Guide to Vietnam

Time Out takes a cultural and culinary tour to bring you this fun and handy guide to Vietnam. Find out where to say and things to do

The travel world is fit to burst with food-based adventures to far-flung destinations but Time Out has stumbled upon one that will sort the wheat from the chaff.

Vietnam might be better known for the conflict that engulfed it for nigh on 20 years, but ignore the Hollywood version, grab a fork and tuck into one of the world’s healthiest cuisines on the Vietnam Discovery & Food Tour operated by Flight Centre.

After flying into Hanoi, you’ll immediately be immersed in the Vietnamese capital’s street food culture. But first up, head to one of the array of bars to people-watch and develop a sense for your new surroundings.

Don’t linger too long, though, as there’s so much to discover. Your Hanoi Street Eats tour will start in the Old Quarter, meandering with your guide through its narrow streets and taking in the smells emanating from the small pop-up restaurants that only come alive at night.

Pull up a seat and tuck into some flame-grilled Vietnamese beef, chicken, tofu and vegetable skewers. Leave some room for dessert, though, as your final pit stop will be one of the city’s famous ice-cream parlours – the offerings here are nothing like you’d get back home.

We’re sure you’ve not flown all this way for a city break, though, so day two will see you head east to the seaside port of Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage Site. There, you’ll climb aboard the Spirit of the Bay, a wonderfully restored traditional wooden junk, and head to a local pearl farm before sailing on to Kiem Lam bay where you can go kayaking or swimming.

The excursion will end with a cooking demonstration from the vessel’s chefs, who will show you how to rustle up various Vietnamese specialities.

After a pleasant night’s sleep with the waves lapping against the junk, you’ll take the short trip to Surprise Cave where you’ll marvel at the stunning limestone formations before cruising back to Halong port and then on to Hanoi.

The final destination of your seven-day trip will be Hoi An, a former trading port that welcomed Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants between the 16th to 18th centuries. Nowadays it is renowned for its seafood, so be sure to sample some before you enjoy a cultural tour of the city, taking in Chua Ong Pagoda, Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and Tan Ky House. A cruise down the Thu Bon River will be the perfect way to sign off your Vietnamese vacation.

From Dhs5,899 per person including flights, transfers and an English-speaking guide. Flight Centre, (800 11444).

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