Vietnam Culinary Tour – Join Us on a Vietnam Food Adventure

Our Vietnam Culinary Tour will explore the regional cuisines of Vietnam, from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and the Mekong Delta in the south, Hoi An and Hue in Central Vietnam, to Hanoi and the mountain food of Sapa and Bac Ha in the north. We’d love you to come discover Vietnamese cuisine with us.

UPDATE July 2017: our June-July 2017 tour has ended and it was absolutely wonderful. Read about it in this post and our most recent stories filed under ‘Vietnam‘. We are currently looking at dates for our next Vietnam Culinary Tour. If you are interested in joining us, sign up for our newsletter, leave a comment below or email us.

Don’t miss out! We have a limited number of spots left on our small group 22-day Vietnam Culinary Tour (21 June-12 July 2017) taking in Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Dalat, Hoi An, Hue, Sapa and Bac Ha, with an optional 2-night Halong Bay cruise at the end. Scroll through the images above for inspiration and scroll down for details and prices.

Our epic 22-day Vietnam Culinary Tour will transport you from cosmopolitan Saigon (4 days) and the lush waterways of the Mekong Delta (1 day) via the fertile hill station of Dalat (1 day) to the enchanting ancient town of Hoi An (4 days) and the imperial city of Hue (3 days) on the Perfume River. You’ll explore atmospheric Hanoi (3 days) and absorb the colour, culture and cuisine of Sapa (2 days) and Bac Ha (1 day), before returning to Hanoi for your flight home or winding up the trip with a relaxing Halong Bay cruise (2 nights/days) through breathtaking limestone karsts and islands.

We’ll be travelling with Vietnam Airlines between several destinations, private luxury vans between others, and we’ll do a jaw-dropping leg on the north-south Reunification Express train between Danang and Hue, and a memorable overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai for Sapa. All domestic flights, trains and other transport are included in the price.

Need further inspiration? See Terence’s beautiful time-lapse of dancing boats at sunset in Hoi An. Click through to read the testimonials of participants who have done our Cambodia culinary tours and travel and food writing and photography retreats and feedback from clients of our bespoke trips. Click through to this post to find out why Ho Chi Minh City is still called Saigon.

Vietnam Culinary Tour – Join Us on a Vietnam Food Adventure in June 2017!

When a few of the lovely participants who did our Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats in 2016 asked us to host a Vietnam Culinary Tour this year, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to escort such fun food-loving people through one of our favourite countries.

When we lived in Vietnam, before we moving to Cambodia, we fell head over heels in love with the country, its cuisine, culture, and people, which was fortunate seeing it was food and travel stories for Feast, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, The Guardian, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, Silkwinds, Ocean, and Lifestyle+Travel among other publications, that took us there in the first place.

We covered everything from Hoi An’s specialty dishes, including its legendary cau lao noodles and famous chilli sauce to Hanoi’s beloved bia hoi and contemporary art scene, and beguiling Halong Bay, where we got to compare different cruises.

It was only seven months, but I say ‘lived’ because we rented an apartment in Hanoi (on Food Street) for a few months, where Terence shopped the local markets each day, and we made ourselves at home in Hoi An for another few months, where we became smitten with the little old ladies in the markets as much as the pups of Hoi An.

We took cooking classes, did street food tours, shopped the markets, cooked Vietnamese cuisine, and generally enjoyed the bounty of fantastic fresh produce on our doorstep. We made friends and settled in, especially in Hoi An, which we thought would be the place we’d be calling home now. It was our time there that made us realise how much we enjoyed the intimacy of small towns compared to big cities, which is what drew us to Siem Reap over Phnom Penh.

So we’re super excited to be hosting this Vietnam Culinary Tour and especially delighted that some of our participants from our previous Cambodia trips have signed up. We know we’re going to have a memorable time and we hope you’ll join us too.

Our approach will be the same as the Cambodia trips we host, which is in line with our Grantourismo philosophy of going slow, local and experiential. This means you can expect:

  • insider perspectives – thanks to our Vietnam experience and our carefully chosen Vietnam guides and local experts, from chefs to street food operators;
  • local insights – you’ll visit local spots that we know and love, along with places that our local hosts who live in the destinations frequent;
  • engaging and immersive experiences – hands-on cooking classes, market tastings, street food tours, history and architecture walks, farm visits, coffee appreciation classes, wine tastings, and more;
  • a relaxed vibe – our trips feel more like well-organised holidays with new friends than tours with travel companies;
  • slow pace – we cram in a lot, but at a comparatively slower pace to most tour companies because we want you to have a deeper rather than a superficial experience – when most travel companies spend two days in a place, we’ll take four;
  • responsible and sustainable travel – we use local guides and small businesses and, wherever possible, NGO/charity-ran workshops, social enterprises, and hospitality training restaurants.

