We felt sluggish leaving Hoi An, as we often do after an extended rest break. The head wind didn’t help and we stopped for our second coffee break of the day just 20km into the ride as James nearly fell asleep on his bike and hit the curb. After our cheapest coffee yet (15,000 dong for 2) we felt a little better. The ride started off following concrete paths through rice paddies, before turning onto the infamous highway 1 for a short period. We have made a conscious effort to avoid the main highways throughout the trip, although our short experience with highway 1 wasnt so bad and the traffic was generally pretty quiet, and mostly travelling in the direction we expected it to. Just before Da Nang we turned left onto highway 14B, and a little later onto 14G, and then it was quiet. These are the kinds of roads we like to ride on – not necessarily the greatest quality, but very little traffic and right amongst the environment we were riding through.
It took us longer than it should have to realise that we weren’t going to have time to bike the length of Vietnam, but we’re glad it did – we would much rather see a small part of a country in detail than feel like we were rushing through. But even so, we needed to get a move on. We loved our time in Dalat, and the woman running the hotel we stayed at made it even better. When we left we gave her the nearly empty giant bottle of water which she could refill really cheaply. As an added bonus James found an extra book for our collection on the top of the wardrobe as he checked the room, bringing our total up to 13. Being 6’2″ has its advantages at times.
The next few posts are a bit of a catch up – even though we wrote posts we couldn’t access wordpress for our last week in Vietnam as it was blocked by the government, and during our first week in Lao we struggled to find any wifi at all.
We woke to rain in Cat Tien, but knew we had a pretty big day ahead of us so didn’t delay. Unfortunately our new friend was asleep when we checked out but his mum, who doesn’t speak any english, saw us off. She was really worried about the rain because we weren’t wearing a plastic poncho like everyone else in Vietnam does when it rains (we do have pretty good outdoor raincoats) so she kindly gave us one each. James’ arms are just too long for anything Vietnamese so we looked a bit ridiculous. Luckily the rain slowed while we ate breakfast at a tiny table in a puddle at the market, socialising with the locals, and stopped after half an hour on the road.
As always after a rest we struggled to wake up and get moving on our way out of Saigon. Luckily we only planned to ride 30km to the town of Cu Chi. This turned out to be even more fortunate given the way the morning panned out.
Disclaimer – the title of this blog post is 100% James’. Bryony was just too tired to think of anything better.
We spent 4 nights in Ho Chi Minh city (or Saigon, depending who you talk to). Although we didn’t do everything the city has to offer, it was long enough for us. It’s good to explore while we are in this part of the world, but we both prefer being on the bike each day, and being in smaller places. We also found it to be more expensive than other places we’ve stayed, especially the food. This is probably due to the phenomenon that lots of tourists describe, where they pay more for the same thing than locals. We just tried to eat at the ones that had prices marked, because while they were more expensive than rurally, they weren’t as much as we paid for some things when we didn’t ask.
After a breakfast of com tâm from the same stall we frequented each morning in Can Tho we headed off towards Tra Vinh, only about 60km away. We usually have a look at our route for the day over breakfast to plan a way out of a city, and get a rough idea of where we will travel, the problem is that maps don’t always specify which streets will be transformed into markets so occasionally find outselves jammed in amongst the fruit, flowers and fish. That, plus trying to work out how to get onto the big bridge, made our start pretty slow. If you look at our strava files over time you’ll see how many times we stopped to check the gps! The bridge was the most climbing we’d done in ages, but the view from the top was amazing, and we passed a few motorbikes as we rolled down the other side.
Crossing the border between Cambodia and Vietnam proved no hassles – the buildings weren’t very large or official, but we were just shuttled from person to person and in less than half an hour had all the stamps we needed and were on the road in Vietnam. We still had another 25km to ride to reach Chau Doc, but thankfully we changed tack and had a roaring tail wind. This was useful going up the first hill we’d encountered in ages which rendered us both sweaty messes. We found a town with ATMs after about 5km, and then just rolled along with all the traffic, which included lots more big trucks, to Chau Doc.