Exploring a city after sunset is an interesting experience, more so when done on the back of a scooter, whizzing through the traffic. I joined one such exploration of Saigon by night and lived to tell the tale.
We weave through the early evening traffic in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. I precariously hold on to the back seat as we race through the roads. My driver Thu, expertly navigates through the roads and we move towards our first stop for the evening, a quick look at a local night market near Cholon. The trip promises to be interesting.
I first read about this interesting way to explore Saigon on my first visit to the city. It seemed like a really offbeat way to explore the city. I managed to book myself on an evening tour conducted by XO tours on one of the relatively free weekends.
XO Tours runs a number of “bike” tours that combine the fascinating motorbike culture of Vietnam and the sheer variety of facets of daily life in Vietnam. The most unique thing about the tour is that it’s an all woman operation, with the founder giving special emphasis on this aspect to provide for more opportunities for women in tourism.
Thu, picks me up in District 1 and after some preliminary safety tips we are zooming into the streets. Our first destination is the Binh Tay Market area in District 5. We stop by to meet the other guest on the trip, a Korean doctor. Our hosts take us to an evening market outside Binh Tay. The market is interesting, I can see various assorted meats, fish, eels and even a few frogs on sale. We browse through the market and pick up some mangosteens for dinner, from a local vendor.
Now it’s time for dinner, and we whizz through the streets and end up in District 8 across the river. We stop at what looks like a large open air food court. The place seems popular with lots of people sitting in the food court area. There are lots of delicious dishes on display, which I look through.
I have selected Cơm tấm which is broken rice with a pork cutlet for my dinner. Sitting on those little chairs in the food court and trying to eat out of a little styrofoam box is quite an experience. It’s further enhanced by the fact that the food is absolutely delicious.
After dinner we eat the Mangosteens. I’ve never eaten one before, let alone peeled one. Thu teaches me how to correctly peel and eat the juicy white flesh of the fruit. After that impromptu lesson we resume our evening exploration of the city.
We race through the streets, weaving from District 8 to District 7. Thu points out the various landmarks and features of the various Districts as well as tells me little tidbits about the history of each of the districts. For example, I learn that District 7 is synonymous with Koreans and has a large Korean expat population. We engage and conversation about our respective cultures and she is quite surprised to learn that all Indians are not vegetarians and that from a culinary point of view we eat a lot of the same food. After that interesting cultural exchange and an ad hoc discussion on the economics of the two countries we finally arrive at District 4 for dessert.
Dessert is a lovely flan pudding of sorts with crushed ice. It’s surprisingly delicious, and I quickly finish my delicious serving. Post dessert we pose for photographs, before saying goodbye to the my new found Korean friend.
Thu drops me off at District 1 ending what was an interesting journey through the streets of Ho Chi Minh.