Saigon’s Photography Walking Tour: With Locals

Short on time but want to pack the most photos and fun possible into your Saigon visit? A Saigon’s photography walking tour might be for you. There’s plenty of Ho Chi Minh City photo walks to choose from, but ‘Saigon’s Photo Walking Tour’ hosted by With Locals is my favorite.

With Locals’ Photo Waking Tour

The tour offers a unique opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the rich traditions and daily life of locals in Ho Chi Minh City. In this mesmerizing journey through Saigon’s alleys, every step is an exploration! In this blog is my full review of With Locals’ Photo Waking Tour.

I booked the 3-hour private photo tour “Say Cheese” on With Locals’ website. The tour was designed to catch the daily life of Saigons’ people, experience the local culture first-hand, and learn how different ethnic groups live together in harmony with the experience of a local. My guide, Thien, is enthusiastic and knowledgable who has an incredible way of sharing stories.

Stop 1: Cafe Cheo Leo

I met Thien at the oldest coffee shop in Sai Gon (86 years old) – Cafe Cheo Leo. It was the starting point for an incredible 3+ hours photo walking tour to different districts in Saigon.

Cafe Cheo Leo

Unlike many trendy coffee shops around the city, Cafe Cheo Leo looks quite plain, with stainless steel tables and plastic stools. The essence of Cheo Leo’s lasting charm lies in its old-fashioned, almost extinct, way of brewing coffee with a clay pot and a cloth strainer. There are just a handful of shops that are still using the method around the city.

Cafe Cheo Leo

Cheo Leo’s owners are known for having been meticulously carrying out the whole brewing process for decades, treating it like a ritual. They still use an old stove that their father made specifically just for boiling water. They then poured the hot water into a cloth strainer containing finely ground coffee. The strainer is placed in a clay pot that Chinese people often use to cook medicinal herbs.

Here Thien and I got to know each other and enjoyed our morning coffees. Then we set off to explore Ban Co Alleys in District 3 – one of the most authentic parts of Saigon, a place where an original group of Saigonese live their daily life.

Stop 2: Ban Co (Chessboard) Neighborhood

The name Ban Co, literally translated as chessboard, comes from its structure, which includes streets perpendicular to others and dividing the space into squares. Getting lost on foot in the web of alleyways brings you into contact with friendly local people, great street food, and best of all, local life.

Nguyen Thien Thuat Apartment

Here, time-honored apartment blocks seamlessly merge with street markets and hidden alleyways, revealing great photography opportunities at every turn.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Neighborhood
Chessboard (Ban Co) Neighborhood

Thien is known and loved by many locals here so the locals welcomed us wholeheartedly at every stop. I had so many great opportunities to take photos in the most favorable light and locations and interact with the locals at the same time.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Neighborhood

Ban Co is also famous for their food market. This market is a great example of a local wet market selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, and street food. The aisles are narrow and crowded and full of locals doing their daily market runs.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Neighborhood

There are food stalls where you can sit on a small plastic stool and eat. The markets are always bustling, crowded, and exciting. Due to the number of vendors and the size of the Cho Ban Co street food area, you will be mesmerized by the variety of street food here.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Market

Ban Co Market is a world in itself. While it may seem chaotic, rushed, and unwelcoming at first glance, this market will reward you with an ultimate “checkmate” in flavor.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Market

The city’s pulse beats strong in this area, and the lively interactions between vendors and customers create an atmosphere that’s perfect for documenting through your lens.

Chessboard (Ban Co) Neighborhood

Stop 3: Ho Thi Ky Flower Market and Cambodian Food Market

Next we walked to the biggest flower market in town – Ho Thi Ky Market. The area is also well-known for its Khmer-style – food, houses and people.

Ho Thi Ky Flower Market

Ho Thi Ky Flower Market is a bustling market known for its vibrant atmosphere and a wide variety of flowers. With its many alleys full of flower stalls and adjacent market offering exotic cuisines from Cambodia, it provides a unique experience for both the senses of sight and taste.

Ho Thi Ky Cambodian Food Market

The market operates around the clock, allowing visitors to witness its bustling activities at any given time. Between 7:00 and 12:00, both locals and tourists flock to the market to buy flowers. It is customary for locals to decorate their homes and businesses with daily fresh flowers so this market will be bustling during opening hours.

Ho Thi Ky Flower Market

As the clock strikes noon and extends into the night, the flower market undergoes a transformation into a street food haven that is simply irresistible. You do not need to fly all the way to the country of temple, but you still can enjoy the Cambodian specialties in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City and admire the colorful hustle and bustle of daily life of Cambodia community living here.

Ho Thi Ky Night (Street Food) Market

Ho Chi Minh markets seem chaotic at first glance, but there’s method to the madness. Once you get your bearings you’ll be surprised how organized the market really is. Still, the unexpected can be found around any corner. This hands-on experience promises to be both educational and inspiring, providing a memorable journey through the captivating Saigon’s alley life and market life.

Ho Thi Ky Flower Market

Stop 4: Chinatown

After spending about an hour wandering Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, we hopped on the bus that took us to the Chinatown. The area is populated by a small Chinese community living centrally of the city. Not much has changed in the past 50 years so you will get a real glimpse of traditional life in Saigon.

Hao Sy Phuong Alley

Cho Lon, also known as Saigon’s Chinatown, has a fascinating history that dates back centuries. It began as a settlement of Chinese traders who migrated to the area during the 18th century. These immigrants brought their vibrant culture, traditions, and businesses, creating a distinct Chinese community within Saigon.

Cho Lon

Despite the rapid modernization of the city, Chinese people in Cho Lon are trying their best to preserve their hometown’s culture and language. Many people living in Cho Lon Chinese Town still use Chinese in daily conversation with parents and siblings so as not to forget their mother tongue.

Hao Sy Phuong Alley

Stepping into Cholon, you’ll be surrounded by ancient temples, late 19th-century and 1920s residential houses, traditional markets, and mazes of alleys; where signs are displayed in both Vietnamese and Chinese.

Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street

Final Thoughts

Sai Gon is a city of contrasts, where modern urban life mixes with enduring traditions. If you’re looking to discover a slice of Saigon from a time gone by then a photo tour in Ho Chi Minh City with a local host is the perfect way to do so. With Locals’ Photo Waking Tour will take you off the touristy paths and delve into the heart of Saigon.

As the saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’… this experience promises to unveil the stories hidden within Saigon’s vibrant alley life. Through the lens of the camera, you will uncover hidden gems and authentic moments that showcase the city’s dynamic spirit. With Locals’ Photo Waking Tour in Ho Chi Minh City can be 100% personalized to your needs and requirements. Just let your local host know about your preferences, and they’ll ensure you have a day to remember!

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By inAra

Hi there! I’m May, a girl who loves to wander and wonder! I’m from Saigon, based in Los Angeles, but my current location is anywhere and everywhere. Travel, Photography, Tea Time, Picnic, Home Decor and Event Planning are a few of my favorite things.

inArabymay is a travel and lifestyle blog inspired by beautiful destinations, by color and nature, and by wonderful people that I’ve met on my journey.

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