Xin chao and welcome to Vietnam! Your journey begins as your board your Singapore Airlines flight in Australia, headed for Hanoi, the nation’s ever-hungry northern capital. The culinary scene here is legendary, backed by centuries of tradition and a gastronomic philosophy committed to showcasing the region’s spectacular produce. You’ve entered pho territory: bowls of the rice-noodle ribbons and soup can be found on any street corner, and the street food scene here is unlike anything else in the world.
On arrival at Hanoi International Airport (HAN), you’ll be transferred to your accommodation, the magnificent Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.
Signature Accommodation: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Since its opening in 1901, the five-star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has been a favourite place for rendezvous. Today it is considered one of the finest pieces of preserved French colonial-style architecture in the city, and the hotel’s interior is similarly steeped in old-world charm. Each of the hotel’s six dining venues is exceptional – head to Spice Garden for unforgettable Vietnamese cuisine, Angelina to sample its bar’s world-class whisky collection or Le Beaulieu for triumphantly classic French haute cuisine. The hotel’s Bamboo Bar, serving gourmet ice cream and bright cocktails, will also delight – and it’s positioned directly above the historic Metropole Bomb Shelter.
Signature Experience: Backstage at Capella Hanoi Welcome Event
At 6pm, start off your once-in-a-lifetime adventure with Matt and Gary at Backstage, Capella Hanoi’s centrepiece dining experience – with two hours of free-flow beer, wine and soft drink included. Dripping with theatrical flair, this opera-inspired restaurant pays bold homage to North Vietnamese flavours while delivering a masterclass in modern gastronomy. Wherever you’re seated, the restaurant’s central open kitchen takes centre stage. As you watch the chefs work, listen closely – knives dance, orders are called and the Josper grill roars. Hear modern Vietnamese cuisine sing within this Michelin-listed mise-en-scene.
Please Note: Due to scheduling, airport location and availability, flight departures may occur prior to Day 1. Should travellers be affected, they must be available to depart 30 September 2024. Flight times will be indicated on final documentation, issued 4–6 weeks before departure.
After breakfast at the hotel, meet your group in the hotel lobby for a day of exploration, moving from pavement to penthouse in search of Hanoi’s freshest flavours.
Separating into groups, you and your fellow travellers will set out on each of the following guided experiences:
- Soul of Hanoi Tour: Venture to the city’s intriguing Old Quarter, a spellbinding blend of ancient ochre stonework, traditional Vietnamese architecture, hidden alleyways and cosy-cool coffee shops. Originally partitioned into 36 guild streets – each dedicated to a particular industry or craft – the district still thrums with the spirit of Old Hanoi. Stops include the historic One Pillar Pagoda, built in 1049 and regarded as one of the country’s most iconic temples, and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, offering a unique insight into the life of Vietnam’s beloved late president. Between stops, you’ll gain insight about the differences between Northern and Southern pho, the preferred fashion of drinking local coffee (iced and with a splash of condensed milk) and all about banh cuon, or rice paper rolls, with stops to sample each.
- Hanoi Street Food Tour: Guided by a local food blogger with years of divining Hanoi’s magical dishes, seek out all things delicious during this insider investigation into the city’s market culture. Strolling through the Old Quarter, try a bowl of steaming pho: the hallmark pork broth here is spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. You’ll also tuck into a plate of bun dau – vermicelli noodles, tofu, fresh herbs and umami-soaked shrimp paste plated individually to form a rustic dish beloved by locals. Explore Hang Than Street, where ceremonial cakes are proudly displayed; Hang Cot Street, renowned for its fruit; and Phung Hung Street, where painted scenes of the modernisation of the city are harmoniously woven with its longstanding commercial tradition. Finish with a visit to a popular coffee shop. Please note: Street Food Tour itinerary is subject to change.
After a day spent romancing Hanoi, head to either Gia or Press Club Hanoi for a fine dining experience unlike any other.
Signature Experience: Dinner at GIA
This evening, step into a world of culinary wonder. Showcasing a reverence for local produce, modern decor inspired by ancient spaces and a fascination with fermentation, it’s no wonder that GIA has received showers of acclaim since its 2020 debut, including a prized Michelin Star. The multiple-course degustation menu, featuring a range of sought-after ingredients, is a delight – GIA understands that fine dining should be playful, conceptual and, above all, utterly delicious. Matt Preston or Gary Mehigan will be heading the dinner table, eager to reveal why this is one of their favourite spots in the city.
