s hidden teahouses.
Day 3-4: Halong Bay - Hanoi - overnight train
Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Accommodation: Lan Vien Hotel or similar, Hanoi
- You will depart the bustling capital and journey through rolling Vietnamese countryside to Halong Bay. You will stop to enjoy lunch at a local roadside restaurant, before arriving at the beautiful harbour.
- Upon arrival at the bay, you will embark a junk boat - your home for the night, and set sail across the emerald water and between the dramatic limestone karsts that the area is famous for.
- You will have the opportunity to visit the Cua Van, a bright fishing village on the bay, or simply wile away the day on a kayak or exploring the many limestone caves in the area.
- You will relax with a drink on the deck before feasting on the freshest seafood and other local specialties as the sun sets, and then curl up for a sound night’s sleep on the serene bay.
- In the morning, you will awake to breakfast while Halong Bay sleeps, before sailing back to the Bai Chay Harbour.
- You will then return to Hanoi, where you can enjoy some more free time. The perfect opportunity to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter, relax in a café, or indulge in a rice wine tasting.
- You will then sample some of the delights on offer at KOTO café. An inspiring initiative that helps to support the area’s street kids by offering them training in hospitality.
- You will depart Hanoi in the evening on the overnight sleeper Reunification express train to Hue.
Day 5: Hue
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Accommodation: Gold 1 Hotel or similar
- Hue is a historically rich and abounds in culture; it is also beautiful thanks to the winding Perfume River running through it. Hue is also known for its cuisine.
- You will start your time in Hue with a breakfast of the local specialty, bun bo hue (beef and vermicelli noodle soup).
- You will then embark on a walking tour of the city, where you will have the opportunity to explore the Imperial Citadel, and the Thien Mu Pagoda.
- The evening will be free for you to dine where you please, an excellent option is indulging in an imperial-style street banquet. We recommend trying the banh khoai (crepe stuffed with prawns and pork), nem lui (marinated minced pork and salad rolled in rice paper) or banh bot loc (rice dumplings filled with prawns and pork), a feast fit for a king.
Day 6-8: Hue - Hoi An
Meals included: 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner
Accommodation: Phu Thinh 2 hotel or similar
- The Dong Ba Market in Hue is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast, you can wander the endless stalls filled with the best of Vietnam’s flavours, treats and ingredients. If you stumble upon some xung (sesame and peanut toffee), it might be worth buying some for the dragon boat ride down the Perfume River to follow. Be warned that it is especially delicious and moreish.
- The Dragon Boat ride takes you to the beautiful tomb of Vietnam’s last emperor, Tu Duc, after which you will visit a local nunnery set amidst the trees. You will have lunch here, sampling some of Hue’s famed vegetarian food.
- From the nunnery, you will depart for Hoi An. This journey will wind you through beautiful paddy fields and over the Hai Van Pass.
- Hoi An is a beautiful city of ancient streets, French colonial influence, colourful lanterns and excellent tailors - it is beloved by travellers.
- You will start your Hoi An experience at the renowned Bale Well restaurant for dinner. Banh xeo (savoury crispy pancake) is the specialty here. The restaurant is forever overflowing with vivacious chattering locals thanks to the excellent food on offer.
- Plates laden with pancakes, spring rolls, herbs, satay, rice paper, greens and fresh pork skewers will continuously arrive at your table – all perfectly fresh, you will also be shown how to prepare the banh xeo by the friendly staff. Be sure to bring your appetite!
- On your first morning in Hoi An, you will travel to the Morning Glory Cooking School, where you will cycle through the luscious herb gardens in the local village, Tra Que, learning about these potent fresh ingredients, before heading back to the school to prepare a feast.
- The afternoon will be free so you can continue to explore Hoi An. A trip to one of the many local tailors is a great activity for the afternoon, or simply sitting in a riverside restaurant marvelling at the beautiful coloured lanterns.
