My motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went on a motorbike tour while I was in Ho Chi Minh City.  HCMC was known as Saigon until 1975, and the name is still used regularly today.  The city is separated into districts, similar to Paris, and District 1 is the center of the city.  This is also where the majority of tourists spend their time, so I was looking for a tour which would take me to other districts as well.

Relics of the Vietnam War can be seen throughout the city.  We first went to a monument of Thich Quang Duc, a monk who set himself on fire in protest of the war. The carvings behind the statue show what happened in realistic detail.

We then went to a local flower market. In addition to the wholesale flower sellers, there were a lot of street food vendors. Surprisingly, most of the stores are located on the first floor of a very tiny house, presumably where the owners live.

In the middle of the flower market, we saw people practicing for a cockfight.  Our guide told us that although gambling is against the law, these cockfights can bring in thousands of dollars for the winner.

We passed by Binh Tay Market, the biggest market in Chinatown.  Apparently the shopping is much better than its better known cousin, Ben Thanh Market, although unfortunately I did not get to go shopping in either!

We went to a local temple, which had a giant buddha sitting on a lotus. The amazing part was that there were tiny buddhas in each of the lotus petals!

HCMC was obviously under lots of development. We also passed through the “expat area”, with very expensive housing and lots of security – no street food vendors here!

Back in District 1, we saw two of the most famous buildings in the city – the Saigon Central Post Office (which is really a post office, in addition to selling a lot of souvenirs), and the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica.

Our guide told us that the bricks used to build this church were brought all the way from France, as well as all of the other original building materials!

Although I had only a short time to sightsee in Ho Chi Minh City, I had a great time.  Hopefully I will get to do some shopping next time!

Hope you enjoyed my trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

xoxo, K

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Welcome to… Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

If you ask my parents where their favorite city to visit is, they will tell you that while there are too many choices to pick a number one, Ho Chi Minh is definitely in their top 3.  “The food is great”, they tell me enthusiastically, “you should visit soon.”

Considering my lifestyle, it is only fitting that I went to Ho Chi Minh on a business trip.  *sigh*

While I was there, I took advantage of a day off to go on a tour of the city.  My colleagues recommended I go on a motorbike tour, and based on the recommendations off of Tripadvisor, I went on two tours: XO Tours’ Foodie tour, and Vietnam Vespa’s The Insider’s Saigon tour.

The Foodie tour was at night, so I wasn’t able to get good pictures, but I took a ton of pictures on the Saigon tour.  The details of the tour will be in the next post!

In both of the tours, you ride on the back of a motorbike with your driver in front. Helmets are provided, and the driving is pretty safe.  Bring a handheld camera with a strap if you want to take pictures – apparently bag and camera snatching is very common in Ho Chi Minh.  I took all of the pictures below on the backseat of a motorbike.  Although they look pretty good, I had to do a lot cropping to make sure my driver’s head wasn’t in the picture!

XO Tours differentiates itself by having only female drivers.  They can be easily recognized because they all wear Ao Dais, the traditional clothing of Vietnam. Interestingly, they also have 2-3 guys who act as guards, steering away homeless people from your tour group and keeping an eye on things when you eat.

Their tour gave me the impression that it was extremely rehearsed.  When the tour leader explained things, it was clear that she gave the exact same speech on every tour.  My driver also gave me a very clear safety briefing before the tour which was also pretty rehearsed.   All in all, a very polished tour.

Vietnam Vespa was a little more rugged, a little more real.  My driver spoke very little English, unlike my XO driver who chatted the entire time in very good English.  The tour had a little more flexibility as well, since we were able to stop and walk around by ourselves, unlike the XO Tour where my tour guide walked with me the entire time.

Which do I recommend more? It depends on what you are looking for. If you have very little experience on a motorbike, and are looking for a polished tour, go with XO Tour.  If you want less “parenting”, go with Vietnam Vespa.  I am glad I did both, and I am also glad I did the XO Tour first.  I plan to go on a different tour the next time I go to Vietnam!

xoxo, K

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