Vietnam Culinary Tour 2017 – Highlights

These are some of the tantalising experiences that we have planned for you:

  • in-depth hands-on cooking classes at the very best cooking schools, including Chef Luke Nguyen’s GRAIN cooking school (with optional wine pairing) in Saigon; full day class at Hoi An’s Red Bridge Cooking School, with a visit to Tra Que organic herb gardens and a boat cruise back to Hoi An; authentic heritage dishes at a home in Hue; lessons in cooking the cuisine of Hanoi and the Northern Highlands at cookbook writer Tracey Lister’s Hanoi Cooking Centre; dessert making with a legendary Hanoi street food vendor specialising in sweets; and cooking with women from the Hmong ethnic minority group in Sapa.
  • mouthwatering ambles through lively local markets and delicious street food tours with lots of snacking led by local experts in Saigon, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Bac Ha.
  • street food feasting at authentic local spots for breakfast, lunch and snacks in every destination – from the best pho and bun cha places in Hanoi to Hoi An’s beloved banh mi spots, which we used to eat at almost every day, including the Banh Mi Queen’s heavenly banh mi op la and Vietnam’s finest banh mi at Banh Mi Phuong, a local favourite that Anthony Bourdain made famous;
  • memorable meals at some of Vietnam’s finest restaurants with the chance to meet the chefs and owners behind these establishments;
  • visits to artisanal producers to observe traditional processes, including an opportunity to witness noodle-making by the family responsible for Hoi An’s legendary cao lau noodles (followed by a tasting tour to sample Hoi An’s finest noodles) and the chance to see the making of Hoi An’s illustrious chili sauce;
  • village and countryside experiences to get a taste of rural life, including a day exploring the lush waterways of the Mekong Delta, a visit to an organic farm in the rice fields outside Hoi An, and tours of tea and coffee plantations, fruit orchards, (fried) cricket farm, rice spirit distillery, and wineries in the former French-colonial hill station of Dalat;
  • coffee appreciation tour in Hanoi taking in historic coffee shops and arty cafés, sampling everything from the traditional ca phe sua da to the famous creamy egg coffee;
  • evenings spent in local ‘bia hoi’ joints sampling Hanoi’s beloved ‘fresh’ beer and drinking snacks, such as delicious fried tofu with salt and pepper sauce;
  • a fun Vietnamese language lesson on the first day of the trip so that you become confident in using very basic greetings and are exposed to some food-focused vocabulary;
  • tours with locals on foot and by cyclo, bike and boat in every destination, taking in Saigon’s elegant opera house, splendid post office and handsome Notre Dame Cathedral; Hoi An’s ancient houses, Japanese covered bridge and incense-filled Chinese temples; Hue’s Imperial City, royal tombs and pagodas, and Perfume River; and Hanoi’s atmospheric Old Quarter, splendid French-colonial architecture, serene Temple of Literature, and striking communist monuments, including Ho Chi Min’s colossal mausoleum;
  • cultural experiences, from an enchanting ca tru concert to visits to superb museums, including Saigon’s sobering and often heartbreaking War Remnants Museum and vintage Reunification Palace; Danang’s splendid Museum of Cham Sculpture, home to the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world; and Hanoi’s magnificent Ethnology Museum, which showcases the intriguing customs and culture and colourful costumes and handicrafts of Vietnam’s many indigenous groups;
  • downtime, some of which we recommend you reserve for shopping: retro communist kitsch, and stylish fashion and accessories in Saigon; edible souvenirs, such as dried fruits, preserves, coffee, and wine in Dalat; lanterns, lacquerware, coconut wood utensils, and chili sauce at Hoi An; silk and embroidery in Hanoi, and hill tribe handicrafts and textiles in Sapa and Bac Ha;
  • memorable stays in hotels with character – expect anything from a colonial-era heritage hotel that oozes history to a stylish boutique hotel with spa;
  • a taste of Vietnam train travel, from the epic journey from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Hanoi on the Reunification Express, which runs the length of the country – we’ll ride the Danang to Hue section – to an overnight sleeper from Hanoi to Lao Cai for Sapa.

