An Invitation To Culturally Curious Travelers
Are you seeking extraordinary, authentic experiences? Join me and Open Kitchen on an inspiring, curated Culinary Escapade to Việt-Nam! Whether you’ve been to Việt-Nam or it’s on your “bucket list,” I invite you to experience my homeland and take a deep dive into Việt-Nam’s heart and soul through her spirited culinary heritage.
Our journey will begin in Northern Việt-Nam, the cradle of Vietnamese civilization. We arrive in Hà Nội, one of oldest capitals in the world that served as the capital of French Indochina during the French colonial period. Then we will travel to Mai Châu, a remote village in a lush rice valley and home to seven of the 54 ethnic minority groups.
We will conclude our time in the north at Hạ Long Bay (“descending dragon”), a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by emerald waters, towering limestone islands and lush rainforests.
On to Central Việt-Nam and the Imperial City of Huế, the cradle of Vietnamese culture and the last dynastic capital under the Nguyễn Dynasty. Then to the quaint town of Hội An, one of the most important ports on the South China Sea from the 15th to the 19th century with a stop in Đà Nẵng to visit the Children of Vietnam .
We will end our journey in Southern Việt-Nam with the uber-urban Hồ Chí Minh City (“Sài Gòn”) and then the Mê Kông Delta– the rich and fertile rice basket of Việt-Nam.
Open Kitchen’s Việt-Nam Culinary Escapade is for you if you are:
EXCITED to learn and experience Việt-Nam’s culinary heritage and to taste local life through bustling street food eateries and “Cuisine Mới,” or “New Cuisine” in modern, upscale restaurants.
SEEK active adventures from bicycling through rice paddies to exploring centuries-old charming architecture on foot, riding through bustling cities on back of scooters, and exploring the majestic Mekong Delta on a traditional sampan or kayaking on the mesmerizing waters of Hạ Long Bay.
OPEN to luxurious accommodations, charming homestays, and unplanned occurrences that bring about magical experiences and unforgettable memories.
Day 1: Arrival Day – Welcome to Hà Nội!
We begin our Việt-Nam Culinary Escapade in Northern Vietnam, the cradle of Vietnamese civilization. Hà Nội is the capital of Việt-Nam, one of the oldest capitals in the world. From centuries-old Buddhist temples to French colonial architecture, Hà Nội is a unique and charming city with its own character. Northern Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by the cooler climate resulting in a limited variety of spices and availability of herbs and vegetables. Northern Vietnamese dishes are more delicate and less bold and spicy compared to the foods from central and southern Vietnam.
For our Welcome Dinner, we will feast at one of Chef Hue-Chan’s favorite restaurants in Hà Nội with a curated menu featuring the flavors and exotic specialties of northern Vietnamese cuisine paired with Vietnam’s authentic and award-winning handcrafted rice spirit.
Accommodations: The Apricot Hotel is Hà Nội’s small luxury hotel located in the historic district on Hang Trong Street, with sweeping view of the legendary Hoan Kiem Lake.
Day 2: Hà Nội!
Market Tour, Cooking Class, and Lunch
Our first full day in Hà Nội begins with a tour of a local market guided by a local chef to purchase seasonally fresh ingredients for our cooking class on traditional Hanoian cuisine. We will cook and feast on a multi-course lunch at our Chef’s beautiful Indochine-period villa.
Hà Nội by Night Culinary Adventure
Pre-sunset, we’ll set off for our culinary tour of Hanoi’s famous Old Quarter, stopping at one of the highest rooftop sky bars. We’ll graze the food carts lining Hà Nội’s streets and taste its indigenous cuisine. You’ll have a chance to chat with street food vendors enjoying the vibrancy of life on the streets of Hà Nội.
After dinner, we’ll venture into the nightlife to enjoy the spices and flavors that make up the local cocktails and best craft beer taprooms in Hà Nội.
Day 3: Travel from Hà Nội to Mai Châu
Mai Châu, 90 miles southwest of Hà Nội, is a remote village in a lush valley with terraced rice fields surrounded by green mountains. It is home to 7 of the 54 Vietnamese ethnic tribes whose ancestors immigrated from Southern China in the 13th century. Mai Châu’s cuisine reflects its diverse ethnic cultures and heavily draws from its environment.
You’ll enjoy the scenic drive through small farming towns and over epic mountain passes, arriving just in time to feast on a multi-course lunch of local dishes at a local restaurant. We’ll explore Mai Châu’s ethnic villages and countryside by bicycle with a Local Guide. We’ll tour markets for handcrafts and antiques and meet artisans to learn more about their culture and way of life.
Accommodations: Mai Chau Mountain View Resort is at the heart of Bản Lác or Lác Village, located in a beautiful and peaceful location amid mountains and stunning views.
