ITINERARY BY DAY
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam’s capital and the start of your Southeast Asian food adventure! Upon arrival you’ll be brought to your hotel to freshen up before meeting with your guide for a culinary tour of Hanoi’s famous Old Quarter district. Here you’ll wander through narrow streets and alleys packed with sizzling woks, bubbling pots and pop up restaurants.
Enjoy the Old Quarter’s unique and bustling ambiance as you sample your way through a range of local delicacies. Wash them down with a classic “bia hoi” –Vietnam’s famous local brew which traces its roots to eastern Europe. Then, pull up a tiny plastic stool and dine as locals do while enjoying the flame-grilled glory of Vietnamese barbecue. Top it all off with a sweet end to your night at one of Hanoi’s most popular ice-cream parlours. Then, head back to your hotel for good night’s rest.
Day 2: Hanoi Cooking class - Afternoon city tour
Starting bright and early in the morning, head to the famous Chau Long Market. Peruse through endless rows of stalls selling everything from farm-plucked garlic to pounded tapioca flour. Hanoi is famous for the vibrancy of its local markets. The memorable sights, sounds and smells of this unique environment are the perfect way to get in tune with the “real” Hanoi. With your guide showing you the way, discover local herbs, vegetables and salad greens unique to Vietnamese cuisine and learn how they’re used to accentuate its riotous flavours.
Next, head to the Hanoi Cooking Centre, a restored building at the edge of Old Quarter. Meet with your instructor over a welcome tea. An experienced chef and cookbook author, the instructor is a fountain of knowledge with regard to Vietnamese cuisine. Learn about the emphasis on fresh herbs, spices and greens before heading to your workstation to put your knowledge to the test. After following your instructor’s lead, head to the dining room and sample some of your creations along with a well-deserved beer or glass of wine. Afterwards, receive a selection of recipe cards to help jog your memory when you get home.
Next, embark on a tour of Hanoi’s historic highlights on-board a cyclo –the city’s traditional mode of transportation. These traditional bicycle rickshaws are a staple of the city and allow you to get along at a leisurely pace that’s perfect for taking photos while sightseeing. As your driver weaves through some of Old Quarter’s busiest streets, pass by French colonial houses, cafes and shop houses en-route to The Northern Gate of Ancient Citadel. This gargantuan fortress in the heart of the city dates back over a thousand years and is as imposing as it is impressive.
Next, head to Cua Bac Church, a beautiful remnant of the French and Catholic influence still present in the city. Then, head to Quan Thanh Temple. This 11th century Taoist temple is one of the oldest and most culturally significant in the city. Afterwards, head towards the picturesque West Lake, stopping at the historic Pho Cuon Restaurant for a quick bite to eat along the way.
Then, take a closer look at Hanoian culture at Chau Long Market and explore the countless stalls there before heading to Nguyen Truong To Street or “Dessert Street”. After satiating your sweet tooth, head to Hang Than Street. Also known as “Wedding Cake Street”, here you’ll learn about the unique wedding culture in Hanoi before heading off to Hang Cot Street where you’ll get an up-close look at how mats are woven out of reeds. Wrap up your street tour with a traditional Vietnamese coffee and head back to your hotel for a good night’s rest before departing for Halong Bay.
Day 3: Halong Bay Explorer day cruise
Departing early in the morning, head through picturesque countryside for the coastal town of Halong City by shuttle van. Upon arrival, board your traditional “junk boat” and set off on the “Bay of Descending Dragons”. Halong Bay is a widely celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of some 2,000 stunning jungle-clad limestone mountains known as karsts.
While careening through the emerald-green waters of the Halong Bay, stop at the stunning Dau Tung Lam Bay. In the presence of supreme natural beauty in every direction, enjoy a feast of traditional Vietnamese food. After a fully satisfying meal, set off again and enjoy the scenery as stunning karst formations rise out of the jade waters like the arms of giants. After a quick stop at the famous Ga Choi Island, said to resemble two cocks fighting, arrive at Paradise Cave. Get out and explore the confines of this geologic wonder, taking time to marvel at the stunning stalagmites and stalactites.
