If you’re looking for a great way to explore the city of Saigon (now referred to as Ho Chi Minh City), get a feel for their culture, music, nightlife, and of course, food—then booking a tour with the Vespa Adventures is a great way to do it. The itinerary of your adventure includes:
- Cafe Zoom
- 10 Years
- Delicious Saigon Beer Sampling
- The 662 Vinh Khanh Seafood Restaurant
- Banh Xeo 46A: A Vietnamese Pancake Restaurant. Their menu consists of:
- Fresh spring roll
- Deep fried spring roll
- Grilled beef with lemongrass
- Cafe Vung Oi
- The Acoustic Bar
I’ve been to Ho Chi Minh city before, in 2011—but only by necessity. We wanted to go to Cambodia but unfortunately, back then we had no direct flights to Cambodia from Manila. The only way to get there was through Ho Chi Minh. We only spent a day and a half there back then. This year, however, when Air Asia opened a new route to Ho Chi Minh, I decided to give Vietnam another shot.
I wanted to explore different parts of Vietnam more but since it was Ruth’s first time, we decided to spend a day in HCMC. Our target destination was the Củ Chi tunnels, somewhere I haven’t gone before since we opted for Mekong Delta in the past.
I’ve always wanted to try a motorcycle in Saigon, even during our first visit. I always felt as if it was very local and fun. I was really to happy to find out Vespa Adventures offers these sorts of tours—I’m a big fan of food tours, I mention that quite often. This one gives me the opportunity to zip around HCMC like a local, at the back of a cool vintage Italian Vespa, all while trying out authentic and delicious Vietnamese food, and visiting the same scenes and spots the locals like.
Our guides promptly picked us up from our hotel at 6 PM and we headed to our first stop: Cafe Zoom at Pham Ngu Lao, the city’s popular backpacker area—and the Vespa Adventures Headquarters.
First Stop: Cafe Zoom
They give you a drink to start off the tour, and this is where we met out tour guide V. Aside from the great free flowing drinks, this was also a good way to chit chat and get to know the other members joining the tour. You’re allowed to order your own drinks here—I ordered the Bia Saigon Green because I wanted a taste of the local beer.
The retro interiors of Cafe Zoom only make the experience feel all the more exciting. You’ll often see Vespas parked outside. There are even Vespa decorations inside to stay true to the Vespa Adventures Company. Aside from being a great place to drink, chat, and grab some snacks—it’s also perfect for a couple of memorable photos or Polaroids.
The Vespas the we use, while vintage, still do feel very safe and secure. I mean, there’s even handles for you to latch onto and they even give you a mask to help you fully absorb the riding experience.
Second Stop: Seafood—MY favourite food stop
The 662 Vinh Khanh is as absolute haven for seafood lovers. It looks like your typical, simple hole in the wall eatery—much like carinderias in the Philippines, but the food was absolutely delicious.
There was a large variety of different choices—all cooked and prepared with an authentic Vietnamese flair. Among the plethora of fresh picks, these were some of the best:
Crab legs: V explained to us the best way to eat crab legs—they were salted and seasoned with chilli, and it was so good. I really loved the spice.
Thai clam soup: She also explained that the Thai clams are best eaten with soup, which is absolutely true. It’s perfect for the rainy weather, too!
Mussels: This is a dish we actually have back home, but what made it unique was the balance of the mint and the fish sauce – this is where V also explained the yin and yang balance in Vietnamese food. Needless to say, this was perfect!
Fried noodles with vegetables: This reminds me of pancit but they mix in soy sauce with this dish, which makes it taste even better.
Frog legs: I personally wasn’t brave enough to try this, but Ruth and the others did – and they said it tasted just like chicken.
I can attest that every meal in this restaurant was perfect! If I were to go back to eat in HCMH, it would be here. I also like how V explained how to eat each meal like a local would. The ingredients were very similar to Filipino meals but the way it’s cooked and eaten is very different. At this point, I had a newfound appreciation for Vietnamese cuisine.
Third Stop: Banh Xeo 46A
The restaurant is named after its speciality: Banh Xeo or crispy thin Vietnamese pancakes made from rice batter and stuffed with vegetables like bean sprouts, as well as shrimps, and pork cuts. One of the most delicious dishes to have here, however, are their shrimp spring rolls.
This is where V taught us how to Wrap and Roll – You wrap your stuffed pancake with leafy greens and roll it up before dipping it in sauce and chowing down. Again, another good meal. Each dish comes with condiments to complement the flavor. There was one dish that reminded me of fresh lumpia—it was good but I much rather preferred the lemongrass beef wrap with all of the leafy vegetables. You can also have yummy grilled meats – the servers recommend you wrap them up in rice paper and veggies for the best possible experience.
Fourth Stop: Cafe Vung Oi
Our fourth stop was a cozy live music cafe hidden in an alleyway. The people who were singing were accompanied by acoustic instruments and voice so we were asked to keep quiet. You can order lots of drinks here – beer, coffee, sodas, ice cream or tea. I opted for ginger tea and chocolate ice cream, myself. The show was so good and the singers did a great job of entertaining the audience. They switched from English to local Vietnamese songs every now and then to engage the crowd. We enjoyed the experience a lot and just didn’t want to leave – we kept asking V if we could stay for just one more song. The ambience was very nice, too. The room was dimmed, helping the visitors admire and take in the wonderful performances better.
Fifth Stop: The Acoustic Bar
The Acoustic Bar is a rock bar where you can end your after dark tour with a huge bang—at this point we just didn’t want the tour to end. The performers were all very talented! The guy on the saxophone was great and the performers did their best to engage the crowd. Everybody was so talented, we felt like we were watching a concert. We were served Gin, Tonic, and Mojitos—you can even top off your order with more, if you like. But at this point I was so full, and just wanted to enjoy the show.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS PLACE! When V asked us if we wanted to head back, we were kinda tempted to say “go ahead without us”. But we had a long day. We had a late flight arrival and another tour right after—we’d barely slept and we even had an early morning bus ride the next day to Mui Ne – so we had no choice but to call it a night.
End of the Tour
Our drivers brought us back to the hotel, where they even gave us a gift! Pictures of us with our guide, our drivers, and even a Vespa Tours keychain. In case our tour wasn’t good enough, this just made it even sweeter.
Ruth and I both felt that the tour was a good overview of all the districts in HCMC. I definitely wouldn’t trade this tour experience away for anything else – and if I just had one day in the city, I’d take this tour in a heartbeat. Even the English family we were with said the same thing! Now, we have new insights about the Vietnamese cuisine, which is a big help when ordering food at different places.
The tour we took was their Saigon After Dark Tour, which costs $89 (USD) per head – but the experience and amount of food and drinks we ate made the price point more than worth it. The tour lasts from 6 PM to 10 PM – or even later, if you still want to party!