Food from the five elements

13 days of culinary exploration and cooking classes in Vietnam

Food from the five elements

Vietnam

  • Themed Trips
  • Asian Delights
  • Food
  • Culture
13 Days
2 Flights
Child friendly

Recommended dates: November to May. Please see below dates in which trip prices are not applicable (some surcharge might apply).

Itinerary

The Vietnamese kitchen is considered the most delicate of all Asian cuisines. It brings together subtle and spicy flavors, sweet and sour, and a variety of tastes and ingredients making its dishes like no other. The delicacy of Vietnamese food derives from the careful balance between the five fundamental elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. We invite you to join us on a trip that combines cooking classes with visits to markets, and even takes to the villages and rural areas where fresh produce are cropped. Though the trip is focused on Vietnamese food, we will also be traveling through some of the country's best known travel destinations, and can't miss the opportunity to visit some of these.

Day 1. February 16th- Arrival in Hanoi

  • Dinner

We arrive in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, and the beating heart of the country’s rapid financial growth. At 14:00 we meet our guide at the airport, and transfer to our hotel in the city center. If time permits (depending on time of arrival in Hanoi), we take our first walking tour around the city center, by Hoan Kiem (Lake of the restored sword) and Ngoc Son (Temple of the Jade Mountain). The temple is located on an island by the northern shore of the lake. In the evenings the vicinity of the lake fills up with food vendors, providing us with an opportunity for a first taste of the local, simple, yet surprising Vietnamese street food. For our first dinner in Vietnam we head to a restaurant specializing in fusion food, symbolizing the transition from the culture we left behind us, into the world of Asian cuisine. Overnight in Vietnam.

Day 2. February 17th- Culinary tour of Hanoi

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

This morning we skip the hotel’s breakfast (because we didn’t fly all the way to Vietnam for bacon & eggs). Instead, we join a renowned Vietnamese food blogger for a fascinating culinary tour of the city. We begin our day with a big bowl of Pho, the Vietnamese signature dish, just as the locals do. We then take to the fresh produce market to get acquainted with the ingredients that make the foundations of north Vietnamese food. From here we stroll together with the blogger, through some of the city’s less known culinary gems, stopping for a taste of traditional delicacies such as Bun Cha (grilled pork and noodle), Banh Tom Ho Tay (West Lake’s Shrimp Cake) and others. Before saying farewell to our culinary industry insider, we enjoy a cup of Vietnamese ca phe (Vietnamese for coffee) or che (tea) served with traditional sweets. The afternoon shall be dedicated to some of the city’s historical monuments, with a visit to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, which has an interesting display of traditional gardens and architecture that has inspired generations of Vietnamese scholars. We next visit the Vietnamese Women's Museum, dedicated to the special role that women have in the Vietnmese society, in family life, and in the development of the country. In the evening we return to our hotel for a second night in Hanoi.
Note: The morning tour might be with a food blogger, or a local chef.

Day 3. February 18th- Back to basics

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We leave Hanoi for a full day of tracing the origins of Vietnamese food. We drive to Ky Son Village, where we first meet our host family for the day. After enjoying a chat over cup of green tea, we go exploring the village and its local market. We then join a cookery class with our hosts, and for lunch, we enjoy our own culinary creations. After lunch we go for a biking trip through several villages in the area. En route, we pass by local farmers as they attend to their fields and rice paddies. Though Vietnam maintains its distinguished status as one of the world’s top rice producers, much of the rice is grown by small scale farmers, working their small paddies. Here we have the chance of not only seeing how the rice is being grown, but also to get our hands dirty, and extend some help to the farmers. (Note: we might arrive in different season of the year, but there is always something in the field- corn, cassava, cucumber, sweet potatoes or others). In the afternoon we return to the home of our hosts, for some cross-cultural chatting, and firsthand experience on Vietnamese rural life. After a local dinner with the family, we spend the night in our homestay.

Day 4. February 19th- Heaven on earth

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

It is customary for Vietnamese to begin the day with practicing Yijin Jing (form of Qi Gong), and pay respect to their ancestors. We will join (or at least, observe) our hosts as they go through their morning rituals, and after a last meal together we leave to Hoa Lu. Hoa Lu was the 10th century capital of the former kingdom of Dai Co Viet, and we will visit the temples dedicated to the two most prominent kings of this small kingdom. We then have another bicycle trip to the rural area surrounding Hoa Lu. Apart from farming, which we have seen the previous day, here we also have the chance to see and to partake in, crab catching and fishing with the locals, again having the opportunity to see and experience the harvesting of fresh produce which makes the foundation of the Vietnamese culinary experience. Before lunch we stop by a home of local villagers, cook with them, and then enjoy the meal we have prepared together. This is not only another cookery class, but some quality time to bond and enjoy with the simple people of Vietnam. In the afternoon we continue riding to Nha Le’s, where we take a two hours boat ride through stunning scenery of amazing karst formations surrounding the narrow river we are cruising on. The river takes us past limestone caves through which the river also runs. In the evening we drive to Ninh Binh, the provincial capital, where we spend the night.

