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A Bowl Of Phở, A Blonde Moment And My Vietnam Itinerary


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Julee Hudgens



Imagine yourself sitting at a tiny plastic stool on a bustling street in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a steaming bowl of phở in front of you. The aroma of fragrant herbs and slow-cooked broth fills the air as you slurp up the silky rice noodles, savoring the tender slices of beef. This is just a taste of what food travel in Vietnam has to offer.


Vietnam is a country that not only attracts travelers with its rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture but also with its incredible culinary traditions. From the bustling street food stalls of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the tranquil rice paddies of Ninh Binh, every region has its own unique flavors and specialties to offer.


In this article, we will embark on a food-fueled journey through Vietnam, exploring the country’s famous dishes, uncovering hidden culinary gems, and immersing ourselves in the local culture along the way. So put on your adventurous spirit and loosen your belt, because we’re about to embark on a gastronomic adventure like no other.


But before we dive into the details of our Vietnam itinerary, let’s talk about the heart and soul of Vietnamese cuisine – phở. This fragrant noodle soup is the epitome of Vietnamese comfort food. Made with a delicate beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and an array of herbs and condiments, phở is a culinary masterpiece that will leave you craving for more.


Whether you like it with tender slices of beef (phở bò) or succulent chicken (phở gà), or even a vegetarian version, a bowl of phở is an absolute must-try when in Vietnam. It’s the perfect way to start your food journey and experience the flavors that set the foundation for Vietnamese cuisine.


So, grab your chopsticks and let’s set off on an unforgettable adventure through the food and travel wonders of Vietnam.


Exploring Hanoi’s Phở Culture

No visit to Vietnam is complete without indulging in the iconic dish that is phở. And where better to explore the essence of this beloved cuisine than in the vibrant streets of Hanoi, the capital city.


Hanoi’s phở culture is deeply ingrained in the city’s identity. From the break of dawn, the streets come alive with street vendors setting up their makeshift stalls, pots of simmering broth brewing, and locals and tourists alike queuing up for their morning fix of this delectable noodle soup.


One of the most famous places to experience this culinary phenomenon is at Phở Gia Truyền, a humble street food joint that has been serving up its legendary phở for generations. Here, you can witness the artistry of phở making firsthand as the chefs meticulously assemble each bowl, layering it with tender slices of beef or chicken, fresh herbs, and the aromatic broth.


But the phở adventure doesn’t stop there. Hanoi is also home to a myriad of street food markets and eateries that serve up variations of this classic dish. From Phở Cuốn Đậu (phở rolls) to Phở Chín (well-done beef phở) and Phở Trộn (mixed phở), the options are endless, and each has its own unique flavor profile.


While in Hanoi, be sure to explore the vibrant Old Quarter, where narrow, bustling streets are lined with food stalls and local eateries. Take a walking food tour and follow your guide as they lead you to hidden gems, introducing you to the best phở and other street food delights that you may not find in guidebooks.


But exploring Hanoi’s phở culture is not just about the food; it’s also a journey into the heart of Vietnamese hospitality. Sitting on plastic stools side by side with locals, sharing a meal and stories, you’ll quickly realize that food is more than just sustenance in Vietnam – it’s a way of bringing people together, forging connections, and creating lasting memories.


So, when in Hanoi, immerse yourself in the vibrant phở culture. Discover the rich flavors, indulge in the aromas, and allow yourself to be swept away by the energy of this bustling city. It’s an experience that will leave you with a profound appreciation for the art of phở making and a deeper understanding of the cultural significance that food holds in Vietnamese society.


An Unexpected Encounter

While exploring a new country, it’s often the unexpected encounters that leave a lasting impression. As I ventured beyond Hanoi, I found myself in a small village nestled in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It was here that I had an unforgettable encounter with a local family.


As I strolled through the village, marveling at the breathtaking views of rice terraces and lush greenery, I stumbled upon a modest wooden house with smoke billowing from its chimney. Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to approach and see what was happening inside.


To my surprise, I was warmly greeted by a family who welcomed me into their home as if I were a long-lost friend. They invited me to join them for a meal, and I happily accepted their kind offer. Sitting on the floor around a low table, we shared stories and laughter, despite the language barrier.


The matriarch of the family, Mrs. Linh, expertly prepared a traditional feast consisting of local delicacies. From savory spring rolls to fragrant fish simmered in a clay pot, every dish showcased the family’s passion for cooking and their commitment to preserving their culinary heritage.


As we savored each bite and indulged in the feast, Mrs. Linh shared tales of her family’s connection to the land, their farming traditions, and the importance of honoring the ingredients they harvest. It was an intimate glimpse into a way of life that had remained unchanged for generations.


Through this unexpected encounter, I realized that food travel is not just about trying new flavors and discovering different cuisines. It’s about connecting with the people behind the food, learning about their stories, and gaining a deeper appreciation for their culture.


Leaving the village, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the hospitality and generosity I experienced. My encounter with this local family reminded me of the power of food to bridge cultural gaps, create meaningful connections, and leave a lasting impact on our travels.


So, as you embark on your own food travel adventures, keep an open mind and heart. Embrace the unexpected encounters, for they may just be the moments that stay with you forever.


