A group of young people in Saigon are offering a different perspective on the city with their two-wheeled tours.
Founded by Vo Hoang Phuc, Saigon Morning Ride has so far led about 100 tours across Saigon, the former name of Ho Chi Minh City but still popularly used now.
“The more [tours] we do, the more interesting things we find in Saigon. Who said there was nothing exciting in Saigon?” Phuc said.
Though Phuc believes it to be a shame that so few people are aware of all the interesting things to do in the city, he hopes to offer insights into Saigon’s hidden gems with tours of the city’s alleys, ancient tombs, rice roads, graffiti, Oc Eo Relic, and nighttime haunts.
|Cyclists take the ferry on the Saigon River early in the morning. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre|
Exploring Saigon by bicycle
At 5:15 am every Saturday, Saigon Morning Ride’s tour guides meet at a coffee shop on Hoang Sa Street in District 3.
A few minutes later, guests start to show up. Some have their own bicycles, others choose to rent a bike from the coffee shop, but either way all are prepared for an exciting 50-kilometer bike tour across the city.
Each week, the group explores a new route on which they hope to learn new, fascinating things about the city as they cruise through twisted alleyways, historic eateries and cafés, and storied canals that once played an important role in the city’s development.
|This street used to be part of the 'rice route' transporting the grain from the Mekong Delta to Saigon. Photo: Saigon Morning Ride|
Initially, Saigon Morning Ride was run by Phuc and a friend. The group has since expanded to 10 team members and creates new cycling routes daily.
“Some tour routes take just one week to create, others take years because their concepts are more complicated,” said Duc Trong, a member of the group.
“All of our tour concepts are based on books and historical documents. It takes time [to create these tours], but it is worth it.”
Each tour is open to just 15 tourists to ensure a more intimate experience and includes an audio recording explaining each destination along the tour.
Vietnamese can take the tour for VND150,000 (US$6.44) while foreigners are charged $50-70.
|Cycling to enjoy fresh air one early morning on the weekend. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre|
Creating a business model that fit Phuc’s vision of sustainable tourism in Saigon was a major inspiration for the founding of Saigon Morning Ride.
“After the pandemic, tourism trends began to change," Phuc explained.
"Wellness tourism is now more popular because tourists want to get closer to nature and practice health and wellness activities.
"Our bike tours meet these demands and contribute to the protection of the local environment.”
There are few other bike tour operators in Ho Chi Minh City, but cycling as a whole is beginning to gain in popularity, particularly as the city continues to launch more and more public bike share stations.
|Cyclists are seen in an alley in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre|
Aside from half-day tours in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon Morning Ride has plans to launch two-to-five-day tours of neighboring provinces and cities, while hoping to create an ecosystem for cycling lovers nationwide and the development of international cycling tours.
Members of the group are mostly students from language and tourism departments, certificated tour guides, and individuals who specialize in content production and marketing. All consider working for the group as a stepping stone toward their professional goals.
Saigon Morning Ride has plans introduce new tours this summer. Tours designed for middle and high school students only will be launched soon and are expected to offer an interesting and effective way to learn history.
|Cyclists work on a map of a 'rice transport route' before starting their trip. Photo: Huynh Vy / Tuoi Tre|