Day 4: Travel from Mai Châu back to Hà Nội
Mai Châu, Mai Châu’s cuisine is very different from what you have experienced in Hà Nội. We’ve designed a special cooking class and tour of the local market for you to learn more about Mai Châu’s diverse ethnic cultures through its cuisine. We’ll travel back to Hà Nội following our cooking class and lunch. You’ll enjoy a free night to tour the city or rest in the hotel. We will provide sightseeing and dining recommendations.
Day 5: Hà Nội
Coffee Making Class, Hà Nội Famous Market, and Hà Nội farewell dinner.
Coffee is more than just a drink in Việt-Nam; it’s deeply woven into the social and economic fabric of the country. Việt-Nam is the 2nd largest coffee exporter, and its coffee specialties from Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Vietnamese iced coffee with sweet condensed milk) to Salt Coffee, represent a unique aspect of Vietnamese culinary heritage. You’ll experience a special Coffee Making Class to kick off our last day in Hà Nội!
After our Vietnamese coffee experience, we will take a walk to Đồng Xuân Market that was originally built by the French in 1889 and now the largest covered market in Hà Nội.
For our Hà Nội farewell dinner, you will experience one of the most iconic Hanoian specialty dish “Chả Cá Thăng Long” – comprised of turmeric-marinated fish fillets served in a sizzling skillet table-side along with heaps of dill and scallions, rice vermicelli, roasted peanuts, rice crackers, and dipping sauces!
Day 6: Travel from Hà Nội to Hạ Long Bay
Hạ Long Bay, located on Việt-Nam’s northeastern seacoast in the Gulf of Tonkin, is about 105 miles from Hà Nội and a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage site for its magical landscape of rocky formations and crystal blue waters and geomorphology. Its name means “descending dragon,” The bay has over 2,000 limestone islands and islets of various sizes with interesting cave formations and caverns. We’ve designed your experience in Hạ Long Bay as a leisure and adventurous retreat with an overnight stay on board a private luxurious cruise ship as you immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this magical bay and learn about its history and traditions.
Accommodation in Hạ Long Bay: We will overnight for our Hạ Long Bay adventure on board a private charter cruise.
Day 7: Travel from Hạ Long Bay to Huế
We’ll conclude our Hạ Long Bay adventure by kayaking to a beautiful water cave named “Dark & Bright” on a bamboo boat. Going through the Dark & Bright cave, we will come to a lagoon surrounded by magnificent mountains.
Huế: We will travel to Nội Bài International Airport by private transportation for our 1-hour flight from Hà Nội to Huế.
We’ve designed your experience in Huế as a cultural and culinary immersion into Vietnam’s royal heritage and distinctive way of life. Huế royal cuisine is considered the pinnacle of Vietnamese gastronomy for its sophistication and refinement. Huế royal cuisine is a work of art. All royal dishes must be carefully and beautifully presented and follow the rules of precision and harmony between color and taste, yin and yang, and hot and cold. It is said that the eyes and nose eat Huế royal cuisine before eating by mouth.
Accommodations: Azerai La Residence is a lovely property within a 5-minute cyclo journey to the world heritage city of Huế and the ancient citadel.
Day 8: Huế
Exploring Huế’s Imperial City and Food Scenes on Scooter, Cooking Demonstration of Huế’s Royal Foods
We will meet our local guide and venture on scooters to explore Huế’s impressive Imperial City, visiting Từ Hiếu, one of the most ancient pagodas in Huế, where Master Thích Nhất Hạnh live and rest on his last days of life, and discover and taste amazing authentic Huế dishes in the most hidden places in this beautiful city.
A highlight of this exploration is a visit to a family making traditional Huế steamed dumplings for the imperial royal court for three generations! You’ll have the chance to learn how to make these amazingly delicious dumplings, taste these freshly steamed, and chat with this family about Huế’s cultural heritage, traditions, and local life.
Day 9: Travel from Huế to Hội An
We will travel from Huế to Hội An by private bus. Enroute, we will make a stop in Đà Nẵng, Chef Hue-Chan’s birthplace, to visit a charity that is near and dear to her heart – Children of Việt-Nam (COV) in Đà Nẵng, whose mission is to “…lift children out of poverty by eliminating barriers to fulfilling their potential through wraparound services that focus on one child, one family, one community at a time.” COV serves Đà Nẵng City and the surrounding areas and focuses on children with disabilities, ethnic minorities, rural children living in poverty, children living in poverty at risk for dropping out of school, and children living in single-mother households.
Hội An, a city on Việt-Nam’s central coast, was once part of the Cham Kingdom known as “Faifo” it is much the same state as it was nearly 200 years ago. We will arrive late afternoon in Hội An and briefly tour this charming ancient town, including scouting out some fantastic shopping venues. We will have a Welcome Dinner at the famous Cargo Club restaurant that showcases Hội An’s cuisine.
Accommodations: Anantara Hoi An Resort on the Thu Bồn River, less than a mile from Hội An’s historic area.