Vietnam Culinary Tour – Prices

Returning participants discount for our 22-day Vietnam Culinary Tour US$3,664 pp*
To book pay US$500 non-refundable deposit by 31 March and US$3,164 balance by 30 April (3 spots only at this rate)

Early bird discount US$3,964 pp*
To book pay US$500 non-refundable deposit by 12 May and US$3,464 balance by 19 May (4 spots only at this rate)

Just in time bookings US$4,164pp*
To book pay US$500 non-refundable deposit and US$3,664 balance up to one week before departure

*Price includes the inclusions below for single occupancy in a double room, which is what most of our participants prefer. If you’d like to share a room with someone please get in touch for twin occupancy rates.

Vietnam Culinary Tour – Inclusions

  • All accommodation and daily breakfasts
  • Almost all lunches (sometimes these are part of street food tours/cooking classes)
  • Almost all dinners
  • Countless snacks and tastings (sometimes these are part of market walks and street food tours)
  • Three domestic flights – Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)-Dalat, Dalat-Danang, Hue-Hanoi
  • All airport transfers for international and domestic flights
  • One train trip in soft seats from Danang to Hue and one overnight train in a sleeper compartment from Hanoi to Lao Cai for Sapa/Bac Ha
  • All train station transfers
  • Transport between destinations by private air-conditioned mini-buses
  • Transport within cities – taxis, cyclos, bicycles, etc
  • English-speaking Vietnamese guides
  • Tips for volunteer student guides
  • All cooking classes, language lessons, street food tours, walking tours, and other activities, except where indicated for optional activities
  • All entrance fees, except where indicated for optional activities
  • Your private host (Lara)

*Note that domestic flights can only be assured if participants pay in full on time. In the event that payments are not received on time we may need to reschedule a flight, adjust the itinerary and/or replace a flight with overland transport.

Vietnam Culinary Tour – Exclusions

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance –compulsory. We recommend World Nomads.
  • Visa – check here to see whether you need a visa and what kind of visa you need, then click here to arrange your own visa; it’s easy, can be done online and only takes a few days. Note that you will still need to pay a ‘stamping fee’ (US$ recommended) at the airport (fees are listed here) and you will need to bring passport photos etc so read the information carefully.
  • Drinks, water and alcohol, except where indicated
  • Personal expenses – mini-bar, laundry, calls, room service, etc
  • Tips for professional guides and drivers – at your discretion
  • Expenses during free time/optional activities – eg. taxis, extra snacks/meals/drinks etc
  • Meals/activities indicated as ‘optional’ or ‘at your own expense’

Halong Bay Cruise Optional Add-On

We’ve included an optional post-Vietnam Culinary Tour 3-day/2-night Halong Bay cruise in the 22-day itinerary above to take in the jade waters, clusters of craggy islets, and dramatic limestone karsts and schist outcrops of this breathtaking area. If you do not wish to do this, let us know.

Activities will include a cooking class, a boat trip to a floating village, and early morning tai chi. Or you can simply relax in a sun-lounger on the rooftop deck of the boat and absorb the breathtaking panoramas. So far, all participants have signed up for this.

2 night/3 day cruise Halong Bay Cruise

Premium Cabin with French balcony $355 pp
Deluxe Cabin with window, no balcony $325 pp

Halong Bay Cruise – Inclusions

  • Land transport Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hanoi (modern, comfortable bus with A/C)
  • Welcome drink
  • Deluxe en-suite cabin with A/C, hot water
  • All meals on boat
  • English speaking tour guide on board
  • Kayaking or cruise on bamboo boat to floating villages (optional)
  • Entrance & sightseeing fees
  • Cooking class (demonstration)
  • Tai Chi (optional)
  • Insurance, taxes and service charges
  • Free Hanoi walking tour

Halong Bay Cruise – Exclusions

  • Beverages, tips & personal expenses
  • Massage (optional)

To obtain a comprehensive itinerary and payment details and to book spots on our Vietnam Culinary Tour or express interest future tours, email us at info@grantourismotravels.com. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below or email us on the address above.

Vietnam Visa on Arrival

Travelling to Vietnam? Click through to arrange your Vietnam Visa on Arrival through our Visa Partner, the most respected Vietnam Visa agent. Visa approval letters take just 2 business days, although urgent visas can be arranged in as little as 4 working hours and up to 1 working day. More visa information here.