Please note: Guests dining at Press Club Hanoi on Day 2 will dine at GIA on Day 3.
Meet in the hotel lobby at 6am for an optional early-morning walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. One of the city’s most cherished stretches of greenery, it’s also a place infused with the mythology of ancient Vietnam. Legend has it that after ousting the invading Ming, Emperor Le Loi returned his magical sword to the dragon dwelling beneath these very waters. As you walk, watch the city begin to stir in the daylight, as locals join to practise tai chi, yoga, games and ballroom dancing on the lake’s shores.
Return to the hotel for breakfast, but be sure to leave room for 'bun cha' – a classic Hanoian treat – served at a local restaurant specialising in the cherished delicacy. Minced pork shoulder is seasoned, rolled into large meatballs and grilled over an open flame to crispy perfection, glazed constantly with a rich caramel glaze as it cooks. The resulting salty-smoky-sweet delight is served on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles and fresh herbs and served with a mandatory dipping sauce of lime and fish sauce – each bite is like dynamite.
Signature Experience: Cooking Class at KOTO
‘Know One, Teach One’ – this is the creed of all that Vietnamese-Australian chef, Jimmy Pham, strives for. Vietnam’s first social enterprise, KOTO has worked tirelessly over more than two decades to give over 1,200 at-risk and disadvantaged youth fundamental skills in hospitality, transforming their lives. Learn how to cook three quintessential Vietnamese dishes while uncovering his country’s vibrant history and culture through its cuisine. Matt or Gary will be cheffing alongside you, so be sure to listen in for their hints and tips.
After turning in your apron, visit Hanoi’s Temple of Literature, established in the 11th century as Vietnam’s first university. As you wander through the carefully manicured courtyards, scholar’s gardens and open pavilions, it’s easy to imagine a time when hundreds of young students – aspiring to the ranks of the Dai Viet bureaucracy – gathered in these solemn halls for strict examination.
Signature Experience: Dinner at Press Club Hanoi
Since opening in 1997, Press Club Hanoi has quickly proven itself a staple of the city's mixology and fine dining scene. Expect peerless service, exceptional French cuisine with brilliant Vietnamese flourishes and a cocktail menu that is classically inclined but bursting with whimsy. Either Matt Preston or Gary Mehigan will dine with you.
Please note: Guests dining at GIA on Day 3 will dine at Press Club Hanoi on Day 2.
After an early breakfast, meet in the hotel lobby to depart for Ha Long Bay. Travelling by coach, the journey to Vietnam’s lush coastline takes approximately two and a half hours – but there will be a chance to stop and stretch your legs at a local charity-run souvenir shop.
After arriving at Tuan Chau Marina Port, board your ship and take time to inspect your cabin before meeting the cruise manager and crew for a safety briefing. Lunch will be served as you set sail through the bay’s strikingly emerald waters – an enduring symbol of the eternal beauty of Vietnam.
It’s easy to become spellbound as you glide past jungle-topped limestone karsts, mysterious islands, narrow coves and traditional wooden vessels across the water. Spend the day exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, stopping at caves, floating farms and beaches with your cruise guides.
As evening falls, the ship will drop anchor in a sheltered part of the bay. Don’t forget to look up – with Lan Ha Bay so far removed from the city, stargazing here is considered some of the best in Vietnam.
Enjoy dawn on the expansive sundeck with fresh tea and coffee. Connect breath to movement as you energise your body and soul during a tranquil tai chi class, watching the sun rise over the bay.
Return to Tuan Chau Marina, disembarking at 10am and travelling approximately 2.5 hours via coach to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) for your ongoing flight to Da Nang and a stop for pho along the way. After a little over an hour in the sky – the perfect time to go through photos you’ve taken so far – transfer to your next accommodation in the historic town of Hoi An (approximately a 45-minute drive).
Take this evening at your leisure – either get to know Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery and grab your included dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants or head out and explore the city’s storied streets.