Day 5. February 20th- In the bay of the descending dragon

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

From Ninh Binh we drive eastwards towards to the Gulf of Tonkin. On arrival, we board our ship for a relaxing 24-hour cruise and exploration of the magical Ha Long Bay, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its landscape, geology, and geomorphology. During the cruise, we shall be served with mouth-watering fresh seafood. We visit famous sites such as Dinh Huong Island, Ga Choi Island, Dog Island, and others. Overnight in a private cabin on board the ship.
Note: Visits or activities will be slightly different depending on each ship’s itinerary. Our tour guide will be replaced by a local guide on board during the cruise.

Day 6. February 21st- To the ancient trade city

  • Brunch
  • Dinner

After brunch out at sea, we continue to explore the bay and its unique natural treasures. We visit Man’s Head Island and Tortoise Island, take a bamboo boat to explore Luon Cave, and visit Bai Tu Long Bay. Around eleven o’clock we disembark from our ship, and drive to the city of Hai Phong, from there we fly to Da Nang. Upon arrival in Da Nang, we meet our guide and driver, and take the one hour drive to Hoi An, where we spend the night.
Note: Breakfast, lunch or brunch will be served on board depending on each ship’s program.

Day 7. February 22nd- The foundations of Vietnamese cookery

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

This morning we hop onto a small boat, as we take a guided tour of Hoi An’s market, located right on the river bank. Strolling amidst the colorful stalls, our guide shares with us insider’s secrets on buying fresh fish and seafood, distinguishing between the different noodle types, recognizing the different herbs and learning about their medicinal qualities. We’ll also get to try a variety of fruits, many of these endemic to this part of the world. Back in our boat, we travel to a unique restaurant, which makes the entire food experience into a fully interactive one. Here we will not only experience some of the local delicacies, but shall also be invited to have hands-on experience preparing these. After walking around the restaurant and experiencing its mouth-watering food varieties, we have a two and a half hour cooking class in the restaurant. After our culinary adventures, we take an early evening walking tour around Hoi An. From the 1st century AD, Hoi An played a major role as a trade center because boats had easy access to its port, which was then the largest in South-East Asia. From the 7th to the 10th century, the city became a strategic point on the Spice Trade Route. With such a significant role in the ancient trade routes, the city attracted traders from the all over the world, among them Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and even Europeans from Holland, France, and Spain, who settled there and brought their cultural and architectural influences with them. In 1999 the old city of Hoi An was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. We will visit sites such as the Japanese Bridge, built by the Japanese community of tradesmen in the 16th century, the Fujian Congregation Hall built as a community center by the Chinese community also in the 16th century, the Hoi An Museum, with its detailed display on the rich history of the city and its international inhabitants, as well as visits to various typical buildings throughout the old town. Overnight in Hoi An.
Note: food market visit and cooking class might be shared with other travelers.

Day 8. February 23rd- To the ancient Imperial Capital

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

We leave Hoi An and drive back to the city of Da Nang, the ancient capital of the former Champa kingdom of the 7th century AD. Upon arrival in the city, we visit the local Cham Museum, featuring a permanent display of Cham sculptures. It is assumed the Cham people originated from the Indonesian Islands, from where they have brought over their Indic native culture. And thus, the sculptures tells the story of how the early Indic culture has slowly assimilated in the local culture, with the theme of sculptures gradually adopting local religious iconography. We then leave Da Nang, and drive through Hai Van Mountain Pass (The pass of Ocean Mist). Here we pause to take in the magnificent view over the area and the beautiful shoreline. In the afternoon we arrive in Hué, which was the capital of feudal Vietnam from 1802 until 1945, and there is still standing evidence of its importance during this time. When we reach Hué, we visit the Imperial Palace of Nguyan to learn about this chapter of the Vietnam’s history. We then proceed to Tu Duc’s tomb, the resting place of one of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, who died in 1883. The tomb features beautiful depictions of royal architecture, and the general layout of the site tells the story of the burial traditions of the era. Before driving to our hotel, we take a walk through Dong Ba Market, the city’s largest market. Late in the evening we take a slow rickshaw trip out of the tourist area of town,to where the locals converge after a long working day, around small tables to enjoy a good laugh over good food. This is a rare opportunity to immerse into truly local cuisine, see the food stall owners juggle their dishes, and join them on both sides of the stalls, as we get to try their food, and, if lucky, have a chance in preparing some of these local dishes. Here, at the market, we also enjoy our dinner around the small tables amidst the sounds of laughter. Tired, and full, we return to our hotel for the night.

