We love Ho Chi Minh City, or as many locals still call it, Saigon. This was our second time there. We had gone just over 7 years ago when Kim was 4 and Tia was 1 1/2. My mom was with us at that time as well. We had mostly done self guided walking tours from our Lonely Planet guide book ducking into cool shopping malls or cafe’s quite often. Our most memorable tour back then was the 2 day/1 night Mekong Delta tour. We had also spent 3 days/2 nights out with Tuyet’s family on the coast near Vung Tao.
We arrived in Saigon from Phnom Penh around 3pm getting dropped off right on backpackers row; Pham Ngu Lao in District 1. We were easily able to walk to our hostel from the stop, ironically passing right by the hotel we had stayed at 7 years ago (the price had gone up a lot so we didn’t book a night there). After checking in and cooling off for a bit, we headed out into the night of Saigon for some dinner (Pho of course… what else???) and ice cream.
The next morning Tuyet’s uncle picked us up and drove us to the family digs outside of Vung Tao. This was our little vacation away from our vacation. 🙂 We spent 3 days/2 nights with them. Kim, Tia, and Tai played endlessly with their second cousins; hopscotch outside, in the water at the beach, teaching them Uno and Spot It, and of course electronics and TV (Wreck It Ralph was on one night).
The first night we all went out to dinner at a local restaurant. We asked what was on the menu; well there’s this Pho and there’s that Pho, that’s it. OK, Pho it is!!!! 🙂
The next morning we were up early and Tuyet, Tai, and myself rode on the motor scooters to the market with Tuyet’s aunt and uncle to get food and flowers. Today was the 4 yr. anniversary of Tuyet’s grandmothers passing, so there was to be a small celebration that night. While we were out, Kim and Tia hopped on motor scooters with their second cousins to the beach for ice cream. Lucky them!!!
The next morning Tuyet’s uncle drove us back into Saigon where we had booked 2 more nights at another hotel.
We spent the next day and half walking around Saigon to the markets eating Pho and drinking Vietnamese Ice Coffee (pinch me I think I’m dreaming). Our last night in Saigon was pretty special. Tuyet had found a Saigon Free Walking Tour that was really a motor scooter tour. We booked the evening dinner tour from 7 to 9:30. THIS TOUR WAS AWESOME! And yes, it’s (almost) free! You only pay a small fee per motor scooter plus any food and drinks you buy. I think for all 5 of us we paid a total of $30 for the night. It is run by university students as a school project. They had done surveys asking tourists if they’d like to come back to Saigon and found that a surprising amount said no. So they wanted to make an inexpensive and fun way to see the city, and not just the usual tourist sites. It also allowed the 40 or so volunteers to practice their English conversation skills. We told them their project was working. The tour hit 5 places; dinner at a non tourist restaurant, Notre Dame Cathedral and post office built by Eiffel, the Opera House and walking street, ice cream dessert, then Vietnamese Pizza.
Between each stop was at least a 10 minute ride on the motor scooter along busy boulevards, through quiet streets, seeing all kinds of different neighborhoods and sights. You can watch a video here. Kim, Tia, and Tai loved the tour. Tai wanted to test their conversation skills at dinner talking endlessly about his toys. 🙂 We all had our own scooter with rider (Tuyet and Tai were together). At each stop they would talk about the history of the buildings or the type of food, etc. When we get back to Saigon after Ha Noi we plan on booking them again for a day tour.
The next morning we caught an 8am bus for our long journey up to Hoi An. See you soon.