Afterwards, head back to your junk boat and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the deck of the boat whilst soaking up the scenic ambiance and cool sea breeze of Halong Bay. Enjoy a cocktail or two as the boat slowly makes its way back to Tuan Chau Marina. From there, transfer back to Hanoi, arriving early in the evening. Get some rest or enjoy a night out in the town before your flight to Hoi An in the morning.
Day 4: Fly to Hoi An - Hoi An walking tour
Meeting with your guide early in the morning, be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to the lovely town of Hoi An, in Central Vietnam. Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel where you can freshen up.
Meet with your guide and begin a walking tour of the historic Hoi An Ancient Town. As a former trading port for Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants between the 16th and 18th centuries, Hoi An Ancient Town is unique for the diverseness of its architectural influences. Following your guide’s lead, make your way through the charming flower-lined pedestrian streets where expert tailors, homemade silk producers ploy their trade. Stop at some of the famous landmarks in the town such as Chua Ong Pagoda, which was built in honour of Chinese general Quan Cong in 1653 and is today worshipped as a symbol of loyalty and justice. Next, stop by the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and take a look at Jinshang Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and protector of sailors. Then, walk to the 200-year old Tan Ky Ancestral House. Wind down your highlights walking tour of Hoi An at the 17th century Japanese Covered Bridge. This beautifully constructed bridge doubles as a temple and is easily the most photographed landmark of Hoi An. As the sun approaches the horizon, then set off on a relaxing boat ride up the Thu Bon River and get a glimpse at the ebb and flow of life along this picturesque tributary. Afterwards, head back to your hotel for an early night in or continue enjoying the riverside vibe.
Day 5: Hoi An cooking class
After a refreshing night’s sleep, pay a visit to the local produce market for a look at all of the fresh ingredients used in Central Vietnamese cuisine before cruising along the Thu Bon River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Here you will tour the school’s herb gardens to learn more about the ingredients involved in creating the dramatic flavours involved with local cuisine. Your chef and instructor will then walk you through some of the closely-guarded secrets on how to create traditional Hoi An food. Then, put your newfound knowledge and skills to the test whilst attempting to recreate traditional favourites such as 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. Then, enjoy the fruits of your labour and enjoy your own cooking alongside a glass of wine or local beer. Afterwards, head back to your hotel and enjoy your food coma before embarking on yet another food adventure.
Starting late in the afternoon set off on a culinary adventure in Hoi An to discover the flavours and dishes that make this coastal town unique. Alongside an expert local guide, your journey introduces you to the stories behind Hoi An’s most iconic dishes at the town’s most famous eateries.
Start your tour at a local restaurant famous for white rose dumplings, found exclusively in Hoi An. Sit back and enjoy the wonder of the locals working here, who churn out up to 6000 of these dumplings every day! Your visit here includes a chance to try making a few of your own dumplings before sampling a few.
Down a nearby alley, depart the dumpling shop and head onward to another local specialty: banh can crackers. Served with quail eggs, pork and a tasty salad, this dish is a highlight of Hoi An street food culture. Pull a small street-side stool and enjoy with your guide.
Continue onward to sample grilled pork satay and spring roll at a local restaurant. Next up is fried wonton - lovingly referred to as “Hoi An pizza” - and finally famous Cao Lau noodle or chicken rice. Wrap up the tour with a stop at Sky Coffee Bar, a local favourite haunt within the Hoi An Museum. Chat with your guide over a beverage here before heading back to your hotel for a good night’s rest.
Day 6: Hoi An - Fly to Ho Chi Minh city - Evening street food tour
After an early breakfast, meet with your guide and head to the mouth of the Thu Bon River by shuttle van. Upon arrival you’ll board a shared boat and cruise to the confluence of the river and the Cua Dai Sea. Here you’ll witness the daily ritual of the local fishing fleet returning at sun rise. With traditions passed down from through generations of fishing, it’s the perfect opportunity to witness traditional Vietnamese coastal culture –and also a great opportunity to take amazing photos! Afterwards, visit a local fishing market and help local fishermen take fish out of their nets. Then, take part in a unique experience while learning how to paddle a strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat known as thung chai. Wrapping up an early and eventful morning, get back onto your boat and enjoy a coffee and complimentary traditional fisherman’s breakfast prepared by the captain of the boat. Then, head back to your hotel to freshen up and pack your things before setting off to the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City!
