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Monday, March 4, 2013

Chinatown Cyclo Tour

We have all heard the warnings.  Watch out for those cyclo drivers, they will rip you off blind!  Unfortunately, this is largely correct.  They hang out mainly outside of the Palace, the War Museum and the market.  Most have "letters" from happy customers miraculously from whatever country you happen to be from.  You will organise a price and off you go.  Problem is, once the ride is over, the extras come out.  He meant 1,000,000VND per person not all together.  He meant per hour and you went over time or even worse, will have you stranded in the middle of no-where, only agreeing to take you home for an extra fee.  These are but just a few of the scams these inventive drivers can use to depart you from your hard earned dong.  Although a part of me can't help but feel sorry for them, it's a hard gig, it does give Vietnamese tourism a bad name. 

But you don't have to miss out on enjoying the very unique experience of travelling by Cyclo trough the crazy Saigon streets.  Enter Mr Binh!  Mr Binh can organise for yourself or a group to tour the city for just 50,000VND an hour.  That's right.  No typo.  50,000VND.  That is less than $2.50 an HOUR.  He will come to pick you up from wherever you may be and is happy to take you wherever you want to go.  Really happy!  Cyclos are banned from many streets in D1 so I think theperfect place to hit the road is a tour of District 5, also known as Cholon or Chinatown. 

I sent him a text message regarding where we wanted to leave from and where we wanted to go and he had someone call me back almost straight away.  His english is extremely limited but the lady that rang to confirm was fine and Mr Binh and his team of 2 were waiting for us at the designated time.  We headed of to Chinatown.  I have no idea what was happening that day down there.  It was some sort of Chinese holiday.  Many shops were closed but the temples were bursting at the seams.  It was absolutley AMAZING!

 Mr Binh is not the kind of tour guide that you may be used to.  He gets you to these amazing places but the rest you will need to read up on before you go if you want to know exactly what you are seeing.  We first went to a Chinese temple, followed by the crazy and my personal favourite, Binh Tay wholesale market.  Another Buddhist temple and just a general ride through the streets including street markets and even a random parade!

Regualr readers of this blog will know I am slightly obsessed with these scales!
Steeped in history, the old buildings in this area are stunning.  Mr Binh happily pointed out some of the more beautiful ones.  Man, if those walls could talk.

When we pulled up at this temple we felt like rock stars!  Thousand of people lined the streets out front.  We think they were waiting for the dragon.

I can't begin to describe how special we felt to be here on what was obviously a very important day.  You could barely breathe through the incense.  Everyone was smiling and happy.  It was exhilarating!

Street markets were full of people buying up for a celebratory meal that night.

The result of "cupping" and ancient Chinese traditional medicine where suction is created on the skin in order to promote healing. 

A quiet respite.

We came across this random parade.  Fabulous!

This is Mr Binh.  As I mentioned earlier, his english is quite limited so if you need more information on the places or area that you are visiting best to do some prior reading.  We were not aware that we were going to visit temples and were not really dressed appropriately.  No one seemed to mind but I would have felt more comfortable being more covered and not in shorts.  Perhaps cover up just in case.  At 50,000VND an hour I almost felt like I was stealing so we made sure that at a few stops along the way we bought the guys drinks and gave them each an extra 50,000VND at the end.  Up to you.  He did not ask for it and certainly did not expect it.  A lovely guy who is just keen to earn a living, you can contact him in 0909306544.  Tell him Dani sent you!


  1. Great photos! You've captured Cho Lon beautifully.

    Thought you may be interested in some of our photos from back in the day...


    1. Hi Jack,
      Your photos are great! I particularly love photos with faces in them and you have captured some great ones! Thanks for sharing.


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