A Day in Halong Bay

Prepare to be enchanted by the breathtaking natural beauty of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Vietnam. This stunning archipelago of limestone islands rising from emerald-green waters is a must-visit destination for any food traveler looking to explore the wonders of Vietnam.


Start your day by embarking on a traditional wooden junk boat, sailing through the picturesque landscape of Halong Bay. As you cruise along, marvel at the towering limestone formations, grottoes, and hidden caves that dot the bay. The serenity of the surroundings will captivate your senses, offering a moment of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


While Halong Bay is known for its natural beauty, it is also home to a vibrant seafood scene. Take the opportunity to savor the freshest seafood dishes that Vietnam has to offer. From succulent grilled prawns to steamed clams and fragrant fish cooked in various styles, you’ll find an array of flavors that showcase the region’s coastal culinary traditions.


One of the highlights of a day in Halong Bay is a visit to a floating fishing village, where you can witness the unique way of life of the local fishermen. Glide past houses that seemingly float on the water, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the village. Engage with the locals, learn about their fishing techniques and traditions, and perhaps even try your hand at catching some fish yourself!


After a morning of exploration, dock at one of the tranquil beaches in the bay for a leisurely seafood lunch on the shore. Dig into a feast of freshly grilled fish, prawns, squid, and other local specialties, while enjoying the cool sea breeze and breathtaking views.


For the more adventurous souls, there are opportunities for kayaking or swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Halong Bay. Paddle through hidden lagoons, explore hidden caves, and discover the hidden gems that this natural wonder has to offer.


As the day draws to a close, witness the mesmerizing sunset over the bay. Find a spot on the deck of your boat, sip on a refreshing cocktail, and revel in the tranquility of the moment as the golden hues of the sun reflect off the calm waters.


A day in Halong Bay is more than just a sightseeing experience; it’s a journey into the heart of Vietnam’s natural beauty and culinary delights. So, immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring surroundings, indulge in the freshest seafood, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Immersed in the History of Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a city steeped in history and a bustling metropolis that perfectly blends tradition and modernity. From its iconic landmarks to its vibrant streets, Ho Chi Minh City offers a wealth of cultural and historical experiences for food travelers.


One of the must-see attractions in the city is the War Remnants Museum, which provides a sobering look into Vietnam’s tumultuous past. Through its exhibits, you can gain a deeper understanding of the country’s journey through colonialism, war, and the fight for independence. It’s a somber yet essential experience that sheds light on Vietnam’s resilience and determination.


After immersing yourself in history, it’s time to explore the gastronomic wonders that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer. Start your culinary adventure by delving into the vibrant street food scene. Wander through the bustling markets and alleys, where the fragrant smells of grilled meats, steaming bowls of noodles, and freshly baked pastries fill the air.


One iconic street food experience not to be missed is enjoying a banh mi sandwich. This tasty creation combines French influences with Vietnamese flavors, resulting in a perfect blend of crunchy baguette, savory fillings, and tangy sauces. Bite into this culinary delight and savor the explosion of flavors that will leave you craving for more.


To truly immerse yourself in the food culture of the city, consider joining a cooking class. Led by local chefs, you’ll learn the art of creating traditional Vietnamese dishes from scratch. From mastering the delicate balance of flavors in a bowl of phở to rolling your own fresh spring rolls, these classes offer a hands-on experience that will deepen your appreciation for Vietnamese cuisine.


Ho Chi Minh City is also home to an array of charming cafes and rooftop bars that offer a panoramic view of the cityscape. Take a break from exploring and indulge in a cup of Vietnamese coffee – a strong and rich brew that is often enjoyed over ice or with a dollop of sweet condensed milk. Sip on your coffee as you soak up the energy of the city and observe the vibrant street life below.


Lastly, no visit to Ho Chi Minh City would be complete without indulging in a bowl of phở. From street-side eateries to upscale restaurants, you’ll find endless options to satisfy your phở cravings. Experience the layers of flavors in the broth, the tenderness of the meat, and the freshness of the herbs as you take a slurp of this iconic Vietnamese dish.


Ho Chi Minh City is a city that embraces its history and celebrates its culinary traditions. By exploring the historical landmarks, savoring the street food, and immersing yourself in the local culture, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for this dynamic and vibrant city.


Discovering the Tranquility of Hoi An

Nestled on Vietnam’s central coast, the charming town of Hoi An is a haven of tranquility and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, lantern-lit streets, and rich cultural heritage, Hoi An offers a unique and enchanting experience for food travelers.


As you explore Hoi An, you’ll be transported back in time to a bygone era. The cobblestone streets, traditional wooden houses, and ornate temples create a picturesque setting that feels like stepping into a living museum.


One of the highlights of Hoi An is its vibrant culinary scene. From street food vendors to upscale restaurants, the town offers a wide array of delectable dishes that showcase the flavors of Central Vietnam. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample cao lầu, a local specialty made with chewy noodles, succulent pork slices, and fresh herbs, all bathed in a savory broth. This dish can only be truly experienced in the streets of Hoi An.