Signature Accommodation: Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery
Some hotels are themselves works of art. Inspired by Hoi An’s vibrant melange of historic influence, Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery offers a timelessly elegant stay in the heart of one of Vietnam’s most cherished cities. With an Art Noveau facade, romantic views over Thu Bon River and traditional French and Japanese flourishes, every corner of this hotel has been masterfully designed to take your breath away. Sample high-end sushi and yakitori at onsite restaurant Wakaku, head to The Deck – Hoi An’s highest rooftop bar – for inventive cocktails and unbeatable views or laze by the hotel’s magnificent mosaiced pool.
Your package includes:
- Daily lunch or dinner at Faifo Cafe
- One 60-minute massage per adult
- Nightly hour of free-flow drinks at The Deck or River Bar
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel’s all-day restaurant, Faifo Cafe, the morning is yours. Every street in this peaceful port town is a treasure, but you'll find the best exploring Hoi An Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed district that preserves the synthesis of cultures that led this city to flourish. It’s a 15-minute walk there from the hotel, and the way offers countless chances to sample iced coffee, sticky rice and more.
Once a bustling trading port, the city is still a powerful melange of influences and traditions. Marvellously preserved, ancient Japanese merchant houses and historic Vietnamese trading warehouses rub shoulders with grand Confucian temples and modern offices to form a colourful tapestry.
Alternatively, relax at the hotel. This is the perfect place to rest and recoup as Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery’s facilities are among the best in the country, and your package here includes lunch today.
At 3pm, meet in the hotel for some sightseeing in Da Nang, taking you past the Museum of Cham Sculpture – built to preserve traditional artworks from the ancient Champa civilization – and the intriguing Han Market, where stalls burst with traditional rattan crafts and plenty of street food.
Signature Experience: Dining at La Maison 1888
Heralded by Architectural Digest as one of the most beautifully designed restaurants in the world, La Maison 1888 is a triumph for the senses. The culinary centrepiece of InterContinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula Resort, this restaurant inhabits its own chateau, steeped in old-world charm – with just a hint of subversive style. Tonight, you’ll enjoy La Maison 1888’s signature five-course set-menu dinner, ranging from French haute cuisine classics to a selection of grand desserts. Drinks are at your own expense, but sure to check out the wine list – the restaurant’s sommelier is considered one of the best in Vietnam.
With a full day in Hoi An at leisure, now’s the chance slow down, relax and take it easy. Your tour includes one 60-minute massage at the hotel’s Woosah Spa – and there’s no better time to take it than today (advance booking recommended).
Alternatively, spend the day by either of your hotel’s two masterpiece swimming pools, or ascend to the eighth floor for tapas and tipples at The Attic, the hotel’s speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar. Your package includes an hour of free-flow cocktails and what better place to enjoy them?
After breakfast, meet your fellow travellers in the lobby and depart for Da Nang by coach bus, where you’ll check-in for your approximately 70-minute flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
Take time to understand Vietnam’s dazzling southern metropolis and it will reward you: the streets and thoroughfares run loud and fast, and the marketplace hustle is a haggler’s delight. Here, tradition improvises with modernity, coffee culture is a way of life and there’s something new to see and eat around every corner.
After touchdown, you’ll transfer to your next handpicked accommodation.
Signature Accommodation: Caravelle Hotel Saigon
Located in the heart of historic District 1 – still affectionately referred to as ‘Saigon’ by locals – Caravelle Hotel was, upon opening Christmas Eve in 1959, hailed as the tallest and most impressive building in Vietnam. During the hectic years of the Vietnam War, it was home to the Australian Embassy. Today, Caravelle Hotel Saigon’s hospitality is still impeccable, and the dining is second to none. Be sure to check out Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar – one of the city’s oldest sky bars, popular even during wartime.
Today, a world of new flavours awaits as Matt and Gary introduce you to one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Signature Experience: Dining at Anan Saigon
With Ho Chi Minh City’s first (and only!) Michelin Star and a place on the coveted Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2023, Anan Saigon is indisputably the city’s finest restaurant. Anan translates to ‘eat, eat’, and the restaurant’s tasting menu, taking you from Vietnam’s north to south, leaves none hungry. Farm-to-chopstick ingredients, timeless French tradition and a pinch of molecular gastronomy guarantee you’re in for an unforgettable feast. Naturally, you’ll be joined by Matt or Gary – they wouldn’t miss this for the world.
Please Note: Guests embarking on the Saigon by Night Vespa Tour on Day 8 will dine at Anan Saigon on Day 9.
