Saigon - Tales of the City

Saigon – Tales of the City, is a small group, half day, walking tour, designed for travellers seeking a deeper understanding of Ho Chi Minh City – aka Saigon.

We set off each morning (the tour operates on afternoons between late March and the beginning of July) for a unique experience of this booming city, exploring history, architecture, food and contemporary life from a unique local perspective.

Our route has been selected for its evocativeness, and for relative ease of walking.

Groups are small (8 or less) to maximise flexibility and interaction.

We focus on the establishment of Saigon as a Vietnamese city in the late 17th century, the haphazard arrival of the French, the Indochine and Vietnamese Modernist architecture, the 1968 Tet Offensive, the collapse of the US-backed South Vietnamese Government in 1975, and the city’s journey through post-war poverty, to its hyperactive contemporary persona – millions of motorbikes, an economic powerhouse, and a magnet for people from across the country seeking opportunity. We’ll view buildings and historical sites intimately connected with the city’s dramatic past.

Our tour is both low and high-tech. No coaches or loud hailers. But we’ll be using our tablet presentations to bring context to what we see.

We start at Saigon’s botanical gardens and zoo – a perfect place to discover the origins of the modern city. We’ll explore lesser known tales of the city, but we’ll also visit city icons such as the Post Office, the former French Lieutenant Governor’s residence, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace. We’ll be stopping at some of the city’s cool cafes along the way.

We do not enter any museums.


Duong, your guide, was born in the central province of Nghe An. Nghe An is one of Vietnam’s poorest provinces – but it’s also the proud home of Ho Chi Minh. Like so many Saigon residents, she moved to the city as a child in the post-war period. Duong loves art, design and her country’s incredible history. She’s worked with furniture design and production, architecture and in art galleries. She co-owns Old Compass Travel and The Old Compass Cafe in Saigon.

Duong (right) – your guide.© Mark Bowyer


You’re a curious, active traveller interested in exploring the stories of Saigon – past and present – on foot. You’ll need to be mobile – but we move at a casual speed. Expect to be on your feet for 3 – 4 hours with some breaks. Saigon is hot most of the year.

For most of the year, the tour commences at 8.30AM and includes a tasty Vietnamese family-style lunch. From late March until the end of June, we run the tour in the afternoons from 2.30PM to avoid the worst of the heat. Afternoon tours include early Vietnamese family-style dinner.

Comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunscreen.

900,000VND or 40USD

Expert guide, drinks, tablet presentation, lunch at The Old Compass Cafe (dinner for afternoon departures).

There are no entrance fees – we don’t enter any tourist sights.

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