In March (2015) I participated in Monika Czerveniak’s excellent Chowdown Vietnam Food adventure. There were eleven of us altogether one of whom was male – me (an aged one at that). Someone asked upon my return to Canada, what was Vietnam like ? I said if you would like to visit a safe country where the people are enterprising, outgoing, helpful, seemingly happy and you love fresh, inexpensive, yummy food, then Vietnam fits the bill. Furthermore if you love to cycle and walk lots, travel on river ferry boats, take an occasional ride on the back of a motor scooter/motor bike, appreciate relaxing short hop flights and short distance mini bus transportation to your comfy hotel and would enjoy ‘staying put’ for a week in a coastal village (Hoi An) near an excellent beach, then Chowdown fits the bill. The tour itinerary is interesting, unhurried and anything but run of the mill.
Have you tried navigating a river in a coracle ? Might you enjoy meandering through lush rural landscapes (where everyone you meet says “hello”), wandering through fascinating markets, viewing garden filled highland landscapes (Da Lat), strolling through historic parts of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City , checking out the rebuilding of a country torn apart by war, purchasing inexpensive quality items (silver comes to mind) from reliable vendors and, as a bonus, savouring taste treats daily ? Monika’s tour enables you to indulge in these pleasures and, of course, facilitates your participation in food gathering/cooking activities. There’s one caveat though, you must learn to celebrate your culinary accomplishments with a “mot hai ba jot”.
Chowdown is reasonably priced. Value wise, the “hands on” cultural experience realized from the modest financial investment, is second to none. The tour is well organized. Its leader (ably assisted by co-host Jean Anne) is patient, unassuming, passionate about food and is fun to be with. I went as a solo traveller, enjoyed all the scheduled and ‘extra curricular’ activities, had lots of personal time and especially valued the guidance and advice provided. A memorable experience .