DISCOVER THE REAL VIETNAM
Indochine is a name that stirs the senses and emotions. It conjures visions of proud farmers in conical straw hats tending to their rice paddies. It conjures smells of lemongrass, ginger and mint, savory spices used in Vietnamese cooking. And it conjures the romance of a bygone colonial era, and the hope of a resilient people who look to a modern future, even as they retain the deep traditions that make Vietnam food tours so fascinating. Join us on our Vietnam food tour for an experience that will take you deep into the culture as you cook (and eat) your way from Saigon to Hanoi. Along the way, you’ll stop at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An and the former imperial capital of Hue. Enjoy unparalleled local access on our Vietnam tour, such as private dinners in a colonial mansion and a royal garden house, Vietnamese cooking classes and market tours with renowned chefs, and even a street food tour as you ride on the back of a vintage Vespa!
9-Day Vietnam Culinary Tour
- Enjoy hands-on cooking classes with renowned chefs
- Discover exquisite UNESCO world heritage sites
- Private dinner at a colonial mansion, former residence of Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge
- Traverse Saigon by Vespa on a tasty street food tour
- Tour of local food specialties with a renowned gastronomist in Hue
Day 1: Our Vietnam Culinary Tours Begin in Saigon
Welcome to our Vietnam culinary tour! You will be touring Vietnam in a way that allows you to truly experience the fascinating culture, history and cuisine of this beautiful and exotic country. We will pick you up at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport and bring you to our historic boutique hotel in downtown Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh City is the city’s formal name, but locals refer to it as Saigon.) On our Vietnam culinary tours, our lovely Saigon hotel is a 1925 French colonial building overlooking the Saigon River.
We recommend you arrive early in the day because this evening you are in for a treat. Our welcome dinner will be held in a colonial mansion which was the former residence of Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to South Vietnam in the mid-1960s. A sophisticated Vietnamese dinner will be served in the magnificent dining room, accompanied by live music.
Drive time: 20-30 minutes
Meals included: Dinner
Day 2: Traditional Vietnamese Cooking Class & Saigon City Tour
One of the reasons to take a Vietnam culinary tour is to learn to cook authentic Vietnamese food. Today we’ll start the day by visiting a local market with our cooking class chef, where we will find fresh ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine. Then we will cook at the cooking studio of a talented celebrity chef, Luke Nguyen, who has hosted MasterChef Vietnam and is the author of seven cookbooks.
After lunch, we’ll embark on a walking tour of Saigon’s historic sites. Starting with the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville, we’ll take in some of the city’s best-preserved French colonial buildings, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We’ll wander up to the Paris-inspired Notre Dame Cathedral, and then head across to the Central Post Office. A short drive away is the former presidential palace, the headquarters of the South Vietnamese government during the war. Now renamed the Reunification Palace, it sits largely as it did in 1975, and is a fascinating historical artifact of Saigon’s turbulent past.
Next, we’ll head to Cholon, the Chinese part of Saigon, to visit the Thien Hau temple, built in the early 19th century to honor the Goddess of the Sea. With its ornate interior courtyard, the temple bustles as worshipers come to pray. To make a wish, it is local custom to write it on a small card and attach it to one of the incense coils. We’ll continue to FITO, a museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine, before returning to our hotel.
This evening is one of the highlights of our Vietnam culinary tours. With over eight million inhabitants and four million motorbikes, Saigon is a city on the move. Tonight, we’ll get a glimpse of how the local Vietnamese live as we explore Saigon’s authentic street food scene from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter.
Drive time: Depends on city traffic
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (on the Vespa tour)
Day 3: Fly to Danang & Enjoy Hoi An
This morning we will visit a local lacquer-ware workshop for a brief demonstration of the lacquering process and the opportunity to see a variety of lacquerware pieces, ranging from small boxes to large pieces of furniture.
We will then transfer to the airport for your flight to Danang, followed by a quick drive to our relaxing, boutique hotel in Hoi An – just a short stroll to Hoi An’s colourful and bustling old town. Also, you won’t want to miss the daily complimentary massage and spa experience while you are here!
The afternoon is yours free at leisure. This evening, we’re invited to a local home for a hosted dinner of traditional foods. After dinner we will walk to the heart of this ancient town, where we will board a traditional wooden boat and cruise along Hoai River, enjoying the view of Hoi An at night.
Drive time: Approximately 35 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: Hoi An Food Tour
This morning, we’ll explore Hoi An’s food scene on a walking food tour. Stroll through zigzagging alleys to discover different neighborhoods and indulge in local delicacies that have been made here for generations. Along the way, you’ll soak in fun insights and anecdotes on Hoi An food culture and local traditions.
In the afternoon, explore Hoi An at your leisure or indulge in the complimentary massage and spa experience at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 5: Drive to Hue & City Tour
After breakfast we’ll drive to the former imperial capital of Hue, stopping en route to visit the Cham Museum. The Cham people are one of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities and are the descendants of the ancient Kingdom of Champa, in what is now Central Vietnam.
