Food and Scooters Through Saigon with XO Tours

by Nov 2, 2017

“Are you ready to ride with XO Tours?”
“I don’t think anyone is ever ready to be picked up by a girl on a scooter to eat…”

XO Tours tl;dr

  • Ao Dai Clad Girls on Scooters
  • Learn a lot about both Vietnamese food and culture
  • EAT and DRINK as Much as You Want

Nadia is always on the lookout for something new, something different, and something tasty. And here in Saigon, it is another new place, another opportunity to learn about Vietnam, and eat another bowl of bun bo hue. When looking for something different to do, Nadia found XO Tours that might fit the bill. From everywhere online, there were only glowing reviews about how thrilling and filling the tour was. It was a no brainer! Either of those things alone would have sealed the deal. But both, get out of here with that. Just take my money!

Girl on a Scooter

I was pretty excited for this tour. I’m not typically a tour person; the idea of getting on a bus and following someone around in a crowd isn’t really my bag. I’ve seen them, and I see their use but I try to avoid them if I can. Not knowing anything else about these girls on scooters, I really had no idea what to expect. I did not look up too much online beyond the basics because I didn’t want to ruin any surprises for myself.

The day of the tour, both Nadia and I went down to the hotel entrance where we were greeted by 2 girls on 2 scooters; 1 for each of us. For whatever reason I simply imagined that we were going to ride on one scooter and visualizing it now makes me feel super silly at the sheer idiocy of it.

They introduced themselves as Vy and Tran of XO Tours and that they would be our guides today. Simple and easy! Nadia and I hopped on the back of a scooter each and let everything else fall off to the edges of our periphery as we rode off into culinary bliss.

Nadia and JM During XO Tours Saigon

Pleasant Surprises

Our first stop of the day was this nice restaurant with outdoor seating. No big surprises there. What I was surprised by was the large group of other hungry people waiting outside for the rest of us stragglers to finally show up. We all sat around on the outdoor seats and waited as the rest of the people showed up. The tour leader explained that we would be riding as a group of about 30 odd people among other things:

  • Be careful while riding on the back of the scooter
  • Don’t distract your driver
    • Seriously, no one wants to get hurt
  • Eat as much as you want
  • DRINK as much as you want
    • But don’t get drunk or you will get “tied up”
  • There are other staff riding with the group to help with logistics
    • Navigating with such a large scooter herd probably needs a little help staying together

Picture that…. 30 plus scooters riding around in a group, nay, a GANG… a FOODIE GANG just destroying the HCMC street food scene.
This is going to be EPIC!

Nadia and I sat down and quickly met Joe and Francis seated across from us. Turns out they are from our neck of the global woods, San Francisco! Go figure!? What are the odds?! They were also in town and had heard about this tour and figured to check it out; just like us.

1st Meal | Bun Bo Hue

Who doesn’t like beef noodle soup? It’s a solid start and great introduction for those who are unfamiliar with Vietnamese food. Which doesn’t really apply to us; having grown up in San Jose with one of the largest communities of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam Nadia and I have had our fair share of local cuisine. But being familiar with this dish, we still found it to be a tasty bowl of bun bo hue.

No complaints here. I actually kind of wanted some more, but wasn’t sure how much more we had to eat so I didn’t want to ruin myself for the rest of the tour. Here goes nothing…. Hope it wasn’t a mistake to deny myself more tasty food.

Bowl of Pho During XO Tours Saigon

Learning About Saigon

White and Purple Orchids at Binh Tay Market Saigon

We pulled over into a barely empty space along a busy street in what looked like we were in the middle of a Chinatown parade. I don’t know if Chinatown was a normal stop for the XO Tours, but because it was Lunar New Year time maybe that’s why they did. There was a lot of decorations through out Saigon but even more so right here in Chinatown. We were told that there are a lot of people here that celebrate the Lunar New Year and are looking decorations, red envelopes (for money gifts).

