"Halfway between a life-sized investigation, an original city-tour and a treasure hunt."
· South East Asia,Travel Advice,Vietnam
Originally, with only three days, we had no real plans for Ho Chi Minh City apart from this, kind of, self-led walking tour/murder mystery/treasure hunt, which takes you around China Town and past most of the major sites.
The day we chose for the tour didn't start well, as the grab (taxi) first cancelled on us after a long wait (something we are used to by now) and the second took triple the length of time to get to the destination, than it recommended.
Tip for future travel to HCMC: always leave plenty of time to get to your destination.
Once we did finally arrive, we were greeted warmly by the host and our lateness seemed to be no problem, as we simply joined the next group.
We were led to a traditional Vietnamese home, where we were shown the room where the "murder" had taken place (complete with taped out body silhouette on the floor) where we were given the opportunity to search for clues to the murder - or more importantly the next steps we would need to take to work that out.
(As a side note - I love the idea that the house that was used to host this first meeting may well have been a member of staff's actual home, and when tours were not taking place they would have to explain the dead man’s outline on the floor to visitors.)
Without giving too much away here, our main task was to name the murderer - which would require us to meet a number of actors around the local area and complete a number of tasks - once confirmed by calling the host we would need to meet him in a nearby Pagoda (temple) to then try to locate the missing sacred item (of the murdered man).
This was all described to us before leaving the first house and we were given the handbook and map, along with matching straw hats, water, compass, magnifying glass and a mobile phone - along with a satchel to carry it all.
The hats seemed at the time to just be a little bit of fun, but later other than keeping the sun off our faces, also acted as an easy way for local shop owners to recognise us and warn that we were well "off course"!
For now though we donned the hats, packed the water and phone, and pawed over the handbook, as instructed by our guide.
The handbook contained vital information such as the potential murderers, details about the victim and clues - but also information regarding the history of the sites we would be passing on our way.
Some of the tasks were cryptic puzzles, others hidden clues and a few were meeting and asking actors the right questions.
All tasks however did require us to walk reasonably long distances, and in the heat with a 4 and 6 year old you would have thought that may have been a problem - however the excitement of the given task kept both kids raring to go and getting from a to b (to x and back to b and..) was never a problem for them.
Unfortunately the crazy roads were a problem for Mummies nerves. If we had managed to stick to the exact route without going off course at any time, then the traffic may have at least been just "scary" rather than, as it was - "life threatening".
Ok, perhaps a slight over reaction, but after accidentally crossing an 8 lane crossroads, to then be directed back by the kind shop owners on the other side (who had obviously seen other stupid tourists in funny straw hats before) - we were feeling a little war torn.
However, we had a treasure hunt to complete, and actually the kids seemed unphased so we marched on.
Consequently on our way we did bump into the other group taking part in the hunt, frequently but through fear of spoiling it for them (not because we are highly competitive) we chose not to work together in solving the clues.
Around half way we were instructed to meet a journalist with information at a local cafe.
Here we were pleased to be greeted by ice cold lemonade which they happily refilled for us.
Funny enough this was down a very narrow alley, where we still dodged mopeds and not even the cafés seating area prevented motorists keen to avoid traffic on the actual roads.
I don't want to spoil the mystery for other intrepid explorers in the future so wont go into any further detail - luckily though, we all survived, and completed the hunt successfully
In total it took around 2 hours to complete the hunt, capture the murderer and find the lost treasure.
Although a couple of wrong turns did take us across a couple of major roads (which certainly added the fear of actual death to the adventure) had we have been able to follow the map properly we would have avoided these all together.
We and the kids loved the challenge of following the clues, meeting actors and generally exploring somewhere we may have never made it to, if not for this activity.