This section about Saigon is the twenty-eighth instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Let’s make this one a photo blog, because we really didn’t do that much in Saigon. What we did do, is meet up with Rene, a long-time Belgian expat in Vietnam with a wife, kids and a travel company. We also met Carl-Ingvar, a Swedish friend from my time in Berlin and with Ai Huynh, one of the first Vietnamese people I became acquainted with during my warmup trip in the Mekong delta in March 2011.

Boat in Saigon's harbour
Boat in Saigon’s harbour

Finally, we scavenged Nele’s flat for food, rested, got fat, and also addressed the broken spoke problem. Rene had recommended a good bike shop in the foreigner’s district of An Phu (aka District 2). The shop, which the owners in a fit of creativity called “The Bike Shop”, looks indeed very professional. They make frames out of bamboo and carbon and everyone entering the premises is greeted in English and asked to fill out a form with all the ailments the bike suffers.

McDonald's opening in Saigon
McDonald’s opening in Saigon. As far as I know, there are no other McDonald’s establishments in Vietnam. Is this the end?

Before we enter, we have our bikes nicely washed. 30.000 VND gets the job done. Walking a dirty bike into a bike shop is the politeness equivalent of eating seafood in a garlic sauce before a visit to the dentist. Unfortunately, as in so many Western bike shops, the price turns out slightly elevated and they are unable to replace the spokes and re-true the wheel in the two days I’ve left before the visa runs out. So they recommend we try the Vietnamese bicycle repair places on Vo Thi Sau street.

My bicycle gets a thorough scrubbing before going to the bike shop
My bicycle gets a thorough scrubbing before going to the bike shop

It turned out to be a brilliant suggestion. We ask a price at a bike stand with two truing installations out front. An enthusiastic man attacks my wheel with an impressive tool set and in less than half an hour, he replaces three broken spokes with my spare ones and re-trued the wheel. It’s even straighter than when I left Kunming! The gig costs around 100.000 VND, which may seem a bit high for manual labour where you supply the parts yourself, but you can’t beat the service and speed!

Billboard discouraging heroin use
Billboard discouraging heroin use

The many nights out, eating and drinking on the street of bustling Saigon gave me a very good impression of the city. With all its great food, hedonistic culture, eateries for every budget, markets, and the cultural mix and all the services you expect to find in a cosmopolitan city of eight million, Saigon is almost everything I look for in a city. Of course, you’d have to deal with the incessant noise of a million motorbikes, corruption, rip-offs, air pollution, heat and summer downpours, but I’d like to move here if I can find a job.

Lotte Legend
One for the sister

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *