10 DAYS ●
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Discover the traditional cooking techniques and culture of this incredibly diverse country.
Our Living Traditions Cooking Tour itinerary has been intricately designed for those who wish to see iconic sites and magnificent treasures. You'll travel with the assurance that all your arrangements are taken care of. You will be accompanied by our industry-leading guides whose unparalleled knowledge and talent will turn your tour into an unforgettable experience.
On arrival in Hanoi, you will be met at the airport by your local English-speaking guide and transferred to your hotel. Hanoi is a charming and richly historic city of lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant public parks, with a population of about four million. The city centre is like an architectural museum, with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a provincial French town from the 1930s.
Start your morning with a visit to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and hear about the man who led Vietnam's campaign for independence from French colonial rule. After dedicating his life to the liberation of his country from foreign rule, Ho Chi Minh died in 1969 and his body was preserved for posterity. Every October the mausoleum is closed for a month and Uncle Ho is given a bit of a spruce up!Continue around the grounds to see the one pillar pagoda and the presidential palace. Next, visit the 11th-century relic, the Temple of Literature, which was built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius.Lunch at Koto Restaurant, an organization that aims to help remove disadvantaged youth from a life of poverty in Hanoi by providing them with an opportunity to learn hospitality skills. This afternoon visit the Museum of Ethnology and take a breezy cyclo ride through the Old Quarter's 36 streets, named for the products that were sold from their shops. Today, vendors on Tin and Bamboo Streets still sell the same wares. Next, is the Ngoc Son temple set on a tiny island on the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake and how it got its name from a legend of an emperor, a magic sword and a giant turtle! End your day with a delightful Water Puppet show, a traditional art that is still being performed today.Please note: The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed every afternoon and on Monday and Friday. The Museum of Ethnology is closed on Monday & Vietnamese New Year. (B,L)
Begin your tour with a visit to Chau Long Market. Here you will browse hundreds of stalls, and interact with vendors selling everything from garlic to tapioca flour. Take in all the colours, sights and smells! Hanoi's markets are world famous, and you will quickly see why. Part of the pleasure is discovering local herbs, vegetables and salad greens that aren't sold in Western countries.Next, settle in at Hanoi Cooking Centre, a restored building on the edge of Hanoi's famous old quarter owned by an experienced chef and cookbook author. Your instructor will explain the basics of Vietnamese cuisine, which is known for a heavy emphasis on fresh herbs, spices and greens. At your workstation, try to follow the instructor's lead! After the class, you will be able to sample your creations, you will also receive a selection of recipe cards to help you recreate Vietnamese dishes at home!Please note: Class on shared basis (B,L)
Early this morning, you will leave your Hanoi hotel and head to the coastal port of Halong Bay by shuttle bus.
Upon arrival, board a traditional Vietnamese boat and set off on your cruise through the 'Bay of Descending Dragons'. The archipelago of Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of almost 2,000 islands and jungle-clad limestone pillars. Spend the next few hours exploring an ancient limestone cave and a floating bamboo village. Weather and tides permitting, explore additional caves along the way. Lunch is served on-board as you glide across the gentle waters of the bay towards secluded and little-visited islands.After discovering the majesty and splendour of Halong Bay and its iconic seascapes, the boat slowly returns to the pier where you will be transferred back to your Hanoi Hotel.Please note: Itinerary subject to change or cancellation due to weather conditions. (B,L)
Check out of your Hanoi hotel this morning for your onward flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, you will be met and transferred to your hotel for some time to relax before you are met for your afternoon Hue tour. Spend some time wandering through the citadel before taking a short journey into the surrounding countryside to see the final resting place of the Emperors at two of the most impressive Royal Tombs and take a boat trip along the Perfume River, visit Thien Mu Pagoda. (B)
Start your day with a trip to the ancient walled Citadel containing the former Imperial Palace. Later, enjoy a walking tour through the colourful Dong Ba Market to learn about all kinds of Hue recipes and ingredients. Drive over the scenic Hai Van Pass to Hoi An this afternoon where you have sometime at leisure. (B,L)
This morning visit a local produce market before cruising along the Thu Bon River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Here you will tour the school's herb gardens and enjoy an informal cooking lesson. Your chef will explain the secrets of popular Hoi An specialties. The town is famous for dishes like Cao Lau, a medley of a yellow noodles, pork slices and pickled hot peppers, and Mi Quang, a noodle dish featuring boiled quails eggs and chunks of baked rice cakes. Next you will tour several famous landmarks in Hoi An.The first is Chua Ong Pagoda, dating back to 1653 and built in honor of the Chinese general Quan Cong, who is worshipped by many as a symbol of loyalty and justice. Continue to Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, to see the Jinshang Temple which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors. From there it is a short walk to Tan Ky House, a 200 year old ancestral house and finally, stroll across the often photographed 17th-century covered bridge built by Japanese craftsmen. The beautifully built bridge doubles as a temple and is a major landmark of Hoi An. End your afternoon with a boat trip along Thu Bon river. (B,L)
Transfer to Danang airport for your onward flight to Saigon. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel where you have some time at leisure before your culinary adventure begins! Start at the Ben Thanh Market, considered by many to be the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Sitting across from some of downtown's tallest buildings, the market hosts vendors selling everything from blue jeans to raw fish. In the produce section you will pick out all your ingredients to use in your class, with help from your chef.Once you have collected all your ingredients, move onto the Mai Home cooking class for a hands-on cooking lesson in a large traditional home. Vietnamese food is healthy and simple to cook, using many local fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. Try your hand at creating some typical dishes like fresh spring rolls or a clay pot! Once you have finished, you will be able to sit down and taste your masterpiece. (B,L)
Leave Saigon behind as you drive about 2 hours to the Mekong Delta town of Cai Be. Board a small boat to take a trip around the floating market. Continue cruising along the maze of canals to Vinh Long, stopping at the home of a gardener to see the delicate craft of bonsai, as well as handicraft villages to see local artisans at work. Hop back on board the boat to explore more of the waterways before returning to Saigon later in the afternoon. (B,L)
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and driven to the city's Central Post Office, which was designed by the renowned French architect Gustav Eiffel, and Notre Dame Cathedral, the iconic landmark built between 1863 and 1880. Admired for its neo-Romanesque architecture, the cathedral is a popular backdrop for local wedding photographers.Next, stroll toward the Saigon River along Dong Khoi Street, which figured prominently in Graham Greene's famous Vietnam novel, The Quiet American, to the Saigon Opera House, a commanding building completed in 1901. Shelled during World War II, it was used to shelter French citizens fleeing North Vietnam in 1954, the year Vietnam earned its independence from France.
The tour continues with a stop at the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. You will be transferred to Saigon airport later today where your arrangements end. (B)
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