Riding on the back of a motorbike thru the crazy streets of Saigon at night is a memory that will stay with us forever.
We had booked the XO foodie tour after reading great things about it on line. However we were both a little nervous. That evening,when the girls arrived to collect us, we were immediately put at ease by their lively attitudes and warm smiles. John ‘s guide Hong even had green highlights in her hair! Karen was invited to hold on to her driver Hom but John had to settle for holding on to the back of the bike.
Helmets on, safety brief complete and a quick hello to the camera crew we were off. Yes ,camera crew, we decided since this was a mad trip we would pay a little extra for the night to be filmed. So we would be followed by the camera all night on another bike. John loved playing up to the camera, singing and acting scared. The film is still being produced with random music and special effects -we will share shortly.
Soon enough we arrived at our 1st foodie stop of the night. This was where we meet the rest of the tour and XO Tours staff- what a professional team. There were 15 on our tour so you can imagine teams of biker girls combing the city for their charges before converging at the rendezvous spot.
Soon we were enjoying beef rice noodle soup- yum. This was meant to be a gentle introduction to what was to follow… But John had to add spicy chilli to his soup so Karen was worried as John has a dubious history with Chilli.
We left this stop as part of a convoy and headed to Chinatown or Cholon in District 5 to be told more about the evening’s agenda and to take some photos outside the large wholesale market – where all of Saigon does their shopping. We were slightly disappointed as we would have liked to have come back but this was our last night in Saigon 😦 . We wound our way out of here through a street market that sold ‘anything and everything a cart can unload’.
The next stop in District 6, took us over the freeway which was very busy and added to the excitement. We also passed the Karaoke District and John almost made them stop there. The place we stopped was very local. The table next to us had some local football teams in Borudsia Dortmund and Man Utd personalised shirts. Every so often they would stand up with drink in hand and toast in Vietnamese.
The food at this stop was BBQ Goat, Scallops, Morning Glory, Shrimps and “Jumping Chicken” (Frog). We also played a drinking game where you have to get some peanuts into an empty beer bottle using chopsticks in teams of two. John easily beat Karen and won a badge and the right to gloat.
The next stop was designed to give our bellies a rest and take in the more uniquely looking District 7. On arrival, the main tour guide greeted us and said ‘Welcome to Singapore’. The reason being that District 7, which was newly built on reclaimed land, looks nothing like Vietnam. It is full of Western Restaurant chains, huge skyscraper apartments and malls that no Vietnamese person can afford to shop in. It was definitely rich town.
Our last stop was used as a contrast. District 4 is the poorest district in Saigon and has more character, if a little hairy, then District 7. To get here we had to pass the ‘Love Bushes’ – a popular ‘necking’ spot for Vietnamese couples. As many families are not well off you can have 4 generations under the one roof. When a couple get married they cannot afford their own place immediately and have to live with the man’s parents so they come here for some privacy.
In District 4, we ate in the streets on tiny plastic chairs and tables. Our fare was Crab, clams, quail and coconut jelly. It was someone’s birthday on the tour so we managed to get some cake as well. What we refused to try was the Duck Egg.
We made it back in one piece and full of good Vietnamese food and tips for even more. Our Guides/Drivers were great fun and full of stories. After John had won the game they teased him that Karen would make him sleep in the floor for not letting her win!