Despite having recently eaten my way around Vietnam, I can’t wait to return! Vietnam is a foodie’s dream – beautiful fresh flavours and enough subtle variations by region to keep you coming back for more. Chinese flavours influence the soups of the north; spice and complex techniques are common on the central coast and in the south, dishes are full of the flavours of fresh herbs. A word to the wise, you must like fish sauce, it’s a staple ingredient, especially in the delicious nuoc cham (dipping sauce) which is served with, well, everything!
Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon if you listen to the locals) is a fabulous city for starters. Given its infamous traffic, what better way to explore it than on an organised Vespa tour! Zipping through the streets amongst hundreds of other scooters, you’re feeling like a local within moments. These tours stop along the way at the best cafés to sample local delicacies including the famous fresh summer rolls, seafood and enough good strong Vietnamese coffee to keep your senses on high alert. Brought to Vietnam by the French when milk was a scarce commodity, this flavoursome drip-filtered brew is still taken with lashings of sweetened condensed milk. Caffeine and sugar are a great antidote to any jet-lag you may be experiencing.
Having had my fill of traffic, I headed for Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s most atmospheric towns where the streets of the old town are closed to all traffic except bicycles. Hoi An’s relaxed vibe is further added to by the gorgeous cafes and restaurants which line the streets, and you won’t believe how cheap they are! At night, the streets come alive with colourful lanterns reflecting off the river, with music and incredible aromas wafting through the air. You don’t have to stroll too far to come across delicious delicacies such as crispy roast pork, crispy pancakes and beef pho (a tasty beef broth with noodles and fresh herbs). Take a cooking class or two and the recipes will be lasting souvenirs. Once a major port, Hoi An’s architecture ranges from its 16th century Japanese merchants’ bridge, to the crumbling charm of French colonial buildings. Early risers should visit the fish market for a full immersion in local life, and fashionistas can update their wardrobe with the help of Hoi An’s legendary tailors.
Foodie or otherwise, Vietnam is a treat for every traveller. A day spent cruising quietly on a traditional junk around Halong Bay followed by a dip in the warm ocean waters and a freshly caught seafood lunch would be hard to beat. The northern mountains are home to diverse ethnic groups each with their own distinct cultural differences. Then there’s Hanoi, with its thought-provoking museums and the shopping heaven that is the traditional merchant streets in the Old Quarter.
Vietnam is a country which is so easy to travel through, with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, and arguably the most delicious cuisine in the world. I will return!
World Journeys offer a 12 day package featuring the ‘Culinary Delights of Vietnam’. Enjoy exclusive cooking classes, market tours and meals at top restaurants. Explore the Mekong Delta, ancient Hoi An with its famous tailors, the UNESCO listed Imperial Citadel of Hue, and cruise Halong Bay on a traditional junk to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture and history.