If you really want to savour the true taste of Vietnam The Flavours of Vietnam itinerary with leading specialist operator Emperor Tours is the dish of the day!
The tour kicks off in vibrant Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with a cooking class, having selected your ingredients at the local market. In the afternoon your guide will show you some of the many historical sites of this magnificent city.
Next you travel to the Cai Be District and cycle deep in to the Mekong Delta where you’ll soak up the real rhythm of life at the local market. In the afternoon you’ll take a leisurely boat trip along the Cay Da Canal.
The following day there’s an early morning boarding and breakfast aboard the Mystic Mekong cruiser, with an unforgettable river trip to the colourful floating markets of Cai Rang and at Van Kam you’ll cycle through the abundant orchard gardens. In the afternoon its back to Saigon airport and a short flight to Hue.
In Hue your guide will show you the Imperial Citadel and ancient Mandarin village, amongst many other sights, and you’ll visit the Dong Ba market where you’ll be introduced to many typical local foods.
You’ll travel along the Perfume River, visit the Thien Mu Pagoda and its then on to the Hai Van Pass to marvel at the panoramic view of the central coastline. At your destination – Hoi An – your guide will introduce you to some of the many historical monuments in this peaceful UNESCO World Heritage city, where cars and motorbikes are forbidden.
From Hoi An your next destination is capital city Hanoi and a short boat trip to the Cua Dai to see the local fishermen, mangrove forests and coconut trees. You’ll also have a full day sightseeing in the capital including a trip to the maze of bustling streets which make up the Old Quarter.
After Hoi An the pace changes with an overnight cruise on the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay, with its breathtaking 3000 towering limestone islands.
The next morning, after breakfast on board, you’ll disembark for the enchanting and unusual pottery village of Phu Lang. It’s then back to Hanoi and your return flight home.
We begin our private Vietnam guided tour today with departure from London Heathrow for international economy flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
On arrival in this amazing city you will be welcomed by our local guide and privately transferred to your hotel.
The balance of day is free at your own leisure to just relax after your journey or explore on your own.
The morning is devoted to discover the culinary delights of Ho Chi Minh City! Our cooking class begins with a stroll to the market to select your ingredients. Going to the market is also a good chance for you to experience the daily life of the Vietnamese people. After that you will learn to cook some local dishes with the assistance of the chef.
Lunch will give you the opportunity to taste what you have just made and to sample additional dishes prepared by the cooks.
In the afternoon we have time to visit some of the historic sites of the city: including Cho Lon and Thien Hau Pagoda, the former Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, a fine example of French colonial architecture.
Today, you will be taken from Saigon to Cai Thia Canal in Cai Be District, a journey of about 2.5 hours, where you will start your excursion deep into the Mekong Delta area. Feel the daily rhythm of life as well as the peaceful atmosphere by experiencing the many activities which the locals are used to doing, such as taking local ferries to cross small canals and rivers.
We will then begin gentle cycling for about 2 hours on small lanes passing by a local church, local market, a brick kiln and lush orchard gardens. We will make a stop en-route at a local house where you can sample seasonal fruit along with tea and honey and even local wine. By the end of morning, take a boat trip to another local house to enjoy lunch.
Following lunch, experience a leisurely rowboat trip along the small Cay Da canal and further explore the area.
Finally today we transfer to Can Tho by road and check in to our hotel at the end of the afternoon.
This morning we have an early transfer to Ninh Kieu Quay where you will board the Mystic Mekong for a cruise to the lively, colourful floating markets of Cai Rang. Breakfast is available as soon as the sampan departs at 7 am from the Can Tho old market. During breakfast, you can enjoy the scenery of local daily life on the banks comfortably, thanks to the broad view and the spacious accommodation on the Mystic sampan.
After breakfast, the Mystic sampan cruises into the heart of Cai Rang floating market. There you will see a maze of boats loaded with fruits, vegetables or groceries for trading. You may also join the market by calling for fruits or a drink. Leaving the floating market, the Mystic sampan takes you to a husking factory where you have a chance to discover how rough rice is made into white rice in Vietnam. Or we may pay a visit to a local orchard instead for fresh fruits. Then the Mystic cruises back to Can Tho city to arrive at the old market before 10 AM.
Picking up in the late morning upon disembarkation, we continue to Vang Xam where we will start a bike ride along small roads and lanes of the local villages. Discover a lush fruit orchard with more than 50 different types of fruits such as: lansi, pomelo, jackfruit, mandarin… Our guide will invite you to taste some seasonal fruits. Then keep on our journey by bike through small and peaceful paths of the village. You can see daily life of the locals while pedal via the orchard, smithy, nursery….