After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, your guide will take you to your hotel. Take this chance to drop off your things and relax a bit before heading off again. Your guide will meet you at your hotel take you to the city’s Central Post Office for the start of your city tour. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Central Post Office was designed by the renowned French architect Gustav Eiffel. Afterwards, head to the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic landmark built between 1863 and 1880 by the same architect. Admired for the grandness of 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. After enjoying the scenery, arrive at the Saigon Opera House, a commanding and iconic building completed in 1901. Shelled during World War II, it was used to shelter French citizens fleeing North Vietnam in 1954, the year Vietnam won independence from France.
The tour continues with a stop at the Reunification Palace, where a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gates in 1975 to end a war that killed an estimated 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese. You will also visit the War Remnants Museum, where Vietnam’s government has assembled presentations - some of them graphic - of wartime hardships and atrocities that serve as a cautionary tale about the tribulations of war.
After exploring the architectural highlights of the city, the tour takes a culinary turn early in the evening. Head to the downtown area and dive into the heart of the city’s culinary scene. Walk along small alleys, and see the streets come alive at night. With the help of our guide, try some weird and wonderful foods and also see how they’re made. Pull up a stool and taste a selection of different Vietnamese favourites. Begin with a unique rice paper pizza, then enjoy some banh beo or water from cakes, try some fresh snail dishes, and savour a Vietnamese pancake known as banh xeo. End the night with dessert from one of Saigon’s little places for sweet soups before either heading back to your hotel or exploring some of the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Day 7: Mekong Delta Le Jarai cruise
After getting a good night’s sleep, depart from your hotel in the morning and drive approximately two hours to Ben Tre. Here, you will board a small boat to start your sightseeing around the waterways of the Mekong Delta. Known also as the rice bowl of Vietnam because of its large rice production, the area has also diversified into activities related to aquaculture, rearing of animals, cash crops and fruit trees.
Visit a brick factory and board a small boat for a wander through the canals and waterways of the area. Along the way, stop at a small homemade coconut processing plant to see how coconuts have been turned into oil, candy and woven mats that are later sold in the market. After the boat trip you will have a short walk to a local village to see mat weavers at work. Then, jump on the delta’s version of a tuk-tuk and travel down country roads to the pier. Here you will board a beautiful teak boat, the Le Jarai, and continue your cruise along the river. While on board, join in the demonstration of Vietnamese cooking before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialties. After lunch, relax on the top deck and take in the scenery back to Ben Tre where, on arrival, you will be transferred back to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving late in the afternoon. Spend the evening at your leisure either exploring the city’s nightlife or relaxing at your hotel.
Day 8: Fly to Bangkok - Evening street eats by Tuk Tuk
Meet with your guide in the morning and be transferred to the airport for your flight to Bangkok. Upon arrival your guide will meet you at the airport and give you a private transfer to your hotel. After checking in, take some time to relax at your hotel before heading out to explore the city.
After meeting with your guide, embark from BTS National Stadium Station on an exciting tuk tuk ride through Bangkok’s vibrant streets. Stroll along Phetchburi Soi 10, where food carts spring up as the day turns from evening to night, and sample delicious street eats such as skewered sausages and Thai-style grilled meat. From there, continue via tuk tuk to Saphan Khao Market, where you can sample from the vast array of fried fish-paste balls. Travel next to Phra Athit Road to encounter Bangkok’s Roti expert and sample incredible Thai-Indian cuisine, from freshly-baked Roti to uniquely flavourful curries. Indulge your taste buds at Bangkok’s most famous Pad Thai restaurant, enjoying the explosion of spicy and savoury flavours and the amazing variety of textures from the delicate noodles and crunchy peanuts. Take a short break from eating to visit the majestic Wat Pho after dark, where you can enjoy the temple’s sparkling golden towers beautifully lit up and marvel at the sight of the magnificent Reclining Buddha. Sip on a refreshing cocktail at the Eagle Nest Bar in Sala Arun Hotel as you take in splendid views of the Chao Phraya River. Later, stroll through Pak Klong Talat, Thailand’s largest flower market, which only operates overnight. End the night on a sweet note with mango sticky rice before the tuk tuk carries you back to your hotel. Be sure to get a good night’s rest to prepare you for the eventful day ahead.
