A Gourmets Vietnam
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Last updated: 10/17/2006
For those who believe that going abroad is as much about the cuisine as it is the beach, the culture or the R & R, this trip was created with you in mind the focus throughout is the delicious cuisine.
On arrival you will be met by your guide, who will transfer you to your hotel.
Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong delta. It was originally the main Cambodian port before being conquered by the Vietnamese in the 16th century and named Saigon. The city was then renamed once again, after the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam in 1975, becoming Ho Chi Minh City (named after the North Vietnamese leader).
Today, the city centre is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French buildings. However, it is undoubtedly the economic powerhouse of Vietnam and high rise office towers are starting to take their place amongst the wonderful colonial architecture.
After freshening up and a bit of time to relax, it's time to sample your first authentic delights at a local restaurant. 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 common. The south also has a wide selection of tropical fruits and vegetables that are not available in the cooler north.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.
After breakfast, it's a short drive to the Vietnam Cookery Centre (please note: the school is not open on Saturday or Sunday) for a morning cookery class to learn the secrets to preparing some of Vietnam's best-loved dishes. En route you'll stop at the central market with the chef, in order to learn about the various herbs and ingredients you'll be using.
Once at the school, the chef will demonstrate how to prepare some typical dishes before you are given the opportunity to try for yourself. Once you've completed a variety of dishes, it's time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour! Everyone receives a cooking manual and certificate on completion of the course.
An afternoon city tour of the dynamic city of Ho Chi Minh, still called Saigon by many locals, takes in the former Presidential Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Saigon Post Office and Thien Hau Pagoda in the city's bustling China Town.
Dinner is at Kinh Bac, one of Ho Chi Minh's finest restaurants.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.
A full-day trip to the watery world of the Mekong Delta, just a couple of hours by road from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City's streets. Take a boat ride along the narrow waterways, overhung with dense vegetation, stopping along the way to try some of the exotic fruits you'll see growing in the many orchards you pass. For lunch, sample a local delicacy, Elephant's Ear Fish, at Ngoc Gia Trang in My Tho or Mr Giao's Garden in Vinh Long.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City for a fantastic feast at The Rex Garden Restaurant, on the roof of the famous Rex Hotel. During the American War (known in the west as the Vietnamese War), many foreign journalists knew The Rex as home. The restaurant was a popular meeting place during those terrible years, with its roof terrace offering dramatic views over the low rooftops of Saigon - soon to become Ho Chi Minh.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for the short flight to the central port city of Danang. On arrival in Danang, you'll transfer straight through to Hoi An. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was one of the Orient's major trading ports in the 16th and 17th centuries. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of weather and war, the centre of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday. It is also one of the best places in Vietnam to shop for souvenirs at bargain prices, including silk, handicrafts, antiques and paintings.
Around 5km from the centre of town is Cua Dai beach, popular with both locals and visitors alike for its sandy beach, warm sea and seafood stalls.
Once you have checked in and had time to refresh, lunch will be served at one of the many family-run restaurants in the town centre. Choose from one of Hoi An's speciality dishes, such as Cao Lau, Hoang Thanh and White Rose. Cao Lau, a delicious soup made with noodles, pork and greens, is only found in Hoi An and must be made with water from the town's ancient well.
After lunch, take a walking tour of the ancient town centre to visit the former merchants' homes, the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colourful market.
The afternoon is at leisure. There are plenty of options to consider: soak up the unique atmosphere of this ancient town from one of the many cafés or take a bike ride to the beach and enjoy an afternoon in the surf or with a book.
Dinner at Brothers Café.
Overnight in Hoi An.
After an early breakfast, transfer to Miss Vy's School of Cooking, where visitors from all over the globe have learned Miss Vy's traditional family recipes. This cooking course lasts all day and includes shopping for ingredients at the Hoi An Central Market before returning to the school by cyclo to learn how to prepare some local delicacies. Once the meals are prepared you can enjoy the dishes you have spent the day mastering.
There is plenty of time in the evening to wander the streets of Hoi An or find a suitable bar from which to watch the town slow down. For anyone keen to take advantage of the cheap tailors, who can create just about anything to order in 24 hours, Hoi An is the place to do it. You can literally have an entire wardrobe made up for less than a good night out in the UK. Shop around for the best deals, and some good advice is to avoid the really cheap shops - the suit won't survive its first visit to the dry cleaners!
