12 days

Beyond the Banh Mi

Beyond the Banh Mi

Vietnam's northern capital Hanoi

The tailors and market traders of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An

The bustling streets and cyclos of Saigon

'Junk' boat cruise among the limestone karsts of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Halong Bay

Trip rating
  • 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. 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. After some leisure time in the charming old town of Hoi An, 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

    • Visit a Hanoi beer hall for dinner and a drop of the local brew.
    • Learn the secrets of preparing Vietnamese cuisine in Hoi An.
    • Embark on an overnight boat cruise on beautiful Halong Bay.
    • Explore the impressive citadel of Hue, Vietnam's former capital.
    • Stay with a local family in the Mekong Delta, helping to prepare a traditional dinner.
    • Enjoy a lesson on preparing southern Vietnamese cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City.


    Day 1-2 - 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.
    May de Ville City Centre 2 Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3-4 - Halong Bay - Hanoi - overnight train

    • 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 depart Hanoi in the evening on the overnight sleeper Reunification express train to Hue.
    Overnight boat & overnight train
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Hue

    • 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.
    Gold 1 Hotel or similar

    Day 6-8 - Hue - Hoi An

    • 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.
    Phu Thinh 2 hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

    • 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.
    • You may also have the option to 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.
    Asian Ruby Hotel or similar

    Day 10 - Mekong Delta

    • 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.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 11-12 - Ho Chi Minh City

    • 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.
    Asian Ruby Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • 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

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Insurance
    • Other meals
    • Any optional tours and activities during free time
    • Tips
    • Items of a personal nature
    • Arrival & Departure transfers

    Safety Information

    It is recommended that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information prior to your departure. Peregrine strongly recommends the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Please leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Most of our hotels will have a safety deposit box, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

    Your tour leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your tour leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and Peregrine makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your tour leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

    TRAFFIC AND DRIVING CONDITIONS: Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Be aware that traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home.

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    SWIMMING POOLS: You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.

    BALCONIES: Some hotel balconies don't meet western standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.

    SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PAFV
Start City: Hanoi, Vietnam
End City: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Style: Small Group

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.

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