Day 9: Bangkok cooking class
Beginning early in the morning, start your day with a sampling hot congee, a favourite breakfast long enjoyed by Chinese immigrants to Thailand. Then, visit the architecturally stunning Wat Traimit and the glistening Golden Buddha within, and encounter the fascinating history behind Chinese migration to Thailand. Discover local Chinese businesses, shops and temples as you trek along Yaowarat Road, through Bangkok’s centuries-old Chinatown neighbourhood. Along the route, enliven your senses with tastes of traditional foods brought by the Chinese, including moon cake and chestnuts. Enjoy the colourful buildings and rich history found at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, the most important Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok.
Next, head to Bang Pai Thai Cooking school for a culinary learning experience. Learn how to make some of Thailand’s most iconic dishes such as Green Chicken Curry, Tom Yum Kung, Pad Thai and much more during a fun and hands-on workshop in a traditional Thai house. Considered to be one of the best cooking schools in Bangkok, here your cooking skills will be encouraged with a hands-on experience that incorporates traditional techniques and essential knowledge of Thai cuisine all together. After sitting down to sample some of your own creations, be sure to pick up a recipe book on your way out just in case you forget anything you learnt.
Afterwards, head back to your hotel with a full stomach and spend the rest of the day at your leisure: either relax at your hotel or head out for some independent exploration.
Day 10: Bangkok floating market - Fly to Chiang Mai
After a good night’s rest, make an early-morning escape from Bangkok in search of the peculiar ‘Maeklong Railway Market', a market that makes its home right on a railway! Explore stalls stocked with fresh produce, souvenirs and accessories for shopping - although this isn’t what makes this market unique. The train rolls slowly through eight times per day, just inches away from goods for sale on the ground. It makes for an interesting and photogenic spectacle that you won’t soon forget!
Afterwards, hit the road again for the day’s second market - this time not on the train tracks - but on the water. Damnoen Saduak is one of the most famous floating markets in Thailand. Take in the vibrant sights, sounds and smells of this iconic place as you explore it by food and longtail boat. Then, head back Bangkok, grab your things, and be transferred to the airport for your flight to Chiang Mai.
Upon arrival you’ll be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel for a brief respite before heading out to explore Chiang Mai on a unique culinary experience. On an evening journey blending cultural and culinary discovery, get a taste of northern Thailand’s unique flavours. Under a blanket of stars, head out into Chiang Mai’s culinary heart, stopping first at a collection of food stalls frequented by hungry locals after the sun sets. Make sure to sample some of the locals’ favourites here - Thai curry fish cake, sticky rice with pork and crispy fried munch! After getting your fill, follow your guide into a small nearby alley leading to a sleepier residential area, and pick up a refreshing fruit shake along the way.
Wander further on until arriving at Wat Chedi Luang, a 15th Century stupa that looks its most mysterious and beautiful in the moonlight. Sample some famous Thai noodles here before heading to another of Chiang Mai’s most famous food streets, this time for a taste of pork skewers, pork leg with rice and coconut desserts. Afterwards, hop on board a local truck and zip off to a hidden bar that’s well-known with local night owls. Wrap up your culinary journey with a refreshing drink and a chat with your guide before heading back to your hotel for a good night’s rest.
Day 11: Pantara Elephant farm - Dinner with a local family
Departing from your hotel early in the morning, make your way to Patara Elephant Farm for a day of mahout training and bonding with the resident elephants. Change into your mahout outfit and enjoy a brief presentation about elephant care and how best to interact with elephants. Learn about elephant farm management and Patara Farm’s breeding program before having a chance to meet the elephants themselves! Practice approaching the elephants and take them to the river for their morning bath before enjoying a trek aboard the elephants through the jungle. Visit pristine waterfalls and a local temple, all while getting a feel of the environment that your new pachyderm friend calls home. Feast on a delicious picnic lunch and enjoy a swim with the elephants beneath a waterfall before returning to camp. Then, bid farewell to your lumbering friend before being transferred back to your hotel in Chiang Mai.
