Duc is one of Vietnam's foremost writer and intellectuals. A San Francisco-based host on National Public Radio, Duc retired to Hanoi, marking this move back home with the opening of an art gallery and designing of a mountain retreat (read the New York Times article).
A provocateur in the spirit of Ai Weiwei, Duc continues to contribute to the New York Times. His books include Where the Ashes Are: The Odyssey of a Vietnamese Family and Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Duc continues to write and manages a poet's café in the Old Quarter, where we will meet for coffee and a sweeping introduction to his homeland and vigorous art's scene. Duc is also host for Vietnam Art Encounter tours.
No doubt you've heard, and seen, that Vietnam has some of the most delicious street eats in the world. As Anthony Bourdain states "All of the things I need for happiness: Low plastic stool, check. Tiny little plastic table, check. Something delicious in a bowl, check."
We will plan finer dining at places you should not miss, but during the day when out and about, we'll expose you to the best pho you've ever had, or stop by the bun cha cafe where Barack Obama enjoyed a taste of this terrific Hanoi dish. Thankfully, Vietnamese serving sizes are smaller and we'll loosen up the belt some and snack throughout the day.
Enjoy a private encounter with the troupe from Hanoi's traditional opera in their historic, atmospheric theater located in Hanoi's Old Quarter. Learn hands-on about make-up, costumes, and music from the performers and then participate along with them in your own show.
Forgo the touristy water puppets theater for this private hands-on lesson learning to play the mystical sound of the Dan Bao, which is the real highlight of the theater.
Enjoy time with a prodigy in the atmospheric Old Quarter home of Pham Chi Khanh and his musical family, also learning other instruments. Khanh is a master of several traditional Vietnamese instruments, but the electrified and bluesy Dan Bao, featured in water puppets theater, is mesmerizing. [View a short video on the Dan Bau]
This delightful, yet rigorous cooking class is not to be missed. Situated in an elegant French villa with expert instructors, you will be taught to master four to five dishes, including quintessential Vietnamese spring rolls, papaya salad, and mouth-watering banh xeo, a Vietnamese fried crepe. The course includes a market tour, and lunch dining on your creations. [View Culinary in Asia]
Hear Mr. My's thrilling stories of being a fighter pilot over Hanoi during the war. He was the first Vietnamese pilot to shoot down an American f-4 fighter jet in 1972. Mr. My later was invited to Kentucky to meet with his former adversaries, one, Dan Cherry, who had also shot him down during dogfights above Hanoi and recounted in General Cherry's book: My Enemy, My Friend. We'll stop into have teas with My in his Old Quarter home, sharing photos, and hearing about his amazing experiences during and after the war.
Spend an afternoon with Khanh at his massive Red River Art compound. A surrealist painter and Vietnam's most eminent performance artist, Khanh moves easily between painting canvasses, acrylic and lacquer with his very own technique. During shows, he may paint himself white and dance for hours in his own highly individual style. As a performance artist, Anh Khanh has performed all over the world including New York, Europe, and throughout Asia. Khan is fluent in English, and an engaging and charming host.
Soccer is Vietnam's most popular sport. If your trip occurs during the season, attend a match of the country's best team — Hanoi's TNT. The city stadium comes alive with drums, flags, and roars of fans. Photos with the team may be arranged in advance.
Quan is one of Vietnam's foremost contemporary lacquer artists. An intellectual with deep Buddhist beliefs, Quan makes for a fascinating visit beyond his beautiful art work in his home gallery in the bohemian quarter of "Tay Ho" or West Lake in Hanoi. Through his development of the art form, he has adapted the medium to include alternative techniques and other art disciplines, such as sculpture.
We've organized cycling trips for over 20 years, and in some places like Ninh Binh (below), it's the best way to explore, away from traffic on footpaths through villages, farms, and picturesque landscapes. You don't have to be an avid biker to enjoy at least some time in the saddle during your journey.
In addition to "laughing yoga" on the lake, a private class can be arranged on the bank of West Lake in Quang Ba Pagoda, a peaceful complex and perfect location for a serene yoga experience. Instructor Chi Hoan will share with the meditation, mindfulness to understand the peacefulness, positive energy & spiritual improvements of yoga. Ms. Hoan will also share tenants of Buddhism that affect the mind on the path to a enlightenment and a positive life. [See Cycling in Vietnam]
Learn the ancient and tranquil art of calligraphy from a master in the atmospheric Old Quarter. Hand-on, learn to brush calligraphy in both Chinese, who introduced it to Vietnam, and in the Vietnamese Language. Your host, a skilled artist and a calligraphy master will transport you back in time delving into an art that is still revered and respected.
Enjoy private fishing trip with local fisherman, learning the trade on Halong Bay. In addition, visiting local fish farms, where live catch is kept and floating fisher-folk villages.
Aboard a vintage Russian Minsk motorbike, thrill on a ride through the labyrinths of narrow, winding back streets and alleyways of Hanoi. Experience authentic glimpses of the capital, behind the scenes. Roll past the French Colonial Quarter, gliding along the verdant boulevards enjoying views of a romantic bygone era. Stop to visit an Egg Coffee shop to taste a very unique family heirloom coffee “coffee with egg.” Finally, joining your driver for Hanoi's famous happy hour or "Bia Hoi" where you will enjoy the the company of locals ending their work day.
"We were pleased that Indochina Travel was small enough to provide the things larger companies cannot, yet with all the benefits of using a larger one. In Saigon, we were honored to visit our guide's family. The BEST parts of our trip were the PEOPLE we met, especially the real, local people, not just the famous ones (though they were fascinating as well). Cuong made this possible throughout our time with him."
—Ric Haas, Menlo Park
"Chris and I had a wonderful journey. Thanks to you, everything was flawless. All of the guides were superb (especially Thiha in Burma). The accommodations were top-rate in most cases, the special activities and personal service much appreciated!"
—Ann & Chris McMurray, Alexandria, VA
"Overall, we had an excellent trip! Don and I both loved Bhutan and Myanmar. Both countries are beautiful, each in their own way. Our main comment would be to say how wonderful our guides were. As we've discussed in the past, it's really the difference between a good trip and great one. It was really nice to have the same guide for the entire itinerary, you really get to establish a rapport and they get to know us. We thought both guides were very professional, knowledgeable and personable, and we learned a lot from both."
—Irene Ing and Don Ershig, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Boating - "Thank you for an amazing adventure, we were delighted at every turn and the activities and people we met were thoroughly fascinating. We really the appreciated the authentic experiences we shared. Our girls are still talking about the trip, please give Linh and Duc our best!"
—The Anderson Family
Halong Bay Kayaking - "This was our fourth trip with you guys and it couldn't have possibly been any better. Your crew is outstanding in every way-well prepared, attentive, and professional. Again, you planned some very special things for us which we really enjoyed. Thank you for another amazing experience."