Oct 12 2011

Saigon’s Back of the Bike tours

Published by at 1:08 am under Sightseeing & activities


In a few weeks, my parents and brother are visiting Saigon, and Vietnam as a whole, for the first time. As I’m being a good daughter and helping with them plan their trip, I thought it would be a good idea for them to go on a tour of the city. Although I found a pretty good night tour, I wanted to give someone else a try on the dayside so I booked a trip with Back of the Bike Tours. A newer tour group, they offer private, food-centric tours of Ho Chi Minh City at an affordable price. Run by Chad, the former head chef at District 1’s Xu Restaurant, and his wife Thuy, the foodie inside of me couldn’t resist a food day out on the town.

A view from the other side.

A view from the other side.

From our hotel we were picked up, on motorbikes of course, and whisked away through midday traffic. Chad and Thuy took us for a long ride from District 1 across the Thu Thiem Bridge to District 2. From here we hopped onto the Thu Thiem ferry and cruised back to District 1. I love the Thu Thiem ferry, as it offers a little seen view of the city and is only 3,000 VND for a ride.

After landing safely on the other side we were off to District 4, where we stopped at a local hole-in-the-wall for Vietnamese broken rice, which is made from the pieces of grain that break during harvest.

Little did I know that this restaurant, which I had been unknowingly passing every day on my way home, was going to be an instant favourite. We tried a variety of dishes, including fish, pork and vegetables, that were toppings for the rice and since Chad is a chef, he took time explaining the ingredients and cooking process of each dish.

A crowded lunch spot is always a good sign.

A crowded lunch spot is always a good sign.

Once lunch was done we were back on the bike to District 1 for an after-lunch snack of ice cream. Down a tight market alley we found our ice cream shop, which specialises in just three things: coffee ice cream, longan berry ice cream, and deep-fried fish balls. The ice cream, usually served to local school children, was delicious.

Normally I’m not a fan of coffee flavoured ice cream but here they managed to make it taste exactly like Vietnamese café sua da. And, although deep-fried fishballs sound like a poor pairing, I’m astonished to find that they went together well.

The peanut topping comes free of charge.

The peanut topping comes free of charge.

We were quickly back on the bikes for a long ride to Ben Thanh district where we eventually stopped at a café on the river. Under the shade of palm trees, we sipped from coconuts and listened to Chad and Thuy talk about how they met and the life of newlyweds. The spot was very relaxing and time quickly melted away as we watched boats pass.

Coconut in picture is smaller than it appears.

Coconut in picture is smaller than it appears.

We made the final, and longest, ride of the night through rush hour traffic to a lively restaurant in District 8 known for seafood and cheap, homemade beer. We feasted on several dishes including some amazing salads eaten off large crackers, all the while enjoying our 3,500 VND a glass beer. Again we were given a culinary lesson, making the food that much better. From here we were taken back to our hotel.

I really enjoyed the tour because not only did I get schooled in the intricacies of Vietnamese cuisine, but I also covered quite a bit of ground in visiting eight of the city’s districts. To make things even better, Nomadic Chick’s Jeannie Mark and The Professional Hobo’s Nora Dunn, who had just finished their Ultimate Train Challenge, joined me on the tour and gave me the opportunity to gauge the reactions of some seasoned travellers!

Chad takes a picture of the tour group!

Chad takes a picture of the tour group!

A personalised day tour with Chad and Thuy, who were wonderful hosts, will cost you 1.5 million VND per person and, while they may not have some of the flash or fancy bikes other companies have, they will take you on a great tour. I can’t wait for my family to give them a try — I’ll have to find a way to join them for my second round!

Back of the Bike Tours
T: (01212) 864 495
backofthebiketours@gmail.com
www.bobtours.wordpress.com

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Saigon’s Back of the Bike tours”

  1. Patrickon 13 Oct 2011 at 1:48 am

    Sounds like a fine time, Angela. We’re always happy to see more more providers stepping into the space we cleared when we created Saigon’s original motorbike tour company back in 2007. Vietnam’s tourism industry is just taking its first real baby steps, and the more quality tour and travel services there are here, the better the ultimate result for visitors.

    I should point out that Vietnam Vespa Adventures provides many more local tours than just the Saigon After Dark street-food tour you joined us for a few weeks ago. Since 2010 we’ve offered our hugely popular Saigon Insider’s Tour, an off-the-tourist-trail Vespa tour through hidden HCMC that also enjoys the ferry ride to District 2. Our Wartime Memories tour focuses on the sites, the landmarks and the stories surrounding the 30-year struggle that unified modern-day Vietnam.

    We’ve also just begun offering three new local tours: Our Art, Architecture & All That Tour provides a street-level view of Saigon’s visual culture, from contemporary galleries to lacquer painting and the city’s wild pastiche of architectural styles and legacies. Our full-day Cu Chi and Beyond Tour is a top-end trip that takes in much more of the rich rural countryside of Cu Chi province than merely the touristy tunnels, and guests even get to drive their own Vespa along the deserted country back roads. And finally our new Cat Lai Countryside Tour is a chance for people to experience the rural outback beyond HCMC and explore the dirt and rice fields in a single day (adventurous spirit and strong backsides are musts for this one!).

    We hope you’ll join us again for any of the many authentic, stylish tours we provide, Angela. We’re so much more than just an awesome Night Tour :)

  2. The Ultimate Travel Writer Challenge | Back Of The Bike Tourson 06 Nov 2011 at 5:49 pm

    [...] Travel Fish Review [...]

  3. [...] but also as the head chef at the luxurious Xu Restaurant, a position he recently left to start Back of the Bike Tours. I pulled him away from the kitchen to ask some food safety questions. Newlyweds: Chad and his wife [...]

  4. Dianneon 19 Dec 2011 at 8:14 am

    My husband and I took the Back of the Bike tour in Dec after reading Angela’s review. I heartily endorse her review! We had an amazing time – the experience is much more than the delicious and unique food you will get to eat! The motorbike experience through the side streets, back alleys and out of the way communities is great! It’s like you stop being a tourist and become part of the city life. Chad and Thuy are knowledgable and articulate about the food, the culture and the city. Their love of good food and passion for finding the best in hidden corners is infectious. We return to HCMC in Feb and will definitely be taking another tour with them!

  5. Street Food Safety « Angela Schonbergon 22 Mar 2012 at 3:16 pm

    [...] but also as the head chef at the luxurious Xu Restaurant, a position he recently left to start Back of the Bike Tours. I pulled him away from the kitchen to ask some food [...]

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