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Vietnam – Cycling tour Mekong Delta – 25th/27th January

We booked a 3 day 2 night tour with Sinhbalo tours (tour – “SBL8 – Cycle from MyTho to Cai Be, Vinh Long and Can Tho (3D/2N)”) along with new best friends Justin and Jules. We had been recommended the company by other travellers we’d met in Halong Bay who’d actually made the statement that it was the best thing they’d done in Vietnam, so based on this we thought they would be a strong bet for a good cycling tour. Other companies tend to charge more for similar tours and we didn’t want to stretch our budget too much.

The first day involved a mixture of bus, boat and cycling. The bus took us from HCMC to the Mekong Delta and took around 3 hours, as soon as we arrived we took a boat journey along the Mekong to an Island where we were introduced to local life, food and animals! We had some lovely very fresh fruits and tea as well as some baked rice cakes (a little like sweet poppadoms), our guide Duat talked us through the family home and traditions, they were getting ready for festive family celebrations leading up to TET. This led onto a little boat trip through one of the Mekong canals, the whole route to ourselves led us back peacefully to the boat where we had got off. So it was a pretty leisurely start to the day that ended seeing us having lunch at a crocodile and coco-nut farm. Crocodile was not on the menu fortunately but they were there for us all to see and others to tease. The food served was fairly good, but we almost expected a little more, especially after the food of the Halong Bay tour.

We made another crossing of the Mekong river via boat and met the tour bus which had a fine selection of mountain bikes ready for us to explore the area. Our guide lead the way on a 20km ride along roads and trails which included plenty of “hellos” from children along the way, this is something you get used to very quickly when cycling around. Another boat journey landed us at the home-stay for our evenings stay. It was more like a simple eco guest house on stilts rather than a homestead but non the less it provided double beds with mosquito nets. A short walk around the local area gave a flavour of local life and then it was time for our evening meal. This was quite similar to lunch which was a little disappointing as its nice to try different menu items, however it was well received by everyone. Some card games, beer and a glimpse of fireflies in the trees finished the day off nicely and we were all looking forward to the next installment of cycling.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

Up early at 6.30am and then breakfast was served, consisting of bread, jam, eggs and watermelon. We climbed aboard our stallions for the day (21 speed mountain bikes) and started off the 1.5hr bike ride through the delta area. We passed many little villages and homes with yet more screams of “hello” from the kids we passed, rice fields and cows. The heat of the day was quite oppressive however we had plenty of water supplied by our tour guide and eventually we arrived at a town and increased our energy with a good feed. We were informed that it was 35C by a local who was sheltering from the midday sun.

After a good rest and a rendezvous with the support (ford transit) van we stocked up on bottled water and then headed off along sealed roads towards the suspension bridge. This was a great climb to the top and certainly got the blood and sweat pumping, but we were rewarded with a lovely view of the area, and the best thing about going up, is the knowledge that you go down on the other side! Much speed and fun.

We arrived at the next town and settled into the provided accommodation which was very nice. Our guide met us after some rest time and took us to a nearby restaurant on the water front of the Mekong. The food was again great with lots of variation and options for the vegetarians. We had a walk around the town which was in preparation for TET and very busy, a few beers and then bed time.

On our last day of the tour we started early again with a 6am breakfast followed by a short bus ride to a taxi boat that ferried us to the famous floating markets. The boat journey took around 10 minutes and as we arrived at the markets there was a real buzz in the air, people shopping for their store supplies, pulling up alongside bigger boats in their small long boats, transporting vegetables, fruit and other wholesale items between each other. Some of the boats are huge and in between you’ll find a little lady selling street food from her tiny boat. We stopped at a pineapple sellers boat, got off ours and onto the top of theirs, we sat and they prepared freshly picked pineapples for us to eat there and then, they were so juicy!! After this we got back onto our boat and continued to drive past other sellers and vendors. It was a really impressive and insightful start to the day, just seeing how this type of community trade and all between boats is so different from what any of us expected. It’s good to get to the markets earlier in the morning or as early as you can manage as they finish at around midday having started at something like 4am, by 10am many tourists appear and it gets really busy. We were there at around 7am and there weren’t too many other tourists around.

We left the markets after an hour and continued up-river to a point where we met our trusty driver once more, he was there waiting with our bikes ready for us to ride on the last leg of our cycling trip. The last bike ride of the trip was quite tame and took around 2 hours, going through more villages, over more bridges and passing my many children shouting ‘Hello…what’s your name?’ and so on. At around 11am we found ourselves back at the hotel where we had time to shower and check out before starting the journey back to HCMC. The journey back took around 4 hours with an hours break for lunch at a posh service area called the Mekong Service Area where it seems most upper end tours take you too, it was a little like a 4 start resort made up of just restaurants. The food was good and Helen even had her own fish and vegetarian menu, they made some rice balls that came up into big balloons probably the most interesting thing about it. It was also our last supper with Justin and Jules so we toasted to good times in Vietnam.

Back in HCMC we said our goodbyes to our 3 week travel buddies and went our separate ways to our hotels. Later on we managed to get to the post office to send on our winter gear to Australia (we shouldn’t be needing it until then!?) We sent two 2kg parcels costing around $25 for airmail delivery. We ate at Zen once again for a tasty vegetarian feast, walked around the area and then went back to Luan Vu to get ready for our trip to Phnom Penh the next morning.

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  1. Jules & Justin
    Posted 26 Feb ’11 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    hey guys. Those photo’s definitely bring back all those great memories. Missing you both. x

  2. Posted 16 Jun ’11 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Gotta love the crispness of that Leica lens!

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