Saigon - Tales of the City

Saigon – Tales of the City, is a half day heritage walking tour that tells the incredible story of Saigon through its bustling streets, and its most evocative historical sights. It’s a unique Saigon experience of history, architecture, food and contemporary life. We’ve created an experience for travellers wanting to dig deeper than a standard city tour. Groups are small and personalised. Duong and Nhi are insightful guides for your walk.

We head off each afternoon at 3PM in small groups (8 or less) as the day cools and the light softens.

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

The walk commences 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 take a fresh look at city icons such as the Post Office, the former French Lieutenant Governor’s residence, the former US Embassy, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace. We’ll be stopping at some of the city’s cool cafes along the way.

The tour wraps up with a Vietnamese family-style dinner at The Old Compass Cafe. We continue our conversation while savouring the delicious flavours of the Vietnamese family kitchen.  A perfect ending.

Saigon Tales of the City explores 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.  It’s an amazing tale of drama, intrigue and fascinating characters. We’ll view buildings and historical sites intimately connected with the city’s turbulent 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 do not enter any museums.


Duong, 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.

A designer by training, Nhi’s childhood in the coastal province of Binh Thuan, was filled with art and design. Her father is a lacquer painter. Nhi moved to Saigon to study 10 years ago and decided to stay. In addition to leading our tours, Nhi handles graphic design for Rusty Compass and The Old Compass Cafe.

Nhi and Duong – our guides


“Duong was an enthusiastic and charming guide. This is not your run of the mill tour. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to dig a bit deeper, and to traverse 400 years of history through to modern day, thriving Saigon.”  – Haike Manning

“Duong possesses a wealth of knowledge. She communicates this with passion, humbly. I am glad I squeezed this experience into my very short stay in Ho Chi Minh. It’s a well curated walk, where all locations are handpicked.” – Fatih Taskin

“Nhi was so full of knowledge she completely had me engaged throughout the walking tour. Was friendly but at the same time very focused on the task at hand. Told me so much detail that I had to make notes for the future. Over conversation over dinner too was quite stimulating. For anyone who loves history and culture I recommend this tour as a must do when they come to Saigon city. It was a pleasure to have known Saigon through Nhi and well done The Old Compass.” – Janice Goveas


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. Most of the tour is conducted along shaded paths.

The tour commences at 3.00OM and concludes at 6.30PM. We finish with a tasty Vietnamese family-style dinner (vegetarian option available). We’ll talk about the traditional Vietnamese style cuisine over dinner.

NB. During the wettest months of the year (June – August), the tour often operates in the morning to reduce the likelihood of interruption. Morning tours are inclusive of lunch.

Comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunscreen.

1,100,000VND or 48USD including dinner

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

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

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