Today, you’re tasked to embark on a mission discovering the city’s best banh mis. Begin with an intimate history of Vietnam’s tour de force between the bread, including the different types and fillings utilised and why it’s eaten in the country's south, before embarking on a tour of the city’s historic districts.
Depending on your group, you’ll visit one or two of the city’s most iconic shops in the morning, followed by the remaining of three after a sightseeing tour. You’ll be met by Matt or Gary, eager to introduce you to their favourites:
- Banh Mi Bay Ho: Open since 1930, this humble pushcart was featured on Netflix's Street Food and its 90-year-old recipe contends for the title of 'city's best sandwich'.
- Banh Mi Chao Hoa Ma: Renowned as Ho Chi Minh City’s very first banh mi stall, this family-owned shop has served up some of the city’s best baguettes daily since opening almost six decades ago.
- Banh Mi Huynh Hoa: This takeaway-only sandwich shop is built on a foundational, 30-year-old family recipe, with particular emphasis placed on an overload of cold pork cuts, lightly pickled, ultra-fresh vegetables, fresh-baked bread and a delicious spread of French-style butter.
In between banh mis, enjoy a tour of the city’s highlights – including Saigon Central Post Office and the Opera House – before finishing at Garden Coffee shop behind Independence Palace, the site of the Fall of Saigon and end of the Conflict.
Signature Experience: Saigon by Night Vespa Tour
Tonight, buckle your helmet and see Ho Chi Minh City’s renowned street food at its finest hour. Travelling with Matt or Gary by vintage vespa – and seated behind an accomplished, professional driver-guide – this is your chance to see the city like a Saigonese. Beginning with lubrication at a local rooftop bar, you’ll glide towards a historic eatery serving shrimp-stuffed banh xeo crepes, fresh seafood done up streetside, a late-night coffee shop and a live music venue brimming with the spirit of modern Saigon.
- If you are unfit for or do not feel comfortable embarking on the Saigon by Night Vespa Tour, a fine dining experience at Mandarine Restaurant will be provided. Please contact the Tours Concierge at email@example.com prior to departure to arrange.
- Guests who embarked on the Saigon by Night Vespa Tour on Day 8 will dine at Anan Saigon on Day 9.
After a delicious breakfast, meet in the hotel lobby at 7.45am for a market adventure hosted by the chefs of acclaimed Hoa Tuc restaurant.
Signature Experience: Cooking Class with Hoa Tuc
Begin today's culinary adventure with a trip to Ben Thanh, an enclosed market that caters to Ho Chi Minh City’s local families and cooks. Guided by your chef host, you’ll hear about the flavours that set Vietnam’s cuisine apart from other Asian gastronomic traditions and learn to identify the freshest produce. Then put your study to practice with a cooking class at the restaurant. Hidden within a shaded terrace, the establishment is a spectacular example of old-world Saigon design. While the menu is seasonal, one thing’s guaranteed – you’ll always finish with a mouth-watering dessert. Matt or Gary will be cooking alongside you, so be sure to seize your final chance to seek their guidance.
The rest of the afternoon is yours until the evening’s event. It’s the perfect time to explore District 1’s shady boulevards on foot. You might also visit Maison Marou, a Vietnamese chocolatier chain considered one of the world’s best, with locations peppered conveniently about the city.
At 4pm, head to Caravelle Hotel Saigon’s rooftop bar for a farewell with Matt and Gary, including one hour of free-flow beer, wine and soft drink. Take a moment to toast your delicious escape over canapes and say ‘tam biet!’ to friends you’ve made along the way.
This final evening in Ho Chi Minh City is yours at leisure, but we recommend making a reservation at one of two acclaimed restaurants (additional cost):
- Vietnam House Restaurant: With a menu designed by Vietnamese-Australian chef Luke Nguyen, himself no stranger to MasterChef Australia, this converted colonial cafe ensures you’re in for a good time. Expect traditional Vietnamese cuisine plated with no shortage of modern flair.
- AKUNA: Helmed by acclaimed Australian chef Sam Aisbett, AKUNA dazzles with a free-wheeling menu showcasing unabashedly Aussie fare, backed by Vietnam’s unique produce. Expect the unexpected – watch as ingredients like vegemite and crocodile become transformed.
Bid goodbye to your hosts and fellow travellers as your once-in-a-lifetime Vietnamese journey comes to an end. After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) for your flight home.