Hoi An is also famous for its bánh mì. While the bánh mì sandwich is found throughout Vietnam, the version in Hoi An has its own unique twist. The bread is soft and crispy, filled with a variety of fillings such as grilled pork, pâté, cucumber, and cilantro. It’s a perfect blend of flavors and textures that will surely satisfy your taste buds.


For a truly immersive experience, consider taking a cooking class in Hoi An. Guided by local chefs, you’ll visit the vibrant market to select fresh ingredients before learning to prepare traditional dishes. From preparing spring rolls to mastering the art of making Vietnamese pancakes, these classes allow you to truly get hands-on with the local cuisine.


Beyond the culinary delights, Hoi An is also a shopping paradise. The town is famous for its tailors, who can create custom-made clothing in just a matter of days. Whether you’re looking for a perfectly fitted suit or a traditional ao dai, Hoi An’s skilled artisans can bring your fashion dreams to life.


As day turns to night, Hoi An dazzles with its mesmerizing lantern displays. The soft glow of the lanterns illuminates the streets and bridges, creating a magical atmosphere. Take a stroll along the Thu Bon River and let yourself be enchanted by the beauty and tranquility of this ancient town.


From exploring the historic architecture to indulging in the local flavors, Hoi An offers an enchanting escape from the bustling cities of Vietnam. Immerse yourself in the tranquility and charm of this UNESCO treasure, and let the captivating culture and culinary delights of Hoi An leave a lasting impression.


Embracing Nature in Ninh Binh

Nestled in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam, Ninh Binh is a destination that will leave nature lovers in awe. Known as the “Ha Long Bay on land,” this region is characterized by its stunning karst landscape, limestone mountains, and serene rivers. Ninh Binh offers a perfect escape for those seeking to connect with nature and immerse themselves in the beauty of Vietnam.


One of the must-visit attractions in Ninh Binh is Tam Coc, often referred to as the “Inland Halong Bay.” Here, you can take a leisurely boat ride along the Ngo Dong River, passing through breathtaking caves and surrounded by towering limestone karsts. The serene beauty of Tam Coc will captivate you as you glide along the calm waters, taking in the awe-inspiring scenery.


Another natural wonder in Ninh Binh is Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This complex features a network of caves, valleys, and waterways, offering opportunities for boat rides and hiking. As you explore the complex, you’ll be mesmerized by the lush greenery, crystal-clear rivers, and hidden grottoes.


While in Ninh Binh, take the opportunity to cycle through the countryside and witness the rural charm of Vietnam. As you pedal along the winding roads, you’ll encounter verdant rice paddies, traditional villages, and friendly locals going about their daily lives. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the peaceful rhythm of the countryside and witness local agricultural practices.


Ninh Binh is not only a haven for natural beauty but also a destination where you can savor the flavors of the countryside. Locally grown ingredients are used to create delicious and authentic Vietnamese dishes. Indulge in specialties like burnt rice (cơm cháy) or goat meat dishes that showcase the region’s culinary traditions.


For those seeking a spiritual connection, visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest Buddhist complex in Vietnam. This sprawling temple complex is home to stunning pagodas, intricate carving work, and imposing statues. Take a moment to soak in the spiritual atmosphere and offer prayers for peace and well-being.


In Ninh Binh, nature takes center stage, offering a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you’re cruising along the river, exploring hidden caves, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the countryside, Ninh Binh provides a rejuvenating experience that allows you to connect with both the beauty of Vietnam’s natural scenery and its cultural heritage.



Embarking on a food travel adventure through Vietnam is a journey that immerses you in the rich tapestry of the country’s culinary traditions, cultural heritage, and stunning landscapes. From the vibrant streets of Hanoi to the tranquility of Hoi An, the beauty of Halong Bay, the history of Ho Chi Minh City, and the natural wonders of Ninh Binh, each destination offers a unique and unforgettable experience.


Vietnam’s food culture is a vibrant tapestry of flavors, influenced by its regional diversity, historical connections, and the resourcefulness of its people. Whether it’s the fragrant noodle soups like phở and cao lầu, the delectable street food like banh mi and spring rolls, or the fresh seafood delights, each bite tells a story and reflects the soul of the nation.


But food travel in Vietnam is not just about the culinary experiences. It’s about the people you meet, the stories you hear, and the connections you make. It’s about embracing the unexpected encounters with locals, witnessing their way of life, and understanding the cultural significance of food in Vietnamese society.


As you explore Vietnam, you’ll also be captivated by the country’s breathtaking natural beauty. From the towering limestone karsts of Halong Bay to the picturesque rivers of Ninh Binh, Vietnam’s landscapes are a source of wonder and tranquility. Immersing yourself in the natural wonders allows you to appreciate the harmony between the environment and the cuisine it provides.


In conclusion, a food travel journey through Vietnam is a feast for the senses, satisfying both your taste buds and your wanderlust. It’s a chance to explore a diverse and vibrant country, indulge in iconic dishes, discover hidden culinary gems, and forge connections with the people and culture along the way. So, pack your bags, open your heart to new flavors and experiences, and let Vietnam enchant you with its captivating blend of food, travel, and adventure.