As a child, Cluedo was my first choice of board game. As an adult, my favourite TV shows and books revolve around crime and murder mystery. So is it really any surprise that one of the best tours I’ve experienced in Vietnam was this insane murder mystery tour of Saigon’s Chinatown? Not. At. All. And I’m confident it will be a highlight of your trip to Ho Chi Minh City too. Here is what to expect from this murder mystery tour of Saigon.
What is Urban Tales?
Urban Tales isn’t just a tour, it’s more like an innovative tour concept. I am a huge fan of DIYing on my travels and, honestly, I try to avoid doing guided tours as much as possible. But Urban Tales is different from your average city tour. Imagine an escape room and a walking tour had a baby; Urban Tales’ murder mystery tour of Cholon would be that child.
For one, it’s self-guided so you can explore at your own pace. The clues are not only used to solve the murder but also teach you about the sites and temples en route. But, most excitingly, it involves hidden actors. Yes, real-life people who are playing the game with you! The actors are so discrete and hidden that you might have a hard time finding them (we walked past a few without realising). Plus most of them are just going about their regular day jobs which means you get to interact with locals on another level.
A murder mystery tour in Saigon
While sipping tea on the top floor of a typical Cholon apartment block, we’re informed that the police need our help to solve a mysterious crime:
“At around 10:30pm last night, the body of Dr Lam was discovered on the floor of his apartment in central Cholon. He was most certainly murdered in a strange, ritualisticfashion – and while the police do have a number of people in custody, they remain baffled.”
My mum and I huddle in Dr Lam’s office, police tape still marking where his body was found. We rummage through his possessions, looking for clues that will help us start hunting for the murderer. After finding a couple of leads, we grab some detective tools (a map, a compass and a magnifying glass) and head out into the streets of Cholon. This area of Saigon is a mecca of Chinese pharmacies and temples and it’s not long before we discover that many of our clues are intertwined with ancient legends.
We ventured into some of the different pagodas searching for answers. Luckily for us Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year, was just starting so many of the pagodas were decorated with lanterns and locals were having photographs taken wearing ao dai (Vietnam’s beautiful traditional dresses).
The clues are quite cryptic and not simple to figure out, so it’s not all a walk in
the park Cholon. A couple of my friends are also doing the tour and we have a little [healthy] competition to see who finds the murderer first.
After a slow start, my mum and I get into the swing of our detective roles and are starting to race around Cholon. Along the way, many interesting buildings and quirks of the temples are pointed out to us by our puzzle book. With the help of the street actors, we started to fit the pieces together and inch closer to the murderer of Dr Lam.
By the time we collected all the clues, we had a reasonable idea of who the murderer was. It was about 11:30am when we called the “police” to tell them who our suspect was – to our relief we were spot on! After a celebratory high-five we’re informed of another mystery that needs to be solved. Celebration on hold; detective hats back on. Without giving away the game, we were tasked with uncovering an ancient and mysterious item…worth killing Dr Lam for.
This part was tricky to solve but after a good 20 mins of back and forth, mum and I figured out where the secret item was hidden and raced to find it. Unfortunately, my friends were speedier at solving the clues and beat us to the finish (though we did find out they called the “police” for assistance). This didn’t dampen our mood though – we had just solved a murder!
Book to join the Urban Tales murder mystery tour via the Urban Tales website. You’ll need to confirm your spot via email. I recommend booking a week in advance to ensure availability. The Urban Tales murder mystery tour of Saigon takes place in Cholon (the cities Chinatown in District 5). Urban Tales offer pick-up and drop off in stylish vintage cars or you can make your own way to the start point (the address will be sent post-reservation).
⏰ 8:45am start / ~3/4 hrs to complete the game
💰 990k per adult and 750k per child ($43/$33)
This is a walking tour so ensure you are wearing suitable shoes.
Tea and water are provided at the start, and there is a refreshment provided by one of the hidden actors towards the end of the tour. There are also many street vendors in D5 that you can get drinks from along the way. The tour is finished before lunch but there is an option to add lunch to the end of the tour if you want to experience some of the local Chinese cuisines.
If you like the look of this Urban Tales tour be sure to check out their Adventure In The Streets Of Phnom Penh’s Old District in Cambodia.