Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Cycle Saigon to Hanoi with Explore! Arriving in Saigon and Street Food Tour.

I have wanted to go to Vietnam for years, possibly due to the constant news coverage in the 1960s ; I can vividly recall the Buddhist Monk setting himself on fire on a busy Saigon road. Through to the end of the Vietnam War ( or American war as it is known to the Vietnamese ) in 1975. The news images of the time are embedded in my brain, part of my childhood.

I was looking at cycling tours and saw that Explore! did one to Vietnam. Called the 'Cycle Saigon to Hanoi', so that's what we decided to do in February 2017.

I flew with Air Emirates from Manchester to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), but as the residents call it Saigon, so will I.
I have written about the flight in a previous post, but deliberately chose Emirates as I could fly from Manchester into Saigon and out of Hanoi.
The Visa



I had to get a Visa, and again I have written about that seemingly confusing experience in an older post.
We arrived at Saigon Airport at about 20:00, and were very quickly through customs. Due to the air ticket prices we had arrived 3 days prior to the cycle tour starting so I had booked an apartment via TripAdvisor.
We go a Taxi from the arrivals hall and went to the apartment.

The apartment was in The Icon 56 Apartment Building. according to the map it was just across the river from the city center. This was all correct. Upon arrival, we could not even get into the building as it is so secure and waited outside for the owners brother who was meeting us with the keys. He arrived after about 15 mins and took us up to the apartment. The access is controlled at the main door and the lifts.  

Icon 56 Saigon
Icon 56 Saigon

The apartment was great, just as shown on TripAdvisor and perfectly located.
Icon 56 Saigon
Icon 56 Saigon


Icon 56 Saigon

 
Icon 56 Saigon

Icon 56 Saigon

Remember Now.....


After settling in we went for a short stroll and had some street food, Pho, noodles in broth and a few beers. then got a good nights sleep.

To recover from the jet lag the next day was a lazy one, chilling out at the roof top pool. Then the excitement started as we had been booked on a 'Night Saigon Street Food Tour'  with food tours.  Very promptly at 1800 we were picked up by three, very young girls on scooters. The girls each had a yellow T-Shirt with 'Food Tour' on it. we were given a crash helmet then we were off into the mad traffic of Saigon.  As it was the end of Tet, the streets were lit up and decorated.

Night Saigon Street Food Team
Night Saigon Street Food Team
Street Food stop number one
Night Saigon Street Food Team
Night Saigon Street Food Tour



Night Saigon Street Food Team
Night Saigon Street Food Team

 


We met up with the rest of the party and proceeded to be driven to various street food restaurants around Saigon.  The girls were very informative teaching us about the food and how to eat it. This stood us in good stead for the rest of our visit as we knew what to do with the place of leaves your given at each meal! As well as all the sauces. At the end of a thrilling evening we were dropped off at the apartment.
The next day we were due to start the Tour, check in at The Huong Sen Hotel was at 15.00. Following a lazy morning we got an UBER taxi over to that hotel. Tis was to be our home for the next 3 nights. There was a notice in the lobby telling us the guide would meet us there. Following a short wait we met our guide, Tran Van Hoan and our Explore! Tour commenced.

Huong Sen Hotel Saigon