Take a short rest and enjoy lunch (own expense) before we head directly to Ho Chi Minh Airport (180 km – 4-4.5 hour driving) for a brief 1-hour flight to Hue. Stop en route to visit a Cao Dai Temple, which is distributed to Cao Dai religious in Vietnam.
On arrival in Hue you will be transferred to the hotel for check in.
This morning we pay a visit to the impressive Imperial Citadel of Hue. Following the visit, we will start riding towards Phu Mong village – the ancient village 2 km from the Citadel. This village was the Mandarin’s, with ancient and charming architecture. The guide will briefly explain to you about the history of the village and the design of the houses there. After that, you will continue the ride in the shady and cool atmosphere towards an ancient garden house called Xuan Vien Tieu Cung which is located about 4 km from Hue city. It was built in 1894; however it is preserved intact with a venerable design. This house was originally the residence of Pham Huu Dien (a minister of Rite under the Nguyen dynasty), and has now been passed down to his granddaughter – Mrs Pham Thi Tuy. She is woman who reflects the spirit of the house with her simple beauty, just like that of the Hue women in ancient times. With a cup of green tea, fresh fruits from the garden and stories that are full of humour, you will feel an invisible thread pulling you back from leaving the house and continuing on your bike journey. However, once back on your bikes, you will continue to a nice local restaurant for lunch
In the afternoon, we visit Minh Mang tomb – one of the most beautiful tombs in Hue. Finish your day with a walking tour around Dong Ba Market. Our guide will introduce you some typical local foods of Hue people. It will be a great chance for you to explore and taste the local foods.
In the morning we transfer to the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda. This seven-story is regarded as the unofficial symbol of the city and subject to folk rhymes.
Afterwards we depart for Hoi An via the scenic Hai Van Pass to view one of the most beautiful panoramas in Vietnam as you look out over the central coastline. You will also stop at the quiet, white sandy beach of Lang Co. We will arrive in Hoi An in the afternoon and check in at the hotel. Rest of day at leisure.
The small streets of Hoi An are ideal to wander through and view the shops on foot or on a bike. Cars and motorbikes are forbidden in the entire area, which allows you to peacefully enjoy some of most important sightseeing of Hoian such as Chinese temples, traditional houses, the Japanese bridge and daily active life of local people. Wake up in the early morning with a private guided tour will allow you to further appreciate the true value of this legacy of over 800 historical monuments. The city itself has been listed UNESCO World Heritage. Try some of the local food along the way.
The tour ends with a cup of coffee or tea at Reaching Out – a special tea shop where all the waiters and waitresses are deaf, who are given a chance to have a self-reliant life and integrate into the community by being well trained to be able to work here professionally. A peaceful time for you to enjoy the silence and taste of coffee.
Back to the hotel and the balance of day is free at your own leisure.
In the morning we take a boat trip to Cua Dai (approximately 30 minutes). Upon arrival, you can join the daily activities of the local fishermen. Afterwards, take a coracle (round basket boat) for a tour to the mangrove forest of coconut trees. Disembark at around 10 am and spend the rest of the morning exploring the town.
Later meet up with your guide again for a private transfer to Danang Airport for a brief flight to Hanoi. On arrival you will be welcomed by our guide and transferred to your hotel.
Today we have a full-day tour of Vietnam’s capital city, including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his traditional stilt house and the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature, also known as the First University of Vietnam.
In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Museum of Ethnology to learn about Vietnam’s diverse culture (54 ethnic groups in all). We then take a walking tour to explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Afterwards, you will have a chance to discover the street food of Hanoi under guidance of our local guide. This tour takes 3.5 hours and starts in the late afternoon for dinner. We start the tour at Hanoi’s largest covered market, Dong Xuan. Along the perimeter of the market, dozens of street hawkers sell a staggering variety of produce from live seafood to exotic fruits and spices. Your local guide will give you an insight into the intricacies and traditions of Vietnamese food culture including details on ingredients and historical backgrounds of popular northern dishes. We eat as we go, trying seasonal fruits and sampling a tasty French-inspired snack from a street cart. Walking through the maze of bustling streets that make up Hanoi’s Old Quarter, we tempt our taste buds with the famed Hanoi dish Banh Cuon at a local eatery. Watch in awe as the skilled chefs demonstrate for you how this tasty dish is put together.
