Vietnam’s beautiful Angkor Wat is a magnificent in it’s own right but our 24 hours action-packed layover in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon was without a doubt the highlight of our trip.
We decided to stay downtown at the very colonial, extremely historical and slightly cheesy Majestic Hotel where it was most convenient to explore this gem of a city. As our arrival to Ho Chi Minh City was in the late afternoon we were between a rock and hard place with how to keep two kids (one eight and one 10), along with a nervous mother-in-law, entertained during the layover before we left the next day.
Through a recommendation, we looked into Vietnam Vespa Adventures.
By the time we checked into the Hotel, all the morning tours had already taken place. With the kids, the evening bar tours were out of the question, but Steve Mueller, founder and owner of Vietnam Vespa Adventures happily prepared a combined day and night tour for us.
We came down to our hotel lobby, and gazed out the window at a small fleet of vintage Vespas in various shades of blue, grey and orange…each complete with a driver. Our anticipation grew as we walked out to touch the shiny Vespas lined against the curb. Everyone but my mother in law was grinning ear to ear. As we listen to our English-speaking tour guide’s instructions we were all restless to begin our journey and dive into the street’s crisscrossing traffic. Carol’s reservation was understandable. since the traffic in the city is so bad that all guests are required to be chauffeured.
All of us were fitted with bright orange helmets and flew off into the streets. We drove around the city visiting various locations important to and symbolic of Vietnamese culture including; the section of Saigon Road where the Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc who set himself alight in 1963 to protest against the South Vietnamese government treatment of Buddhists; Ho Chi Minh’s oldest Chinese temple and various ancient and modern neighborhoods until we stopped to view the Majestic Hotel from the across the Saigon River.
As night fell we sped back into the city to their headquarters, Zoom Café where we had a short break, hopped back onto the Vespas and headed out to dinner. We sampled typical Vietnamese seafood featuring appetizers of crispy frogs legs to snails then off again to an outdoor restaurant to watch our savory crepes and vegetables cook. The meal finished with smooth crème caramels and sweet Vietnamese coffees. All around us were Vietnamese patrons chatting and talking about their daily routines. It was perfect way to end the day.
It was a brilliant way to sample and experience Ho Chi Minh.
Best of all? My mother-in-law was grinning ear to ear.