“Do you want to go by motorbike?” Vu, co-owner of Saigon Street Eats, asked when I met him at my hotel for the Pho Trail – A Morning Walking Tour
“Really?” I replied, unsure if he was serious.
“Yes, you’re the only one and we usually go by taxi,” he said, but since I was the only one, by back of his motorbike was an option and I chose it. Other tours Saigon Street Eats offers are by motorbike so I knew I was getting the best of both worlds by hopping on the back of Vu’s.
It’s been decades since I’ve been on the back of a bike but once he helped me with the helmet and he instructed me to get on and off the bike from the left. He also advised it was okay to wear my backpack and a small camera around my neck but not to carry an iPhone as other drivers may snatch it from my hand.
We were off to our first stop, breakfast of pho with beef, then wandered back streets, markets, and shops, gathering food along the way. Vu filled my head with all sorts of Vietnamese culinary knowledge ranging from what to look for in a good street food vendor to pointing out a fruit traditionally given at weddings and is proven to clean teeth. We walked through a market that had items as fresh noodles, dried fish, butchers and various eggs including century eggs and the “little blue egg.” As explained to me, this is the Vietnamese version of the little blue pill, a light blue egg containing a duck fetus and believed to give men virility.
The tour included a visit in a park where we ate some of the food picked up along the way including fruit, donuts and a sweet, gooey dessert made with red bean paste. In the park was a temple where I knelt on a mat, asked a question by shaking a tube with numbered sticks then found out the answer to my question by finding a sheet of paper with the corresponding number.
I’ve taken many tours over the years and this was one of the best. Tour size is typically limited to six, lasts between 4 and 4.5 hours and includes breakfast, lunch and lots of eating in between. Simply put, there was a lot of food on this tour! I got to see and learn about a part of Saigon many other tourists don’t get to see or experience and I learned more than just food, I learned about some of the modern culture. Plus, I got to ride the back of a motorbike! Not once, but three times when Vu hired taxi motorbikes to transport us and then he dropped me off at my hotel.
What was even more fun was spending time with Vu and later meeting his wife Barbara who’s Australian and co-owns Saigon Street Eats. Together they penned the travel guidebook Vietnam: 100 Unusual Travel Tips and a Guide to Living and Working There. Although Vietnam is a place I have wanted to visit, I was still a bit apprehensive after I booked the trip and wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Reading 100 Unusual Travel Tips put my mind at ease and I found just about everything in the book was spot on, at least the portion about visiting Saigon, because that’s the only destination in Vietnam I visited. If you’re going to keep track, there are more than 100 useful tips and I recommend anyone visiting Vietnam to read this book.
I brought the book with me and Vu was kind to take it home to Barbara and they both signed the book for me. It was the first time they had seen a hard copy of the book – that’s how hot off the presses it is, plus, shipping the book is a tad expensive. It was a real treat when Barbara and Vu came by the hotel to return the book and we had a bit of chance to chat.
If you have the chance to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, book a tour with Saigon Street Eats for the best taste of the city. Remember, go hungry and at the end of the tour, your stomach and mind will be filled.
View more images of my trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Flickr.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support my traveling habit.