Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, as it is still referred to, is one of those Southeast Asian cities with such a colorful street life it’s easy to miss out on all the fun, if you don’t really know your way around. Khiri Travel’s new Saigon Unseen Signature Experience delves behind the scenes of this urban metropolis, uncovering out-of-the-way eateries and interesting activities that put you on the spot; giving you a different insight into how local people spend their time.
We had a lot of fun researching this new Signature Experience tour and we can’t wait to share it with visitors to the city. To start the day feeling refreshed, we head out early for an iced coffee at the Bird Café in the beautifully manicured gardens of Tao Dan Park. The café is a popular spot for many locals who come to take in the morning air, show off their prize birds, and chat with friends over a freshly brewed cup of Vietnamese coffee.
Wandering through the park in the early morning is quite an experience. It’s a bit like being backstage at a music festival with people of all ages busy doing yoga, tai chi, jogging, playing badminton or even practicing their Latin dance steps. You can be a real fly-on-the-wall, but if you gaze too long, you can guarantee that someone will invite you to join in. During our last visit to the park, we were ‘gently persuaded’ into doing a round or two of boxing with an older gentleman. He must have been in his 70s, but even so, you wouldn’t want to get into a real fight with him!
After a spot of breakfast at a restaurant where you can try pho, the national dish – a delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs – we navigate the back alleyways and street vendors to Cho Lon, the heart of Saigon’s Chinatown. Cho Lon is like no other district in Saigon, it’s a hive of activity that holds your attention from the moment you arrive. We spend a couple of hours here taking in the bustle of daily life, and exploring the side streets and lanes that you would otherwise unlikely to see. A district with a long and colorful history, we take you to see a secret bunker and even the former Revolutionary Headquarters, hidden away in plain sight.
At this point, you’ll be getting hot and hungry, so we make our way to one of Khiri Travel’s favorite lunchtime watering holes. Getting there is also an adventure in itself as it involves finding our way to an obscure apartment block where we climb to the roof for a delightful lunch overlooking the city rooftops.
Lunch is followed by a walk through central Saigon to work off the excess. We reflect on the morning’s adventures and ponder how life has changed for locals since the end of the Vietnam War. Between the modern buildings and high-end shopping malls, remnants of old Saigon are still evident. We point out some of the iconic rooftops used by American helicopters to evacuate South Vietnamese residents, before the fall of Saigon, and a bit further on we come across The Café Apartment, an old 9-story apartment building that residents have converted into funky, stylish coffee shops and boutiques. A throwback to Saigon’s former days, it once housed government workers and military personnel. Somehow it looks completely out of place in the center of Saigon’s business district.
It’s fun to simply wander through the building and marvel at the creativity and ingenuity of the owners.
Just when we need a bit of a rest we find the perfect place to relax for a traditional Vietnamese tea-tasting experience. You might not be a tea connoisseur, but you’ll find it fascinating all the same and probably learn more about the types, the history and methods of brewing than you would in a month of studying!
After a long day of exploring, the tea-tasting is a great way to end the tour. Stay on and relax with some more tea on the café’sbeautiful balcony, take another stroll through The Café Apartment, head back to your hotel or spend more time in the bustling modernity of central Saigon.
This new tour has something for everyone. Packed with history, food and culture, Saigon Unseen is a full day tour that exposes you to some of the lesser-traveled places in Saigon. For more information, do not hesitate to contact us at: [email protected]
Nicholas Wade, Assistant Country Manager’s Comment:
After being born and raised an expat in the Middle East, travelling extensively in Asia and living in Seoul for 6 years, I decided that the next logical step was to come to Saigon and join this amazing team of travel professionals! I’ve been lucky to travel to some amazing locations in Vietnam; love a great adventure and love planning my own trips. Being able to now help people create their ideal trips here in Vietnam, sharing my own experiences and inspiring new tours, makes me so excited to be working at Khiri and I look forward to bringing a new perspective to the Vietnam office.
This new Saigon Unseen day tour is unlike anything available at the moment. We believe that day tours, especially to well-travelled destinations, need to offer that little bit extra by setting them apart from the rest and creating an identity all of their own. We have put together a tour that takes you to a side of Saigon rarely visited, however, nonetheless exotic. Saigon Unseen combines three of our favorite aspects of travel: food, culture and history. If you like exploring secret historical buildings, meeting locals and seeing their daily life – all while trying new and exciting culinary treats – then this tour is for you. We have no doubt that this will be a memorable day and an experience you’ll cherish from your time here in Vietnam.