Once we arrive in Hue, we’ll tour the landscaped gardens and residence of a restored royal garden home, a harmony of nature and imperial architecture. After a chance to chat with the family, we’ll enjoy lunch at their beautifully-furnished dining room with elaborately carved reliefs.
Hue served as the imperial capital to the Nguyen dynasty, which reigned from the 17th to the 19th century. With splendid emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas and the remains of the Citadel, the city retains its royal heritage and charm. This afternoon we’ll take a cyclo ride from your hotel to the Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site. (A cyclo is a pedal-trishaw unique to Indochina, used throughout the colonial era and to this day by locals and foreigners alike.) We’ll enter through the towering main gate to appreciate the magnificent architecture and gardens as we learn about the royal court. Despite the heavy bombing, there are some well-preserved sections still intact and others which are being restored.
Next, we’ll visit the tomb of Khai Dinh. Khai Dinh was the emperor of Vietnam, from 1916 to 1925. This hillside monument is a mix of Vietnamese and European style elements. Most of the tomb’s grandiose exterior is covered in blackened concrete, creating an unexpectedly Gothic air, while the interiors sparkle with an explosion of colorful mosaics. Tonight, you will stay in a lovely and relaxing boutique resort and spa in the countryside just outside of Hue.
Drive time: 3 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 6: Hue Culinary Tour & Cooking Class
Hue’s culinary heritage is inextricably tied to its imperial history as the city is renowned for its elaborate cuisine created for the royal court, as well as the traditional food enjoyed by locals. Today we’ll explore these two themes in Hue cuisine with celebrated gastronomy artisan, Professor Nhu Huy, author of cookbooks, food television presenter, and the recipient of several prestigious talent awards in Vietnam. We’ll start with local food, visiting the local market where we will learn how to select the freshest produce and ingredients necessary for Hue food. Afterward, we’ll spend the rest of the morning visiting several Vietnamese villages which each specialize in a different popular dish. We’ll have an opportunity to sample Hue favorites including com hen (mussel rice), banh beo, banh nam, banh loc (varieties of soft rice cakes), and banh uot (steamed rice pancake).
Next, we’ll head to Professor Nhu Huy’s home for a private hands-on cooking class, featuring the cuisine developed for the royals who represented Hue’s imperial past.
Afterward, we’ll drive to visit the seven-story Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument, perched on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. Then the evening is yours to explore Hue or enjoy the resort. Perhaps indulge in a luxurious spa treatment, take a dip in the pool or explore the lush tropical grounds of the resort. You can also inquire about the resort shuttle to the Hue city center, just 15 minutes away.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 7: Fly to Hanoi & Water Puppetry Show
After breakfast, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, we’ll head directly to Dao Thuc village for a private water puppet show. Originating in the 10th century, water puppetry is a folk art that is unique to Vietnam. Although water puppetry has existed in Dao Thuc village for over 300 years it has had a recent resurgence thanks to a talented and committed puppet artisan. We’ll drop by the puppet workshop to meet the artisan and learn how he and his family are sharing this traditional art with the world. Then we’ll enjoy a private 30-min water puppet show on the village pond, accompanied by live Vietnamese music.
After the show we’ll drive to Hanoi and check into our boutique hotel, which is within easy walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake and the old quarter. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the capital of Vietnam, perhaps a further visit to the bustling old quarter and the local markets – keep a look out for the many little temples along the way!
Drive time: 1 hour
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 8: Hanoi City Tour
Hanoi is full of charm, with French colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards and scenic lakes. We’ll begin our day at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides. Behind the mausoleum, we will visit Ho Chi Minh’s house, a simple wood home where he lived and worked, adjacent to a tranquil lotus pond.
Next we’ll visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1070, which was Vietnam’s first university for the sons of mandarin. We will also visit the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, known as Hanoi Hilton, which is now a museum. (This is an optional visit for those who are interested.)
For lunch, we’ll enjoy a stop at Bun Cha Le Van Huu, one of Hanoi’s famous specialties. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the Museum of Ethnology, which offers a fascinating insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups. Later we’ll enjoy a cyclo tour around Hanoi and then stroll around Hanoi’s Old Quarter – 36 streets, named after 36 wares which were traditionally sold there.
This evening we’ll have a lovely farewell dinner of traditional Vietnamese cuisine – the kind of dishes you’d be served as a guest at a Hanoian home.
Drive time: 2 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9: Vietnam Culinary Tour Ends
Your Vietnam culinary tour ends today as you transfer to the airport for your return home. Or, extend your trip with a cruise to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of 1600 spectacular limestone karst islands in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Drive time: 45 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast
Please note: This itinerary is designed to give you an idea of what to expect during our Vietnam culinary tours, but is not set in stone. What we actually do on a given day is flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the group.
Note: This itinerary and package inclusions might be changed in time, subject to availability.