Begin and end in Hanoi, with overnight excursions to Ninh Binh and charming Haiphong, plus artisinal craft villages along the way. TOUR PRICE
Monday 3 April, 2017. Day 1
- Arrive Hanoi
Welcome to the capital of Vietnam. You will be personally met at the airport then transported to our 5-star hotel. As flights arrive at various times, we have not scheduled any specific activities today, outside of airport transfers. Depending on flight arrival times, we may offer an optional dinner tonight.
Tuesday 4 April, 2017. Day 2
- Meet the Chef, Market Tours & Cooking Class
Please meet us early this morning at the hotel’s lobby restaurant, as we’ve booked a group table for breakfast this morning to introduce everyone. Just look for the Globetrotting Gourmet sign. On all other mornings, breakfast can be a private affair, or with your new group friends. Your choice!
We’ve planned a very special foodie introduction to Hanoi! Our first stop, meeting celebrity chef Didier Corlou and his world of spices, then travel to nearby Hom market for typical breakfast fare and local foodstuffs. Wear good walking shoes that suit wet surfaces. Followed by a cooking class and lunch, learning the basics of Vietnamese cookery. Time permitting, St. Joseph’s cathedral, built in 1886 and one of the first French colonial buildings constructed by the government in Indochina. It is the oldest church in Vietnam. Remaining afternoon at leisure.
Bia hoi is Vietnam’s famous ‘fresh beer’ made without preservatives and must be drunk within a day, lest it sour. Typical dinner to accompany dishes include grilled skewered meats, sweetened peanuts, fried corn and tofu, cured pork. It’s all great fun, and very authentic, but simple and rustic. If you opt out tonight, you’ll have an opportunity to taste Vietnamese “pub fare” again, in Haiphong.
Wednesday 5 April, 2017. Day 3
- Hanoi, Pho & More Pho
- Water Puppets
- Cha ca
Save room at breakfast today for our “Pho Crawl.” We ride off to taste a progression of pho restaurants– the ubiquitous noodle soup and arguably Hanoi’s and Vietnam’s most celebrated dish. Chef Didier Corlou calls it “the best soup in the world.” We contend you can’t learn the difference between a good, fair and poor pho until you taste them back-to-back — which is what we do! And surprisingly, you’ll discover today that Pho means more than just noodles in a broth.
We first sample Hanoi’s top beef pho, here ordered with a combination of both raw and cooked brisket. Later try a very special chicken pho ga ta, which is an expensive variant using small chicken instead of standard fowl.
This morning also includes Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and a stroll through local markets.
We end up drinking a cup of Vietnam’s famous ca-phe fin, espresso-strength coffee that slowly drips through individual filters. We finish near our hotel for a “dry pho”.
In the late afternoon regroup for Hanoi’s famed water puppet theatre. We’ll also try the famed dried beef papaya salad as a pre-theatre snack. Afterwards, dine at one of Hanoi’s signature restaurants, the humble but delicious Cha Ca and its turmeric fried fish with fresh dill.
Thursday 6 April, 2017. Day 4
- Hanoi to Hoa Lu
- Trang An Grotto
- Ninh Binh
After a leisurely morning, head south to Vietnam’s first capital: the city of Nin Binh and nearby Tam Cok grottoes and Hoa Lu, the latter nicknamed “Halong Bay without the water.” Here, limestone crags rise steeply from the valley floor onto beautiful scenic gorges. We board small coracles (similar to sampans) to sail along the waterways. As Hoa Lu was the former 10th century capital of Vietnam, we’ll also stop at the two citadels of Le Dai Hanh Dinh Tien Hoang temple, restored in the 17th century, and time permitting Dinh Tien Hoang. A simple lunch enroute, then continue to to Ninh Binh for overnight lodgings.
Feel free to leave any excess (locked) bags behind at concierge, as we return to our hotel at end of tour.
Ninh Binh region is a powerhouse for embroidery crafts, and consequently you will be offered many from local vendors.
