Sunday, November 30, 2014

Free Walking Tour in Saigon (yes, they have it!)

This post is really real time as I'm so excited and I want to put it in writing as soon as possible before it is evaporated and forgotten. I have been in Saigon for a week this time around and will be staying here for about a month, but I have visited Saigon also back in last October, June, and July with a total period of about 1 month for work. As for Vietnam, I have visited this country 4 years back in 2010, so I did and went already to those of main attractions, Cu Chi Tunnel, Mekong Delta, museums, and other landmark in the city. So, last Jun when I spent weekend in Saigon, I was actually looking for other activity to do in this city, aside from shopping (which I did as well).

Back when I traveled to Europe 3 years back in 2011, I joined some of the Free Walking Tour in Berlin, Bratislava, and Ljubljana. For those who are not familiar with this I probably need to give a bit of information here. So, based on what I had in Europe, in this tour the guide will take you around the city, stop at various interesting places and attractions and he/she will tell you stories about the place, some of the stories are well-known but some of those you'd probably will not find it everywhere (well, at least when you're too lazy to read, haha), and I did it in Berlin where so much history and important events were happening in the past, but for me it was very good as you get something more out of this and the interesting part is it is FREE. So, you might be wondering how it's possible. So, it's not free per se, you are allowed to give the guide some tips if you think that the tour is worth it, so you got to decide on how much you value the tour, if you'd thing it was good you can give some, if it's otherwise, you don't need to give anything, no string attached. Other thing is, the tour guide, there were no fixed salary for them, all their income will come from the tips, so they would make sure to provide an exceptional tour if they'd like to earn the income. So, with this concept, it's really a win-win situation for both parties.

Back again in 2014, on June when I know that I'd be spending weekend in Saigon, I really looking for this kind of tour, I was browsing. searching to many of travel websites, blogs, and such, but I was not able to find a reliable one, so my conclusion was, maybe they don't have (yet) such a thing here in Asia. Until just about 2 days ago, one of my colleague here, found something in tripadvisor called Trails and Tales Walking Tour which will take you on a fascinating three-hour journey through the myths, fiction, and non-fiction of Ho Chi Minh City unveiling its rich history and modernizing present for free, the rating is very good, out of 90 something review, 95% of them rated as Excellent, so, reading the reviews and checking out the websites (Trails & Tales) which looks convincing to me, we decided to join this tour on Sunday.

The tour starts at 10.45 am and lasts for about 3 hour all on foot, the meeting point is Happy Life Cafe (just across the crazy buffalo, you wouldn't miss it). Even though it was full walking, no need to worries as made some stops for drinks along the way, and luckily for us, today is a bit cloudy so, the heat is still bearable. We were a group of about 15 people from different nationalities (all foreigners). The guide, Adam, a guy from Leeds, UK, is very passionate about being a good guide, he's nice, friendly and most importantly a great storyteller. He really has done his homework very well (put up together all of the stories, provided the relevant and interesting pictures, and delivered the stories in a very interesting, sometimes funny way and in well-planed pace). Most of the places we visited, I have been there before but I got new insights and information/facts about the place, some of them I have never been before so it's really good and very insightful. Some would made you got in the serious deep thinking. I will not ruin it here by telling all the stories, so, I'll just share some of the pictures from today. So, yeah, I would recommend this tour for those who's looking for something different on a walking city tour, you don't need to be a history buff to enjoy this tour, it's really for anybody who valued culture and history and cool, yes, if you think you are cool, you need to take this one. Haha.

almost unbelievable there is such a tranquil place

City hall. This whole construction is really saddening

That guy in yellow is Adam

was reunification palace

most delicious and refreshing sugar cane ever

The Venerable Thich Quang Duc Monument (the monk who burn himself)
group photo

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