After taking a break, get to the heart of the true, authentic Thai cuisine by joining a host family for a traditional, home-cooked meal. In this evening tour, get picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai in the late afternoon and transferred to San Ton Pao Village in the San Sai district. Here, meet your host family as part of the Home Hosted Meals program. This fantastic cultural exchange program turns strangers into friends over gourmet meals cooked by travellers and local hosts. Each gaining insight into the other’s culture as they share and enjoy meals together.
First, enjoy some herbal juice after your arrive. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted with some refreshing herbal juice. Then, the evening will commence with you providing assistance to host family as they prepare food. The meal you prepare together is authentically northern Thai and is served on a footed tray known as a “Khantoke.” Help prepare the area for dinner and then enjoy the tastes and smells of the freshly-cooked food with your host family. While you dine together, learn about the daily life, culture and traditions of your host family. This is a great opportunity to learn and interact with locals in an informal, relaxing way. After being made full of delicious food, new friends and heart-warming memories, head back to your hotel in Chiang Mai and enjoy the rest of the night at your leisure.
Day 12: Chiang Mai city tour - Fly to Phuket - Phuket street food tour
Beginning early in the morning meet with your guide and head to Tha Pae Gate to explore the charming city of Chiang Mai without leaving a carbon footprint - ride on a traditional Rickshaw, which has been used in Thailand for over 60 years. These three-wheeled bikes continue to be an useful mode of transportation in the city, used by visitors and locals alike. From the vantage point of a rickshaw, ride leisurely through the colourful narrow streets towards Wat Puak Tam Community. Walk around this unique artisan village, where they make beautiful brass ornaments and regalia. Look out for the detailed golden parasols found in many Southeast Asian temples. Learn the story behind a unique local restaurant also known as Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution. Enjoy a Thai snack served by female prisoners who use their time to learn skills that will improve their quality of life after being released. Then, head to Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai and enjoy the spectacular Buddhist art found here. Afterwards, wander through the bustling local food stalls of Waroros Market and end the tour with fruit tasting at this lively spot before being transferred back to your hotel.
Freshen up and be transferred to the airport for your flight to Phuket. Upon arrival you’ll be brought to your hotel where you can drop your bags before heading out again.
Meet with your guide and get a taste of Phuket’s best street food fare on a whirlwind culinary primer of southern Thai food, stopping by foodie haunts only the locals know. With your local guide’s lead, follow a winding path through the city to stop for a selection of tasty snacks, street food stalls and famous local restaurants. Along the way, see some of the area’s cultural highlights by night - including the famous Khao Rang Hill Viewpoint and the LED-lit Talang Road! Your tour includes a sampling of items like coconut cake, pork or chicken skewers, boiled rice and mango sticky rice, among plenty of other local favourites! After filling up on local snacks, head back to your hotel and get a good night’s rest or take advantage of the next day’s late start and explore the famed nightlife of downtown Phuket.
Day 13: Chalong Bay Rum Distillery tour
Meet with your guide in the afternoon and head to Chalong Bay Rum Distillery. Tour the facility and learn from an expert rum distiller how award-winning natural rum is sustainably produced from Thai sugarcane. Check out the traditional French copper still and see the bottling plant in action. Then, sample the distillery’s signature ingredient, Chalong Bay Rum, and try your hand at bartending. Finally, learn how to make three impressive cocktails in a group bartending workshop before finally tasting your creations accompanied with sumptuous snack. Then, head back to your hotel for a relaxing night or head back out again to explore the island.
Day 14: Free day in Phuket
Sleep in at your leisure or wake up early –it’s your choice! Enjoy a full day in Phuket to explore the island at your leisure. Check out some of the island’s greatest temples on a Phuket City tour, stopping to take a photo at some of the island’s best view points. Sample some delicious street food and pop into the shops and cafes along the way. If you’re feeling really adventurous, stop in at a Thai cooking class, where you’ll be able to eat the traditional meals you make, take a fruit carving course or, if you like, do nothing at all and just relax by the edge of a pool!
Day 15: Depart Phuket
This is the end of your epic culinary adventure! Meet with your guide in the morning and transfer from your hotel to Phuket Airport and head back to Bangkok.