As Ottsworld site, Experiencing Saigon by riding motorbike and discovering a lot of interesting things of the city “Pearl of the Far East” is what Sherry and Evie – Two foreign tourists get to experience.
Saigon journey of discovery
A woman sells green oranges at the local market
Many travelers talk about wanting have more local experiences – but how far will you go to get access to those experiences? One of the main things locals do in Saigon is ride motorbikes – so would you get on the back of one to ride around like the locals do?
Most people think that simply crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh City is a real life Frogger game – a death wish. Vietnam is known for their chaotic motorbike traffic and it can be quite intimidating to most tourists. Many people say that they would never get on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh city let alone drive themselves anywhere. However, Sherry and his niece decided that they wanted to experience the local side of Saigon so much that they did the unthinkable – they became motorbike passengers with Saigon Unseen.
Granted he had lived there before and drove his own motorbike around the city for months, but for Evie to agree to hop on the back of a motorbike and see the real Saigon, was a pretty big step. He was thrilled that she was daring and accepting enough to do this when most visitors would shy away. He honestly have no idea where she gets her willingness to try new things from, but He was just happy she has it and he hope she keeps it up her whole life.
They were ready to see the lesser seen sights of Saigon – so when their guides, Mr Sau and Mr Minh, pulled up on their motorbikes with their helmets they were pretty excited. They would be riding with them for 4 hours through parts of the city seldom seen by visitors. This was a tour of extremes – one that took them to the poor and rich sections of Vietnam, and it also had them experience the extreme weather conditions too – hot and sunny to rainy season downpour. But they loved every minute of it.
Related: Saigon Cuisine
Driving through narrow alley markets!
A friendly hello as they drove past!
They drove out of District 1 and immediately got into the local markets. They rode through the markets until they became so narrow that we had to get off the motorbikes and walk. People were everywhere buying, selling, and socializing – and they were definitely the only tourists there as they had plenty of people stop and stare at them. But normally a smile in their direction was enough to wipe the shock off their face and smile back.
They walked while the bikes slowly followed along behind them. They saw skinned frogs, and skinned cow heads – now this is what about REAL local experiences. You aren’t going to find these types of local goodies at the Ben Thanh Market for tourists. If you want see local stuff – then you have to stomach this:
Cow heads at the market – all served up on a platter
Frogs for sale…it took us a while to realize these were still alive.
A porridge street vendor caught his eye and his stomach and quickly Mr. Sau bought them a little bag of porridge for later before he could even take out money. After another 20 minutes on the motorbikes they stopped for a coffee and a chance to stretch their legs. Mr. Sau took them to a little establishment where he bought them café sua da and lime juice where they could enjoy their porridge that they bought from the market. There were only a few people at the little outdoor tables, but all of them were curious to see them and asked Mr. Sau who they were, their ages, and where they were from.
Delicious yummy porridge! A sweet ‘soup’ made from sticky rice balls and coconut milk.
Then they were took through the new tunnel connecting district 1 and 2 in Saigon which was a miracle to him considering it was just a pile of dirt and a dream when he lived there. The newly constructed tunnel changed the whole dynamic of traffic and would have certainly made his commute easier when he had lived there. He just loved being on the bike going through the tunnel under the river – a fun way to experience the new modern architecture in Saigon.
New HCMC tunnel
His niece- Evie was interested in catholic churches and then they rode motorbikes to a unique place in District 4 that they had never heard of before – Xóm Chiếu Church. The church had a number of statues that Evie recognized but the most interesting thing about this Spanish Style church in the middle of Saigon was the body of a 100 year old female Saint that is on display. A bit gory – but interesting. They also had a cemetery inside the church. Apparently they had dug up an old outdoor cemetery when the land was going to be used for something else and they gave everyone mini caskets to store the ashes in and stacked them behind glass cubes.
Mini graves inside the church.
Next they rode motorbikes out to the modern and non-Vietnam-like District 7, Phu My Hung, an area that he used to have to commute through when he was teaching at the factory. Wide streets, big sidewalks, brand name stores, and modern slick architecture were everywhere. The new development sort of turns his stomach, he told that “I know I should be happy for the Vietnamese for growing – but it’s also so sad to me at the same time. There’s nothing about District 7 that feels like Vietnam to me. It’s sterile, and if the whole country turns into this – then I’m sad to say that I won’t be coming back here. Yet – Vietnam is a long ways away from that.”
District 7 Phu My Hung – the modern Vietnam and the way of the future.
Then they moved out of the new area and turned back into the typical Saigon streets – it means “back in Vietnam now”. He felt relieved to be back in the grittiness. It was time for a lunch stop they were introduced to Pho restaurants. Pho Hung makes their famous broth and then transports it all over the city to different restaurants. They were at the heart of the pho broth making, eating at the restaurant itself.
He remember that “As we ate all of a sudden it sounded as if a freight train went by outside – I turned around and looked and the rain came down in sheets – it rained so hard it looked like it hurt. And it didn’t stop. As we finished our soup we watched as the street outside flooded and we took photos and commented and laughed about the various people trying to make it through the quickly rising water. However – eventually WE had to go out in that stuff too. Mr. Sua got out the extra ponchos and said we could go whenever we wanted to. We put them on and prepared to get wet – really wet. This was going to give Evie a real Saigon experience that not many tourists ever get – riding on a motorbike in the rain.”
Evie ready to go out in the flooded streets with her poncho!
Stuck in the street flood – but still a smile on his face!
This was his favorite part honestly – driving around in the rain totally soaked but getting a real feel for what Saigon is like during the rainy season. They made a few more stops at temples and markets before they were back to their hotel. They were soaked through and through – but they were also wearing big grins – they had a great time seeing the Saigon most people never get to experience and a unique perspective of the city and culture.
On the back of their motorbikes enjoying the rainy experience!
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