Day 9. February 24th- To the city of unification

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Checking out of our hotel, we drive to Hué Airport, and take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes better known as Saigon. After meeting our guide and driver, we embark on a day of exploring the city that once served as the capital of South Vietnam, the American allied, anti-communist state. We quickly check into our hotel, and go on to visit the War Remnants Museum, which tells the story of the US led war from a different angle from the one known to Westerners. Our next stop will be at the former Presidential Palace, or as it is known today, the Reunification Palace. Its current name hints on the historical event of a North-Vietnamese tank breaking through the palace's barricades, signifying the end of the US led war, and the victory of the communist North Vietnamese. We then head to the beating heart of the city, where we visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. The bright red color of the cathedral walls comes from bricks, which were taken from the Marseilles palace in France. From there, we take a short walk to the old Central Post Office, and then head off to the central quarter. This are of the city preserves the colonial ambience, with the Opera House and Hotel de Ville serving as living evidence to this vivid period in the city's history. In the evening we return to our hotel for a night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 10. Feb 25th- Fine cuisine and Viet Cong Hideouts

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We spend this morning with Team Grain, a boutique cooking school headed by chefs personally selected and trained by the celebrated Chef Luke Nguyen. A Vietnamese-Australian, Chef Nguyen has gained his reputation as a host of several TV shows through which he highlights the finesse of Vietnamese cuisine. Through our time with Team Grain we learn to appreciate, and of course, cook, the delicate cuisine typical to southern Vietnam. After enjoying the food we have prepared, we head out of town and go to Cu Chi Province. Here is the site of the headquarters of the Viet Cong, hidden in tunnels believed to be connected to a network running beneath most of Vietnam. We shall learn about the efforts of the Viet Cong to repel the US Army, and about how people lived in these extremely narrow and dark tunnels. We return to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon, as we are invited to join Tuan and Tu, a Saigonese couple, for a dinner at their home. Tuan & Tu’s home-restaurant is a great way not only to see real home cooking, but also a chance to experience the lives of ordinary urban Vietnamese. Late in the evening we leave our kind hosts, and drive to our hotel for a second night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Note: If Tuan and Tu aren’t available to accommodate us, we’ll enjoy a dinner in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 11. February 26th- The Mekong Delta

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

After breakfast we drive to Cai Be, at the heart of the Mekong Delta. Boarding a small boat, we head to the Cai Be colorful floating market, cruising amongst local barges loaded with fruits, vegetables and other local produce. We stop at local home-based workshops to observe the traditional processing of rice paste, coconut candies and other local specialties. After lunch in a lavish villa located by the river, we travel to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, then on to an ancient Mandarin House before proceeding to Vinh Long. At the wharf we disembark our boat, and drive to Can Tho, the largest town in the Mekong Delta, where we stay for the night.

Day 12. February 27th- The ultimate floating cooking experience

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

After breakfast at the hotel in Can Tho, we board our own private Sampan (a near flat bottomed wooden boat). We travel to Cai Rang floating market in order to purchase fresh produce, ready for the meal ahead. Our private Sampan is equipped with its own modest kitchen, and a local cook will join us for the day. Together with our cook we shall prepare and taste the local cuisine, typical to the Mekong Delta. After learning some local cooking techniques, and satisfying our palates, we take a walk through a beautiful garden located on one of the many islets in the delta. We then disembark our sampan, and head back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we spend our last night in Vietnam. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in one of the city’s finest restaurants.

Day 13. February 28th- Departure from Vietnam

  • Breakfast

After breakfast at our hotel, we drive to Ho Chi Minh City Airport, for our international departing flight out of Vietnam.

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Dates & Pricing

Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.

Note: Trip rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during Chinese national holidays: May 1st to 3rd, September 15th to 17th, or October 1st to 7th, and Vietnamese Tet Holiday: February 7th to 13th. Some surcharges might apply on December 24th to January 1st due to high demand, or compulsary dinners in the hotels.

[email protected] reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy.

Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$2257/ person
6 travelers- US$2169/ person
8 travelers- US$2139/ person

  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.

16th February, 2017–28th February, 2017

  • $2,658 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $576 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation at selected hotels
  • Domestic flights Hanoi to Danang and Hue to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
  • Transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Cooking classes, home and market visits as per program
  • Bottled drinking water
  • English speaking guides per area
  • Entry fees for sightseeing as per program
  • Private boat for trips in the Mekong Delta
  • Deluxe cabin on Junk for 2 days 1 night in Ha Long Bay
  • Meals as per program

Exclusions
  • Travel to and from Vietnam
  • Travel insurance
  • Vietnamese visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not clearly mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • Hanoi- Boss Legend 4-star (Deluxe room)
  • Ky Son- homestay
  • Ninh Binh- Emeralda Resort 4-srat (Superior room)
  • Halong- Pelican Junk 4-star (Deluxe private cabin)
  • Hoi An- Le Residencia 4-star (Junior Suite)
  • Hue- Eldora 4-star (Deluxe room)
  • Ho Chi Minh City- Paragon Saigon 4-star (Premium room)
  • Can Tho- Nam Bo Boutique 4-star (Suite)

Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.


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