When my intern mate and I arrived in Saigon, our internship support company organized a food tour for us to get familiar with our surroundings and the local food. While working here in Vietnam under ODM, we had plenty of time to explore by ourselves and try the local delicacies. Today we wanted to share these experiences with you, as well as our one day trip to the Mekong Delta. This is our way to get away from the hustle and bustle of this gigantic city while getting a glimpse of life in the countryside!
Food Tour - HCMC
We met Binh, a local guide and his team of motorbike drivers at the Opera House for the food tour. The Opera house is a magnificent french architecture inspired building. From then on, we discovered the city on the back of motorbikes while stopping to taste typical street food along the way!
The first street food we tried was banh xeo, a fried pancake made with water, rice flour and turmeric powder. It is close enough to a “crêpe” and you can stuff it any way you see fit, usually with shrimp, pork meat, mung bean… it will be rolled in large leaves, with mint and basil added. It is very delicious, and every ingredient works perfectly with one another. What’s best is It can also be served without meat if you are vegetarian!
After a short bike ride, we arrived at the second stop to try some banh mi! Banh mi is in part a french heritage, as the main ingredient is a french baguette. However, it is airier than the traditional French baguette though. It is a sandwich stuffed with pork belly, greens, daikon, carrots, vietnamese sausage. For those who don’t like meat, there is another amazing version with eggs called “banh mi op là”. For me, the pork belly texture was something difficult to take, so I tried the op là version and no regrets, it is fantastic!
At the third stop, we ate seafood. There is a wide range of sea products in Vietnam, such as fish, shells, shrimps, more obscure creatures like limules. At this stall, we tried shrimps, shells, clams, and snails. Everything was fantastic and I really urge you to try these local delicacies!
Lastly, we ate “goi cuon”, which you probably know this as spring rolls! A nice opportunity to try sauces, nuoc mam, for example. What struck us is how healthy the food was - there are always greens, not too much salt and fat. It felt extremely light while nourishing.
I need to also mention the bike rides. You get a pure feeling of freedom while on these! It can be scary initially because of the chaotic traffic, but every driver I have met thus far knew their way around the roads. You just have to make sure that you have an anti pollution mask as sometimes it can be hard to breathe in crowded areas due to all the exhaust pipes… Other than that, it truly is a really fun and exciting experience!
Vinh Trang Temple
During the week-end we booked a one day visit in the Mekong Delta. We left HCMC by bus at 8 in the morning, the Mekong Delta is 1.30 hour away from the city. A good opportunity to see life in the countryside and get away from the agitation! We also saw something you don’t quite see in town, which is burial sites. People get buried usually in the countryside, near their family farm. People from town go back here when they can in order to visit their relatives and loved ones.
Before arriving in the Delta itself, we stopped to visit Vinh Trang Temple. There were incredible gigantic statues of Buddha. We are also able to go inside one of the buildings and get a glimpse of the monk’s lives here. This a place worth seeing - really relaxing and beautiful. If you go there, make sure you wear long pants and that your shoulders are covered, it is considered disrespectful to be dressed otherwise!
Lastly, we visited the Delta! The place was still a little crowded because it is the weekend. We tasted a lot of delicacies produced in the region, starting with honey and honey tea. They are really good, and a friendly warning - you will encounter a lot of bees when you stop there!
We were listening to traditional music while tasting the locally harvested fruits. This was when I tried durians and dragon fruits for the first time. The smell of durian is indescribable, and the taste is very unique. Make sure you have a taste of it when you are here! The dragon fruits we had were also fantastic…
There are 5 islands in the delta, and you travel from one to another with boats. We discovered a lot of animals and plants that we did not expect before, and I held a serpent (it’s cold!). Did you know they craft spirits with serpents? Towards the end, we visited a coconut milk candy factory. The entire production process was explained to us. They just use malt, coconut milk and a bit of tapioca powder to produce these delicious candies. It tastes amazing so we decided to buy some.
After all these experiences, it was time to head back to hectic Saigon. What I will remember the most are the colours, the sounds, and the way people lived such simple lives. Makes you realize what you have and what matters. A truly enriching trip, even if it was for just a day.
For our french readers / Pour nos lecteurs français:
Quelques semaines auparavant, Romain et moi sommes arrivés au Vietnam à Ho Chi Minh City pour un stage chez ODM Group. Nous souhaitons ainsi partager quelques unes de nos expériences que nous avons adorés.
L’une des premières soirées nous nous sommes baladés dans la ville accompagnés par un guide local prénommé Binh. Il nous a fait découvrir la nourriture locale et la ville en scooter, moyen de transport emblématique du Vietnam. Cette soirée nous a permis de goûter à des fruits de mer, des banh mi (un héritage bien français !)… Les spécialités locales sont vraiment des plats à tenter, et permettent de découvrir ce que mangent les vietnamiens dans la vie de tous les jours en s’imprégnant de leur culture. Afin de tester différents lieux où manger, nous nous baladions par scooter, ce qui permettait d’admirer la vue et d’échanger quelques mots avec nos conducteurs.
Nous souhaitions aussi relater la journée où nous sommes parti en direction du delta du Mékong et avons découvert le temple de Vinh Trang.
Les escapades sur bateau à moteur et barques typiques vietnamiennes avec rameurs sont réellement des moments à vivre. Cette balade sur le Mékong nous a aussi conduit à goûter du miel vietnamien avec du thé, ainsi que des fruits locaux, tout était délicieux.
En ce qui concerne le temple bouddhiste Vinh Trang, très populaire dans la région, c’était un endroit somptueux et où beaucoup de locaux venaient prier, malgré un afflux touristique certain. Si vous compter échapper quelques temps au tumulte de la ville, ce lieux est à visiter coûte que coûte ! L’endroit compte une des plus grandes représentations du “Bouddha Rieur”. La pagode en elle-même est très silencieuse et appelle à la méditation, de quoi peut-être faire naître des vocations !
Nous vous recommandons grandement d’aller visiter ces lieux si vous passez dans le sud du Vietnam !