2nd Meal | Table Top Grill Action

After driving for some time, we stopped at what looked like a covered tented space on the side of the highway. There were tables setup with chairs and food prepared ahead of our arrival. I didn’t realize that there was tons of food on the table till I sat down. I mean there was so much food that I almost wish I didn’t eat earlier. What I’m trying to say is that there was tons of food, both cooked and waiting to be grilled:

Our Prepared Grill Table During XO Tours Saigon

  • Whole Frog
    • Tastes like chicken
  • Marinated Squid

Grilling Shrimp Skewers During XO Tours Saigon

  • Skewered Shrimp
    • It was great grilling it

Grilling Meat and Okra During XO Tours Saigon

Close Up of Vegetable Wrapped Grilled Meat During XO Tours Saigon

  • Goat Meat and Okra

Shot of Monkey Liquor During XO Tours Saigon

  • Monkey Liquor
    • Don’t ask….
      • Ok, since you asked…. You know how there’s bottles of liquor with snakes or something in them
        • Well here, my friend, they got a bottle of monkey liquor 0_0

Drinking Shots of Monkey Liquor During XO Tours Saigon

Modern Day Ghost Towns

Like any other metropolitan city in the world with sky rocketing values there’s District 7 in Saigon that apparently a lot of people park their money in. They pointed out to us blocks of condos without their lights on indicating that they were empty. So, a lot of these places are just sitting there with no one in them, all alone, all dark.. so sad.

Back to eating….

3rd Meal | Seafood and Then Some

You didn’t think we were done did you? Personally I had hope we were done but that was not the case and had more food yet to eat. And because it smelled tasty, I’m sure I gained at least 5 pounds from eating it all. The things I do for you guys! Who am I kidding? I will eat anything that smells tasty. On another note I think I found some logic to the food madness;

If there’s a road  >  If there’s people  >  Then there will be food!

Nadia JM and Friends During XO Tours Saigon

Shellfish with Veggies During XO Tours Saigon

  • Clams in Lemongrass Broth

Vietnamese Tamarind Duck Embryo Hot Vin Lon During XO Tours Saigon

  • Tamarind Hot Vin Lon
    • Where has this been all my life?

Vietnamese Duck Embryo During XO Tours Saigon

  • Cracked Hot Vin Lon
    • So good
      • Not a fan of Vietnamese corriander

Peanut Topped Clam During XO Tours Saigon

Plate Full of Peanut Topped Clams During XO Tours Saigon

  • Scallops
    • There’s a lot of peanuts

Crab Claw in the Dipping Sauce During XO Tours Saigon

  • Crispy Crab Legs

Gelatinized Coconut During XO Tours Saigon

  • Gelatinized Coconut Fresh Out of a Coconut Shell

Night Market

To be quite honest, I know that we went to a Night Market, the large big Binh Tay Night Market but other than just needing to walk to help digest all the food that was consumed but that’s about it. Judging from the pictures it seemed like it got a busy with people buying food, desserts and fruits and other sundries. Unfortunately all the blood in my body was sent to my stomach to digest. Suffice to say, I was in all kinds of a food induced mental fog.

Night Shot of Binh Tay Market Saigon

More Fruits at Binh Tay Market Saigon

Night Activity at Binh Tay Market Saigon

Fruits at Binh Tay Market Saigon

Dessert Vendors at Binh Tay Market Saigon

Goodnight and Food Coma 

As with all good things, this tour came to an end. Thank you so much to XO Tours and our 2 lovely Queens of the Scooter! Thank you for not being distracted by me and not swerving do to my ever growing burdening weight. So much good food!

And I’m even more grateful that you took us back to the hotel because if it weren’t for you I’d probably still be at the last place

Nadia with XO Tour Guides Saigon

Nadia and JM with XO Tour Guides on Scooters in Saigon

You're going to eat, you might as well eat something tasty.
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