Friday 7 April, 2017. Day 5
- Nam Dinh
- Tam Coc
- Red River Delta
After breakfast, Pho Minh Pagoda. Lording over it is the elegant Pho Minh Tower, a 14-storey high pointer to history – and mystery. Built in the 13th Hung Long Year of the Reign of King Tran Anh Tong (1305), it holds an ages-old riddle: how has a 700-tonne edifice built on marshland managed not to sink? Then drive to Nam Dinh for lunch, followed its famous Pho Minh Pagoda, dating before the 13th century. Then to another regional speciality, Cay Cake from nearby Nguyen Xa village, and Keo Pagoda (Chua Keo) with its finely carved wooden bell tower dating to the 12th century, and considered a masterpiece of Vietnamese architecture. Time permitting, Phat Diem cathedral, unique for its Sino Vietnamese architecture.
Onward to Haiphong, Vietnam’s principal seaport and third largest city. Haiphong has the laid-back feel of Hanoi two decades ago, yet scantly visited by overseas tourists. Depending on arrival time, we will visit before check-in Du Hang Pagoda, founded 3 centuries ago, although rebuilt rebuild several times. It is a good example of traditional Vietnamese architectural style. Dinner is at a popular (and extremely good) bia hoi eatery, adjoining the brewery — and our favourite! Bia hoi is Vietnam’s famous ‘fresh beer’ made without preservatives and must be drunk within a day, lest it sour. It’s all great fun, and very authentic. Better yet — we’ll host you side-by-side tastings of bia hoi and bia tuoi, or standard draft beer. (All beer included tonight.)
Saturday 8 April, 2017. Day 6
- Red River Delta
Save room this morning for our movable feast, as we walk through Haiphong’s colonial streets and markets. First stop: Banh da Cua crab and noodle soup. Embellished with thick rice noodles, fish cakes and pork dumpling, this local specialty is a hearty meal in itself, especially when accompanied by strong ca-phe phin. From here, walk through Haiphong’s central market, and finally Cua Dat Street, and its array of pastries and fancy cakes. Stop for tea and pastry, including the most delicious moon cake we’ve ever tasted! You’ll be surprised by its delicious combination of candied fruit and sweetened pork mince. Shop windows to pastry kitchens allow you unhindered viewing of extravagant cake decorating. Drive by the city’s grandiose opera house.
On the way back to Hanoi a tea break to sample Hai Duong village’s specialty green bean cake. Stop at craft village Dong Ho woodblock and paper making village, famed for its hand-painted prints. Of unique interest, a luminescent gouache is applied to hand made paper, made from oyster shells and ground sticky rice. Time permitting, Bat Trang, specializing in ceramics, and made the same way for hundreds of years. Return to Hanoi and check in. Remaining evening free.
Sunday 9 April, 2017. Day 7
- Hanoi, Cooking Class
We go back to school on our final morning! Australian Tracy Lister has long resided in Hanoi, and is author of two cookbooks, plus proprietor of a cooking school. Class starts at 9 am, and finishes just after lunch, leaving you plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the city on your own.
Visit some of the city’s museums – we especially like its Museum of Ethnology — plus there’s so many historic sites to visit. So get out your guide book, and plan away. In the Old Quarter there are 36 trade streets, each specializing in an individual craft. We can also supply you with a private guide this afternoon (or on subsequent days if you stay longer) to help you plan your shopping and stops, using taxis and public transport.
Tonight’s gala dinner is at Didier Corlou’s prestigious Le Verticale restaurant. The chef will meet us pre-dinner to introduce us to his spice cuisine (you will love the restaurant’s shop at entrance), then he prepares a chef’s choice menu especially for our group.
HANOI: Monday 10 April, 2017. Day 8
After hotel breakfast, we’ve arranged your private airport transfers. Your room is guaranteed until 12 noon. For those continuing to the optional Ha Long Bay trip, please be checked out before 08:00 am for your transfers to the sea.TOUR PRICE