Meal Tickets: Laos and Vietnam

From southern Europe to southeast Asia, six regions where great adventure is infused with even better food. Pack your appetite.

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Market shopping in Vietnam.     Photo: Intersection Photos

TAGS: Water buffalo, opium factories, Ha Long Bay cruising

The food in Southeast Asia is wild and diverse, and you’ll want an old hand to get fully immersed in the culture of it. Go with Maxwell Holland, a Wilderness Travel guide based in Thailand who has been eating his way through Asia for the past 20 years. His 14-day Indochine Culinary Expedition (from $5,595) starts off with the spicy-hot, Thai-like flavors of Laos in Luang Prabang, a Unesco World Heritage Site on the Mekong River. But the trip’s primary focus is Vietnam, from the milder food of the north to the complex flavors in the south, where Holland and co-leader Mathew Smith have the inside track on the best local markets, cooking schools, chefs, and restaurants.

In Hanoi, you’ll make traditional Vietnamese dishes like nems (spring rolls) with renowned chef Didier Corlou at La Verticale, then spend a few days exploring the South China Sea coast as you drive down to Saigon. There, shop the Ben Thanh Market for everything from papaya to water buffalo, then make a meal with chef Phuong of Hoa Tuc Restaurant, set in an old opium factory. Holland designates plenty of time out of the kitchen to visit temples and sail the islands in stunning Ha Long Bay.

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