This city had undergone a few name changes over the years, originally a fishing village known as Prey Nokor, it was then changed to Gia Djnh, then changed again by the French to the more commonly known Saigon and finally in 1975 it was named Ho Chi Minh after the late North Vietnamese leader. Vietnam’s largest & busiest city is chaotic & a bit crazy! I’ve been told there are more motorbikes here than people – The population is over 8 million!
Speaking of bikes I had a really unique experience where I went on a tour of the city at night on the back of one! Sanjay found Back of the bike tours online while searching for something for us to do on our last night in the city. It really was a spur of the moment thing, he called them to get a bit more info and ended up making the booking about 1.5hrs before our tour started at 6pm!
We were under the impression we’d be on a group tour but it was actually just Sanjay and I on our own private tour (which you normally have to pay extra for!) I’ve never been on a motorbike before so I was a little apprehensive about it but our lovely guides were very encouraging and made me feel really comfortable.
The guides who also doubled as our drivers were amazing, really friendly and both spoke fantastic English! Sanjay & I both had great conversations with them while being driven through the large sea of motorbikes and shown the sights of the city. Back of the bike tours have two main tours – The City Tour & The Street Food Tour, they customised it for us and gave us the best of both worlds!
Our first stop was a local coffee/smoothie street spot – Sanjay is basically a coffee connoisseur, me on the other hand, I strongly dislike coffee and don’t drink it! What was great about this stop was that Sanjay got to make his own traditional Vietnamese coffee (which is made with condensed milk opposed to normal milk) and I had the most delicious mango & passion fruit smoothie. We sat on the side of the road admiring the lights while sharing stories with our guides.
I should also tell you they have a support person alongside the guides to assist them and take photos of you while on the tour. The photos are emailed to you a few days after your tour and it’s included in the price. One thing to note is that the photos aren’t that great and you could probably take better ones yourself… Although we took our camera, we regret not taking more photos ourselves!
Next we were driven down town, past the famous French architecture of the Notre Dame Basilica & the Central Post Office before arriving at the local ‘Wet Market’ where a huge variety of meat & seafood was displayed for sale. Our next stop was another local market specialising in fruit & veg and street food, we were able to walked through it with our guides and tried many of the local foods – Sweetened rice paper, silken tofu and a lot of fruit including, longan berries, dragon fruit with red flesh and rambutan, we washed it all down with some fresh coconut water.
After our mini feast it was time for dinner, we were driven through the back alleyways to an eatery very popular with the locals, we were treated to a beautiful chicken pho (noodle soup), what made this pho different to others was that it was made with glass noodles opposed to the usual rice noodles. We had a great meal and a lot of laughs with our terrific guides.
Our tour concluded with a drive to the other side of the city to the beautiful waterfront area – The perfect way to end a perfect night.
I can’t rate our guides enough, they were awesome and really made our night and stay in Ho Chi Minh City! They were extremely accommodating, for example we asked if instead of dropping us back at the hotel, we could be dropped off at one of the sky bars (so we could check out the bright lights from a height and also have dessert!) they had no problem with this and even suggested which ones we should check out!
If you want to experience Ho Chi Minh City a little differently, a back of the bike tour is for you!
Happy Travels, Priti x