Day - 1
Location: Hanoi - Arrive in Hanoi, where you'll be met by a Peregrine representative at the airport and transferred to your hotel. There are no activities planned until an important group meeting in the evening (usually 6pm). Please check the welcome board or reception desk on the ground floor of the hotel for details. Your trip leader will collect your travel insurance details at the meeting, so please bring these with you. Afterwards head out for your first taste of the Hanoi dining scene at one of Hanoi's acclaimed restaurants set in a restored 19th century villa located in the atmospheric Old Quarter.
Day - 2
Location: Hanoi - Start your day with a sunrise walk around Hoan Kiem lake. This is the best way to see the city come to life. Enjoy a truly authentic Hanoi breakfast of pho. This iconic dish has its origins in a village not far from the city and is designed to awaken the senses and prepare you for the day. Embark on a guided half-day tour of Hanoi, visiting the major sights, including the Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda. Sample authentic Vietnamese tea at one of Hanoi’s hidden teahouses (tea plays a major role in Vietnamese culinary culture, and the locals tend to favour light, flower-infused varieties), then take a stroll through Ngo Sy Lien Market for an insight into the ingredients that form the building blocks of Vietnamese cuisine. Late in the afternoon, take a cooking class in northern Vietnamese dishes.
Day - 3
Location: Halong Bay - Drive to Halong Bay (approximately 3 hours). You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag. You will travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where you will board a boat for an exploration of the bay. The scenes of sailing junks navigating scattered limestone islands, are nothing short of spectacular. Visit one of the caves in the area; in the warmer months you can take a swim there. You will also have the opportunity to meet with a fishing family. Cast a net and learn about a traditional way of life that has dominated these parts for centuries. An onboard chef will prepare all your meals (both seafood and non-seafood options are available). A highlight of the cruise is a candlelit dinner under the stars on the top deck of the boat (weather permitting).
Day - 4
Location: Hue - In the morning you will sail back to the port, disembark and drive to Hanoi. Collect your luggage then transfer to the airport to board a mid afternoon flight bound for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. After checking in at the hotel, your leader will take you on an evening orientation walk of the city. Afterwards, choose to relax at the hotel or explore the Hue dining scene. Your trip leader will have a variety of options for dinner.
Day - 5
Location: Hue - Hue is the hub of Vietnam’s historic past. This former imperial capital is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. Satisfy your hunger with a popular dish called bún bò Huế which contains rice vermicelli (bún) and beef (bò). This is a signature of the city. Next take a boat cruise on the Perfume River and witness the Thien Mu Pagoda – the unofficial symbol of the city. The Pagoda is an active Buddhist monastery that dates back to 1601. You will also visit the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc and its beautiful lake, frangipani and pine trees. This evening you are invited to share a meal with a local family in their home. It's a unique chance to partake in everyday local life - and perhaps leave with some secret family recipes.
Day - 6
Location: Hue - Hoi An - After breakfast, visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. Depart for Hoi An, passing through the beautiful Hai Van Pass – a mountainous stretch of highway with views across Lang Co beach. On arrival in Hoi An, a walking tour will take you around the major sites of Hoi An’s charming Old Town, including an historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. You will notice a distinctly Chinese appearance to the pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. In the evening you will be taken on a tour of Hoi An’s impressive culinary scene. Over the course of this staggered dinner you will taste some of the city’s signature dishes in cafes, food stalls, markets and restaurants that are well off the tourist trail.
Day - 7
Location: Hoi An - Today you will delve deeper into central Vietnamese cuisine. Start your morning with a bike ride through the expansive herb gardens located on the outskirts of the city. Back in Hoi An, you will then have a hands-on lesson in some classic central Vietnamese dishes at Vietnam’s celebrated Morning Glory Cooking School. For lunch you will feast on your own delicious creations. The afternoon is free for you to explore Hoi An as you please. The market is a good place to buy silk that can be made up into fine garments, and many expert tailors offer a same-day service. If you fancy a swim, there is a nice local beach which can be reached easily by bicycle.
Day - 8
Location: Hoi An - Today is free for you to continue exploring Hoi An and its surrounding areas. There is an optional fish market visit for early risers, as well as an optional fishing experience to learn more about the life and work of Hoi An’s fisherman. Alternatively, a great day trip is to cycle into the surrounding countryside to discover a world of verdant grasslands and fascinating scenes of daily rural life unfolding. In the evening, perhaps enjoy some seafood by the water, or take a boat ride out to a nearby island for a barbeque feast.
Day - 9
Location: Ho Chi Minh City - After breakfast, take a short flight to Vietnam’s economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1 hour). Vietnam's largest city is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. For lunch today you will dine in a restaurant famed for its fantastic home-style Vietnamese cuisine. Next, take a short city tour that covers Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral. Along the way, you'll be able to admire the many beautiful French colonial buildings, such as the main post office and the former Hotel de Ville (city hall). Finish the day with a cooking class with a passionate young chef who will demonstrate some contemporary twists on classic Vietnamese dishes. Enjoy the results for dinner.
Day - 10
Location: Mekong Delta - After breakfast you will drive south for a boat cruise along the Mekong Delta (approximately 2–3 hours). The Mekong Delta is renowned for its fertile land – rich in tropical fruits, flowers and rice. For this reason, it is often referred to as the 'Rice Bowl' of Vietnam. Visit some local cottage industries located along the river, then continue to a guesthouse surrounded by an orchard, which is your lodging this evening. Here you will enjoy a beautiful home-cooked meal of dishes distinct to the Mekong Delta region.
Day - 11
Location: Ho Chi Minh City - Rise early, as the locals do, and enjoy a delicious traditional breakfast. Then return to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving early afternoon. In the evening, join your fellow travellers for an aperitif at a rooftop bar overlooking the city lights, then head out for a taste of Ho Chi Minh City's exciting contemporary restaurant scene with dinner at a top dining establishment.
Day - 12
Location: Ho Chi Minh City - Your journey comes to an end after breakfast this morning, and you are free to leave at any time.