- On your final day in Hoi An, you can choose to continue exploring this beautiful city at your leisure, or you can join an optional trip to the fish markets at dawn, take a bike and boat trip to islands nearby or enjoy a seafood dinner and a swim at An Bang Beach.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Accommodation: Mifuki Boutique Hotel or similar
- You will fly to Ho Chi Minh City this morning. Upon arrival you will lunch on 'banh canh' (thick noodle soup) before enjoying a tour of the city.
- The tour will include the War Remnants Museum.
- You will finish the day at the Ben Tanh Markets, filled with a vast assortment of goods, from clothes to souvenirs and incredible food.
- Sampling from the delights available at the market is a great way to enjoy dinner, you may also like to get out and explore Ho Chi Minh City’s vibrant nightlife, or one of the laid back cafes.
Day 10: Mekong Delta
Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Accommodation: Vien Dong Hotel or similar
- While you are in the south of Vietnam, you will take the opportunity to take a cruise along the winding waterways of Mekong Delta. The Cai Be Floating market is a highlight of the cruise, where produce laden boats float in a flurry of colour and activity.
- You will also cruise past a number of local farms and the bustle of daily life on the canal banks.
- You will eventually arrive at a friendly homestay. You will spend a night with the family, sharing a delicious meal and learning how to prepare some traditional regional dishes.
Day 11-12: Ho Chi Minh City
Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner
Accommodation: Mifuki Boutique Hotel or similar
- You will awake early today and help your host family prepare breakfast, before returning to the water to head back to Ho Chi Minh City.
- On the way you will stop at an impressive local village before visiting the Vinhlong Markets.
- Upon arrival back in Ho Chi Minh City, you will spend the afternoon with a woman known as a “folk culinary artisan”. Ms Van is master of everything in Southern Vietnamese cuisine, and you will have the opportunity to bask in her vast knowledge and learn everything you seek to know about Vietnamese cuisine, including the delicate flavour balance that it is so famed for. Of course you will enjoy the meal you have prepared at the class afterwards.
- The rest of the evening will be free, so you can choose to spend your last hours in this wonderful city as you please – maybe relaxing in the hotel, or enjoying one hurrah out on the town.
- The trip will come to an end after breakfast on Day 12.
What to know
This is a culinary journey, with a focus on exploring the different food and beverages of each region. There are more meals included on culinary trips than other trips, so please let us know if you have any allergies or dietary requirements.
This trip is run by our sister company, Intrepid.
- The services of Peregrine's expert English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour
- Street eats and market tour followed by a cooking class at Hanoi Cooking Centre
- Morning Glory Restaurant Cooking School in Hoi An, including a guided bicycle tour to go ingredient-picking in Tra Que Village
- Southern Vietnamese cuisine cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City
- Traditional ‘junk’ boat cruise on Halong Bay, with a seafood lunch (non-seafood also available)
- Overnight trip to the Mekong Delta with a canal boat ride to Cai Be Floating Market
- Authentic Vietnamese street food dinner in Hanoi; traditional ‘royal’ cuisine dinner in Hue; taste the local specialities of Hoi An
- Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s House and Temple of Literature
- Dinner at Bun Ta Restaurant’s renovated French villa specialising in authentic rice noodle dishes
- Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hue - Citadel and Purple Forbidden City, Thien Mu Pagoda and Emperor Tu Duc’s Mausoleum
- Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hai Van Pass; China Beach; Hoi An’s historical sites
- Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Ho Chi Minh City - City tour, War Remnants Museum and Ben Thanh Market
- Perfume River cruise in Hue
- Local flight: Danang to Ho Chi Minh City
- Free time to explore Hanoi and Hoi An
- Meals: 11 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 6 dinners.
