People ask me frequently if tours are worth it. I get the feeling the general consensus is that they are rip-offs, only marketed to travelers who crave coddling.
I use to be a tour snob, but frankly, tours are useful. It depends on what you want to see and how much.
In Saigon, I got the chance to see a side of the city that otherwise would have escaped me.
Back of the Bike Tours is a fairly new company and they offer unique motorbike tours of Saigon. I felt an immediate kinship with owners, Chad and Thuy Kubanoff, two young entrepreneurs. It was like hanging out with friends, but the benefit is they have the inside scoop on the best places to shop or eat.
I’m mostly an adventurous gal, so the chance to hop on a bike again was thrilling. What’s interesting about their tours are a few things:
1. Fully customizable. They ask what you want to do. Totally unusual for a tour. I loved it. For instance, we wanted to pick up a few items, but wanted to stay away from the tout heavy Bến Thành Market, and they suggested Saigon Square, which was less hectic.
2. See a different side of Saigon. Movement alone on the bike itself allows you to see different aspects of Vietnamese life. Saigon is split into so many districts, and each one has something worth seeing or doing. I saw alleys teeming with life, mothers with children, small, intimate markets or off the beaten path eateries.
3. Culinary tours. Which brings me to what I enjoyed most about my day out with Chad and Thuy. The food. Chad use to be a chef at a local restaurant and took me to an array of districts and restaurants I never could find on my own. We had fish stewed in fish sauce and cooked slowly in clay pots in one area or Logan ice cream with fish balls in another area. Then we parked ourselves by a riverside cafe for coffees and coconut juice. The day was capped in District 8, where Chad and Thuy live. We mulled at a street side eatery that served fresh beer in pint glasses at 15 cents a glass. Chomping on fresh seafood salads, grilled fish and veggies made for an unforgettable culinary day.
I captured some moments in the saddle:
After a full day of being a biker moll, shopping at the local market, and gulping down heaps of food, what really impressed me is their pricing. A city tour starts at $30 USD for the first two hours, and a daytime street food tour starts at $35 USD for the first two hours, thereafter it’s hourly. They offer a comprehensive list of different tours, again, keeping in mind what your likes or dislikes are.
I thoroughly enjoyed maneuvering through rush hour traffic (did you know people will drive on the sidewalks?), going across bridges, and exploring unseen neighborhoods.
Chad and Thuy truly offer a rare glimpse of the multiple layers of Saigon.