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  1. Bob

    Your culinary trips to Cambodia and Vietnam sounds wonderful! I just did my first 42 day trip to SE Asia in Feb/March of this year. So I did the Mekong Delta, Saigon, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay. Will you ever have tours that don’t duplicate what many, as have I, have already seen? Not necessarily those cities, but the most common sites that we visit for the first time. Also, aren’t these two countries VERY hot and humid in June when you visit? Bob

  2. Lara Dunston

    Hi Bob,

    They are wonderful! You should join us some time! However, I’m definitely not duplicating what others are doing. What we do is very different to what the mainstream tour companies do. We approach places as travel/food writers would, and, as we’ve lived in some of these places (Siem Reap is our home; we used to live in Hanoi and Hoi An) as insiders, and the choices we make are rooted in our ‘slow, local, experiential’ style of travel. So while I may be taking people to the most compelling places that most people visit, their experience of those places is very different. We engage with locals a lot, taking our participants into people’s homes to see how they live and work. We’re experiential in that people get hands-on and do and learn things through cooking classes and street food tours and deeper tours. And we ‘go local’, taking people to more off the beaten track places and doing things that locals would do at the tourist sites.

    June is not as hot as March and April, which are the hottest months of the year – we call them our ‘summer’. From May onwards temperatures drop ever so slightly until ‘winter’ in November, December and January. Being in the tropics, Vietnam and Cambodia are pretty sticky and sultry all year – winter being the exception. And the north, Hanoi and Sapa, are also exceptions – they experience real winters there where you have to wear your woollies. But I think that the heat and the humidity are just part and parcel of life here. Many of us choose to live here because of that weather.

    We recognise that our participants aren’t used to it, so we tend to do things early in the morning and late in the afternoon and have them back at the hotel at the hottest part of the day so they can rest in their air-conditioned room and have swims in the pool. We make sure they always have cold water and cold towels. We also give them ‘welcome kits’, which, among other things, contain fans. So travelling with us is very different to travelling with most tour companies that take travellers out at 9am and keep them out all day until 4pm, which is insane in this weather.

    Come and join us in Cambodia some day and find out for yourself 🙂

  3. Bob

    Hi Lara,

    Thanks for your reply. Oh, your next trip is in Cambodia? Am I on your list to receive trip announcements?
    From what I read, it looks like there is no charge for single supplements?
    You mentioned you do things early in the morning and late in the afternoon and have guests back at the hotel at the hottest part of the day. So there are no tour events in the evenings?
    Regards,
    Bob

  4. Lara Dunston

    Hi Bob – I host Cambodia trips during the monsoonal months throughout the year every year. Details in this post: http://grantourismotravels.com/2016/08/18/cambodia-creative-retreats-culinary-tours/

    You will need to sign up to our newsletter and then you’ll receive emails that announce new dates. However, that post I’ve provided a link for lists all the dates scheduled so far for this year and the first half of 2018. I won’t schedule anything for the second half of 2018 until we know the outcome of the July 2018 election and we see what’s going to happen in Cambodia.

    There are activities all day every day over the 10-day period, with a break for swims, rests, massages, etc, but if we’re doing temple excursions then wherever possible we try to start at the crack of dawn and have people back before noon and then head out again in the late afternoon. However, if it’s an easy day, say a cooking class in Siem Reap, then we’ll start with a morning market tour and then the rest of the class is in air-conditioning or under a fan, depending on which one they do. Or it might be a tuk tuk trundle in the countryside which is breezy. There’s only one walking tour in the heat that we can’t avoid where guests learn about the poverty in Cambodia and interact with villagers, and that’s either at 10am for 2 hours or 3pm for 2 hours, but it’s short so it’s not too bad.

    We always re-group for dinner as food is a big focus, and learning about Cambodian culture through its food, and sometimes we’ll do other activities as well, such as a rice wine tasting and Cambodian cocktail making class or we’ll go to the Phare Cambodian Circus – no animals just incredibly talented young Cambodians performing.

    At the moment we have just 2-3 spots left on average on each trip, so do email me via the site at info@grantourismotravels.com or to my direct email laradunston@icloud.com if you’re interested in joining us on a trip. What we do is very special and you’ll find testimonials from people who’ve done our tripson that link too.


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