Day 10: Hội An
Bicycle Ride or Motorbike Ride to Local Market and through Rice Paddies and Organic Garden, Cooking Class, and Lunch
We will cook at a lively restaurant in An Bàng Beach, a charming beach town about 2 miles outside Hội An. Our chef instructor, knowledgeable Local Chef Dong Le has designed a cooking menu featuring Hội An’s distinctive regional cuisine. Chef will discuss local spices and their uses and benefits, while working with you to prepare a delicious multi-course lunch.
Day 11: Hội An
A Visit to Hội An Fish Market and Countryside Bike Tour
We have arranged for a wonderful excursion to the local fish market by boat for early risers. You’ll experience an authentic local way of life, from fishmongers selling fish and customers bargaining on prices.
Countryside Bike Tour: enjoy an idyllic ride through rice fields and rural countryside. You’ll ride through beautiful emerald villages with water buffalos on farmlands and meet local artisans who happily share their crafts with you, from making straw mats to milling rice into flour. There will be endless photo opportunities as we take the most scenic country paths.
Highlights: Sunset Seafood BBQ Beach Dinner on An Bàng Beach
We will travel by private bus to a delicious Sunset Seafood BBQ beach dinner in An Bàng Beach prepared by our Local Chef!
Day 12: Travel From Hội An to Sài Gòn
Once known as the “Paris of Asia” with wide boulevards, elegant parks, French architecture and the “Diamond of the Far-East,” today Hồ Chí Minh City (Sài Gòn) is the heart of Vietnam’s economy. The city vibrates with energy! It’s a freewheeling, cosmopolitan metropolis with a dynamic cityscape of classic French architecture, sleek skyscrapers, ornate temples, and pagodas. Fantastic restaurants offer a combination of French, Chinese, and, of course, local Vietnamese cuisine.
We’ll kick off our uber-urban Sài Gòn culinary adventures with a very special and delicious lunch with celebrity Chef Nikki Tran, a Vietnamese-American (or “Fish Sauce American ), at her Kâu Ba restaurant in Saigon.
Pre-sunset we’ll meet for Cocktails & Nibbles, hopping around Sài Gòn to experience this vibrant city’s sights, sounds, and flavors! We’ve selected some of the best cocktail bars with breathtaking views of Sài Gòn with hip vibes and cool, crafted cocktails and mocktails for our outing!
Accommodations: Hôtel des Arts Saigon, an exquisite 5-star boutique hotel
Day 13: Sài Gòn
After breakfast at the hotel, we meet our local guide to visit the Củ Chi on a guided tour. We will step back in time to learn how this vast underground network was used in the Việt-Nam war.
Sài Gòn Scooter Foodie Tour Pre-sunset, we’ll embark on an exciting scooter foodie tour of Sài Gòn to experience and taste some of the best and hidden places only accessible by way of a scooter.
Day 14: Travel from Sài Gòn to the Mê Kông Delta
The Mê Kông Delta is the region in southwestern Việt-Nam, between Sài Gòn and Cambodia, where the Mê Kông River approaches and empties into the South China Sea. The river starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia before reaching Việt-Nam. Considered the “rice bowl” and “kingdom of fruit” of Vietnam, the Mê Kông Delta is the most important area for agriculture and aquaculture production in Vietnam. The only way to navigate this region is by boat, where you’ll see rice paddies, fruit orchards, floating markets, Buddhist temples, and family houses clinging to the river’s banks.
The cuisine of Mê Kông Delta also reflects the robust characteristics of its people who prefer extreme flavors: extreme salty, extreme spicy. We will feast on a traditional Mê Kông Delta meal followed by a wonderful tea service to the sound of folk music indigenous to this region.
Accommodations: Our home for an overnight stay is the very charming Út Trinh Bến Tre Homestay. The wonderful owner will be our curator for a memorial culinary experience.
Day 15: Travel from Mê Kông Delta back to Sài Gòn
Last Day of Open Kitchen’s Việt-Nam Culinary Escapade Highlights:
- Incredible lunch at the LUNCH LADY, one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite food vendors!
- For dessert, a chocolate tasting at Maison Marou, a cafe-patisserie-chocolate factory concept with Vietnamese cacao sourced from six provinces in the Mê Kông Delta.
- We will meet for our Departure Dinner to say goodbye to our friends for one last fabulous meal in Việt-Nam at Anan, an elevated “Cuisine Mới,” or “New Cuisine” restaurant by Chef Peter Cuong Franklin’s that’s voted top 50 restaurants in Asia. You’ll “Meet & Greet” with Chef Peter followed by a fabulous dinner.
Day 16: Departure
After breakfast, you’ll check out and journey back home with amazing memories of your time on Open Kitchen’s Culinary Escapade to Việt-Nam.
The closest airport is Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (SGN). Transfers by private car to the airport. Bon Voyage! Travel Safe!
Our trip is limited to 12 participants. Please let us know how to reach you about booking this once-in-a-lifetime culinary adventure.