Continuing into the atmospheric heart of the Old Quarter, we wander past street stalls and quiet residential lanes where you can observe local life that has changed little since Hanoi was founded over 1000 years ago. Our next two snack stops are at outdoor barbecue stalls. We sit down with the Hanoi locals and sample various meat, vegetable and bread specialities that are flame grilled over hot coals for extra flavour. It is then time for dessert as we venture down a small alley to join in the local tradition of feasting on fresh fruit served in a cup and smothered with crushed iced and condensed milk – this speciality is one not to be missed! Your local guide will then take you to one of Hanoi’s best kept secrets, a hidden cafe with stunning views over the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake. This hard-to-find cafe is one of the few left in the city that still serves egg coffee, a scrumptious local delicacy that we will sample whilst admiring the hustle and bustle of the city centre below. Or, if coffee is not your style, a cold beer awaits! At the end of the trip you are free to continue exploring Hanoi Old Quarter.
After breakfast we leave Hanoi and head straight to Halong bay, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with its 3,000 islands of towering limestone dotting the bay and Gulf of Tonkin.
After arriving at noon, you will board a beautiful junk (ancient Chinese sailing ship) for an overnight cruise on Halong Bay with an excellent menu of fresh seafood. Lunch and dinner will be prepared by the on-board chef and served on the boat.
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy aquamarine water of the bay at its best. After tea break, the boat continues to cruise quietly through spectacular limestone formations of Halong Bay. Enjoy this more isolated bay’s spectacular and unique islands of the bay.
Return to Halong harbour after brunch for a private transfer back to Hanoi. On the way, we make a stop to enjoy the charm and the enigmatic soul of a pottery village, forming the destination of Phu Lang. This enchanting and unusual experience will reveal such a fascinating Vietnam, so out of modern times. Wander the paved streets along Cau River and perhaps practice your hand at pottery, or visit the handicraft workshops of avant-garde artists as well as meet families whose know-how is still passed on from generation to generation.
Sadly we have come to the end of our unique and fascinating tour. It is time to say “tạm biệt” (goodbye) and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Hanoi – 5* Hotel de L’Opera Hanoi (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 5* Indochina Sails (for information click here)
Hoi An – 5* Palm Garden Resort (for information click here)
Hue – 5* La Residence Hotel & Spa (for information click here)
Can Tho – 5* Victoria Can Tho (for information click here)
Saigon – 5* Hotel Des Arts Saigon (for information click here)
Hanoi – 4* Silk Path Hanoi Hotel (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 4* Aphrodite Cruise (for information click here)
Hoi An – 4* Boutique Hoian Resort (for information click here)
Hue – 4* Pilgrimage Village (for information click here)
Can Tho – 4* Nam Bo Boutique Hotel (for information click here)
Saigon – 4* Grand Hotel (for information click here)
Tour Price includes:
Tour Price excludes:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.35 hours direct from London Heathrow to Saigon (Vietnam Airlines Sat-Mon-Wed only) / 12.50 hours direct from Hanoi to London Heathrow (Vietnam Airlines Sun-Tue-Thu-Fri only)
TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).
CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND.
MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.
TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.
VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less.
LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT: Generally Spring and Autumn months – February to April and August to October. The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter.
FESTIVALS: Here are the main Vietnamese festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…
Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February
Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.
Mid Autumn Festival – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar
Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.
Reunification Day – 30th April yearly
Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south
National Independence Day – 2nd September yearly
This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.
Hue Festival – end of April to beginning of May
A biennial festival celebrated in the former imperial capital of Hue, the Hue Festival condenses the best of Hue’s culture into a single week-long festival. Theatre, puppetry, dance, music, and acrobatics will be performed in different places around the city, although most of the activities are conducted around the grounds of former imperial citadel.
Lantern Festival (Hoi An) – 14th day of each lunar month
The festival features many hundreds of colourful lantern lit up throughout the town. The houses and shops are beautifully decorated and activities are often held in the streets and along the Thu Bon River.
Dong Da Festival (Hanoi) – 21st February
The festival celebrates the victory of King Quang Trung who defeated the army of 200,000 Qing dynasty soldiers at Dong Da Hill. A dragon procession, games and martial arts activities are performed to celebrate the strength of the Vietnamese people during this historic victory.
FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits.
Showing anger is seen as a weakness.
Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.
HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.
If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.