I have been wanting to do a motorbike tour in Saigon for a while now, so when I found out a few other expat teacher were interested, I jumped at the possibility. I may have pushed my vegetarian status a bit last night, but it was well worth it.
We met up a lovely group of 8 tour guides by the opera house steps in downtown Saigon. From there we went to a food cart selling a dish called Bot Chien- a dish made with rice flour, eggs, cabbage, and general goodness. It was very good, and we will be asking our nanny to make it for us sometime this week.
Our next stop was a smoothie joint allowing us to try out some of the obscure fruits and veggies of Vietnam. My favorite was the avocado smoothie (not a unique-to-Vietnam fruit, but I love avocado smoothies). Derek really liked the pennywort juice.
At this point, the sun was starting to set. We hopped on the back of the motorbikes to head to the next eatery. Now, it is impotant to note that at this point in my life, I had never ridden on a motorbike (except when the nanny drove me around the parking lot a few months ago and I was super nervous). I did pretty well with it and actually found it enjoyable. It was exhilarating to be part of the chaotic HCMC motorbike traffic that we have only observed through the safety of our taxi's windows. Once you are actually in the flow of things, it isn't nearly as unorganized as it appears to spectators.
The next stop was more for our carnivorous friends though they did serve up some grilled okra that Derek enjoyed. They served many items that are not common in the USA: duck tongue, chicken heads, chicken legs, octopus, and chicken butt to name a few. I was brave and tried the tiny grilled octopus--I actually liked it quite a bit. Other members of our group tried the other delicacies, but Derek and I could not bring ourselves to do so. Sorry, no chicken butt for us.
The next stop was a seafood place/beer garden where we enjoyed some amazing cheese-fried tofu and bia (Vietnamese beer). The others ate some whole frogs. The beer was served in a glass mug with a cylindrical chunk of ice to cool it. After that, we ventured to a durian stand where we "ate" some durian pancakes. Durian is a horrible smelling fruit that is very popular in Vietnam and SE Asia. I am told that it is a fruit that you either love or hate, but, personally, I would rather lick the floor at Metro than taste that again. (I think Derek feels the same way.)
After the official tour ended, we went with one of the other couples to a German beer garden for some "real" beer. Really, we were just attracted to it because of the giant stein they had out front.
I found the evening incredibly enjoyable. It was fun to be a tourist in our own town. I've heard that we can do motorbike tours for just about anything in Saigon (shopping, fabric, beer, ect), so I think we may have to do something like this again. And, in all actuality, I think this has brought us one step closer to potentially purchasing a motorbike for our own personal use. I'm pretty sure I would never be confident enough to drive a motorbike in downtown rush hour traffic, but I could handle the quiet streets of Thao Dien. Now I just have to convince Derek...