Dinner is at the excellent White Lantern restaurant in the town centre.
Overnight in Hoi An.
An early flight touches down in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, which ranks amongst the world's most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in AD 1010 and, although the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam's capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years wonderfully preserved.
Food in the north of Vietnam has a strong Chinese influence, with lots of stir-fried dishes and less spicy food than the south. Specialities of Hanoi include a noodle and meat soup called Pho and a marinated fish dish called Cha Ca.
For lunch there is a chance to try Cha Ca at a Hanoi institution - the Cha Ca Hanoi Restaurant. In the afternoon, visit the Temple of Literature and take a short sightseeing tour by cyclo to see the Lake of the Restored Sword and the Old Quarter.
Dinner at Forest Restaurant.
Overnight in Hanoi.
After breakfast, join a special cooking class at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel (please note: Sunday and Monday is confirmed case by case). After meeting one of the hotel's chefs - your tutor for the day - you will take a walk through the hotel's Spices Garden Restaurant before visiting the local market, where participants get a chance to learn all about North Vietnamese ingredients. A cooking demonstration follows in the kitchen, and everyone has the opportunity to play an active part. After the class, lunch is served, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the dishes prepared during the demonstration. In the afternoon, visit the Hoa Sua Cooking School for disadvantaged students.
In the evening enjoy an evening at a Hanoi 'must see' - the traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, before dinner at Le Tonkin Hanoi.
Overnight in Hanoi.
After breakfast, it is a three-hour drive approximately to Halong Bay. A natural wonder of the world and one of Vietnam's five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, magnificent Halong Bay is home to three thousand jagged limestone islands, emerging from its emerald green waters. While some islands are no more than large rocks others are much more substantial and contain huge cathedral-like caves of stalactites and stalagmites. Most of the islands are clothed in thick green vegetation and ring with the sound of bird song in the early morning. Secluded sandy coves are everywhere and in the summer months the warm waters of the bay are ideal for swimming.
You will be welcomed aboard the Emeraude, a wonderful replica of a classic Colonial steam ship from the French-Indochina era. With 37 luxurious, air-conditioned cabins, a restaurant, two bars and a sundeck, this is the ultimate Halong Bay experience. Lunch is served on board.
Whilst cruising the bay, try a traditional Vietnamese massage as an optional extra. Another optional extra is high tea served on the sundeck in the late afternoon. Come evening, enjoy a sunset cocktail on the deck followed by a buffet dinner.
Overnight on board the Emeraude.
If a steam ship doesn't fit the bill, cruise by private or shared wooden junk : ask for further details.
Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Tuan Chau quay. Morning Tai Chi on the sundeck is an optional extra for any early risers. Once you disembark, you'll be driven back to Hanoi where the remainder of the day is at free until your departure flight - a quick dash for last minute souvenirs or one last spring roll perhaps!
- Inclusions -
- Inclusive: All accommodation Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles English speaking local guide All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary All meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B: Breakfast, L: lunch, D: Dinner) Flights: Saigon - Danang - Hanoi as indicated International flight tickets reconfirmation.
- Exclusions -
- Exclusive: Flights to/from Asia. Flights information - click here Vietnam Visa (which you must obtain before entering Vietnam) International airport departure taxes Any other meals not mentioned above Any kind of drinks Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...) Travel insurance All other services which are not mentioned in 'inclusive'
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Email the tour operator - A Gourmets Vietnam
Important Notice : Avoiding Fraud
It's rare, but some helpful hints to watch out for with regards to fraud:
- It is important to NEVER wire funds or use/employ other fund transfer mechanisms such as western union: Always use a credit card to protect yourself against fraud. If owners pressure you into providing a deposit or refuse to accept credit cards, there is a high probability that this is a scam.
- If at all suspicious of fraud, ask to see their website, or any other literature they can provide or send to you. Ask them for contact details for guests who have previously stayed on their property insisting on telephone numbers. Be suspicious of emails that originate from free email services (yahoo, hotmail, gmail, etc)
- Research the property thoroughly on the internet to see if there is any history or mention of scams associated with the property.