- Accommodation: 8 nights hotel, 1 night overnight boat, 1 night overnight train, 1 night homestay
- Private vehicle
- Sleeper train
- International flights
- Airport departure taxes
- Other meals
- Any optional tours and activities during free time
- Items of a personal nature
- Departure transfer
- Daily budget
We have chosen a selection of some great optional activities to enhance your travel experience. You will need to cover any additional costs yourself. The below list is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed below have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
- Hanoi - Citadel, Karst and Cycle tour
- Hanoi - Ethnology Museum
- Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum
- Hanoi - Village discovery tour
- Ho Chi Minh City - Cyclo and market tour
- Hue - Imperial tombs
What to know
You will be required to cycle on day 7 as the tour of the herb gardens of Tra Que Village is done on bicycle.
Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please talk to your doctor about the up-to-date information for this region. We're travel experts, not doctors and defer to the medicos when it comes to inoculations.
Visas and Permits
Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip – this is your responsibility. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel.
You will need to obtain your Vietnam visa in advance. When obtaining your visa for Vietnam you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approx USD$60 to USD$100.00 (subject to change). Some nationalities are exempt from requiring a visa if their stay is less than 15 days, but if you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance.
Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure.
If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: PEAK Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996.
The above information has been put together as a guide. We do endeavor to update this information as much as possible but it’s also important that you check for yourself as visas are the responsibility of the traveller.
You are required to have travel insurance before heading off on a Peregrine trip. Insurance can be organised by your Peregrine representative or your travel agent.
Our Responsible Travel ethos is at the heart of everything we do, from getting the basics right like respecting local cultures and the environment, to initiating projects that make positive contributions to communities, to our staff’s fundraising efforts and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Customs and Culture
Please visit our Responsible Travel (http://www.peregrineadventures.com/rt) page for more information.
Our Pre Departure Information or Travel Dossier (provided upon booking a trip) provides tips on how you can show respect for the local customs and culture in the country you are travelling in. Your leader will also help steer you though the complexities of local cultural norms.
Pre Departure Information
The information listed above is a brief description of some things you may need to consider when booking a trip. Once a tour is booked you will be provided with a link to your Travel Dossier which will contain detailed Pre Departure information.
There are a number of books which make interesting reading and provide insight in the history, politics and culture of the country. Suggestions are: The Quiet American- Graham Greene The Sacred Willow-Duong Van Mai Elliot Paradise of the Blind-Duong Thu Huong Vietnam: Yesterday & Today -Ellen Hammer One Crowded Hour- Tim Bowden Catfish and Mandala-Andrew X Pham Hitchhiking Vietnam-Karin Muller Vietnam- Lonely Planet A Bright Shining Lie-Neil Sheehan (on the Vietnam-American War)
Important Note on Arrival Transfers
Please note that this tour is operated by our sister company, Intrepid. Contrary to what is mentioned in our printed brochure, an airport arrival transfer is NOT included in this tour, but can be pre-booked at additional cost. Please inquire at the time of booking.
Accommodation & Transport
The accommodation for this tour is Intrepid Original style. Hotels are generally 2 - 3 star, but you may find yourself in a fortress or as the guest of a local family. At some stages during your journey you will find yourself experiencing local transportation.
Local Tour Leaders
By employing and training local guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour leader’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
Infrastructure and Tet Holiday Period
Please note that Vietnam is a developing country whose infrastructure may differ from what you expect in your homeland. Expect poor road conditions and be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed and our regular transport services not always being available, especially so during the Tet holiday period (Vietnamese New Year).
During Tet, most businesses will be closed as Vietnamese people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during the Tet period, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required. If you are travelling over Tet, you will get to experience foods and celebrations that only occur at this time of the year.
If you have booked a single supplement for this trip, please note it will not be applicable for the following nights: Day 3 (Halong Bay), Day 4 (overnight train) and Day 10 (local homestay) To enquire about booking a single supplement please contact your sales agent.
Local Emergency Contacts
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, the Peregrine/Intrepid Vietnam office can be reached on Tel: +84 903 117 770
About this Information
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please keep this in mind when you read it and check with us if you want to be sure about something. The document was correct at time of printing, but you can check online for the most up to date version. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
13 May 2014
General Contact Details
Web: Visit Peregrine