I have just finished a normal holiday tour of Vietnam and loved it. I wrote a little about my thoughts on cycling in Vietnam here. I did observe that it would be good to join a group becuase of the difficulties of moving around safely near the normal tourists haunts. Little did I know that there are well run group tours. A few days after my post, Fiona from Illawarra. sent me this great summary of a cycling tour she just completed. Story by Fiona V
12 day cycling trip touring the Mekong Delta
On 4 November, 2019 14 cyclists from the Illawarra, NSW caught the train from Kiama to begin an adventure to Vietnam. Our group varied in riding abilities and ages ranged from 55 to 79, including a lady aged 69 who only began cycling this year and a gentleman aged 70 who only started cycling 3 months ago.
The aim of my trip was to complete a section of Vietnam I had not cycled previously and to introduce cyclists to the enjoyment of cycling abroad.
I chose to cycle with Vietnam Backroads because, once you have landed, they virtually handle all aspects of the trip. They meet you at the airport and everything else is catered for — bikes, helmets, minibus to take cyclists and luggage, truck to take bikes, water, all entrance fees, ferries and boat rides, daily snacks of fresh fruit and nibbles, and experienced English-speaking guides. As additional support, Mr Van, the business owner and a bike mechanic, was with the group for the entire tour. You only pay for drinks that are not included with the meals.
I have cycled with Vietnam Backroads on two previous occasions and have found them to be very professional and extremely helpful in tailoring cycling trips to cater for all ages and abilities.
Our group arrived in Vietnam and we were met and welcomed by our two guides, Cong and Tha. We were taken by air-conditioned bus to our hotel to refresh, then to a restaurant by shuttle for a welcome banquet dinner.
We began our adventure the next morning by visiting Mr Van’s Vietnam Backroads’ shop to be fitted with our bike shirts, hats (included in price) and any additional cycling items that we wanted to purchase.
Back on the bus we were taken out of Ho Chi Minh city to the countryside where our bikes were patiently waiting. After being fitted with our bikes and everything readied, we began our ride along scenic paths through picturesque old villages, rice paddies and plantations of dragon fruit, coconuts, bananas and vegetables.
We stopped for lunch and I requested our guide, Cong, to choose our meals and we ate banquet-style, like locals, with rice, a meat dish, a vegetable dish and soup. Beer is at your own expense. After lunch we cycled again, enjoying ferry crossings of the Mekong, riding past sugar cane plantations, fish farms, vegetables and small villages. We met our waiting bus and were driven to the next accommodation.
After 4 days of cycling along a variety of different country cycling routes, passing ever changing scenery of canals, tiny thatched houses, colourful temples and amazing local markets, we made our way to Rach Gia, as we were off on the fast ferry to Phu Quoc Island for 2 nights.
On Phu Quoc Island Mr Van excelled himself by organising a boat trip with John’s Tours. The group enjoyed a tour of the local pearl farm where we learned how pearls are farmed and cultivated, and were shown magnificent shell carvings. The pearl shop afterwards was hard to resist! We then went to the harbour, boarded our boat and cruised to Pineapple Island and different locations. We first tried our hand at squid fishing with 3 of us catching a fish. Then it was off to snorkel on a reef (snorkels and fins were provided). The water was clear and there were many different varieties of colourful fish; so enjoyable. A magnificent seafood banquet lunch followed, which was thoroughly delicious. Then it was off to another swimming/snorkelling spot which was close enough to swim to shore.
After such an incredible day, we returned to our hotel for an afternoon of leisure, swimming and generally lazing about.
An electric open-sided bus picked us up at the hotel to take us to the night markets and dinner where we savoured the amazing sites, food and local culture.
The next morning our cycling destination was not suitable due to the previous wet season. Mr Van excelled himself (yet again) by taking us to the Hon Thom cable car — the world’s longest over-sea three-rope cable car at 7,889.9m. It connects An Thoi Town to Hon Roi and Hon Dua to Hon Thom. We were so high over the ocean and had stunning panoramic views over south Phu Quoc, forests and fishing boats. So many incredible highlights on this trip, but this was up there with the best; a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We said goodbye to Phu Quoc Island and returned by ferry to Ha Tien, where we continued our cycling trip.
The next day we were transferred by bus to the beginning of our ride along the Vinh Te Canal that runs parallel to the Cambodian border. It is a beautiful area with many eucalypts, melaleucas and birds. We passed the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and visited the Ba Chuc Tomb memorial where 3000 skulls are displayed; very sobering.
Onward we cycled along back roads passing more fish and duck farms to the Tra Su Cajuput Forest. What an interesting area! The most memorable way to travel through the special-use forest, covering 1,500 ha, is by motor boat or small rowboat, along the small canals. There are seemingly endless stretches of green water-ferns, colonies of thousands of white storks covering the edge of the forest, and many other species of birds, forest animals and fish. After our 2 boat trips along the canals, we had lunch and walked up the 127 steps of the observation tower with views towards Cambodia and over the forest. A place well worth seeing.
The afternoon cycle took us past roadside incense making and onto our next accommodation.
With ever-changing scenery, lots of different ferry crossings and colourful and interesting markets to explore, we continued cycling through the Mekong countryside. We passed through areas of flower and tree propagation — the orchids and bougainvillea were simply stunning!
Our penultimate day’s cycling was spent cycling past an old brick-making factory where the process is all still done by hand, furniture making and barges sailing up and down the canals to either pick up or drop off their loads.
We reached an old French tourist area and lunch was at Mr Huynh Thuy Le’s house in Sadec town, which attracts many French tourists each year, due to a book and then a film that was made of the Life and Loves of Marguerite Duras.
Our last day was a boat ride from our magnificent hotel in Can Tho to the Cai Rang floating market. We enjoyed fresh pineapple, a visit through the seafood market, then boarded our bus to our next cycling spot.
After cycling we were on the bus back to Ho Chi Minh to a hotel for a shower and change of clothes, then to the airport homeward bound.
The trip surpassed my expectations and itinerary. We cycled over many types of paths, bridges and crossed the Mekong on many different types of ferries. We ate amazing fresh food, delighted in the ever-changing sites and had a thoroughly great time. The cycling was mainly flat with the only rise being the bridges that crossed the canals and waterways. Without hesitation, I would do it again tomorrow!
- Total cost including flights and single supplement was less than $4000 AUD
- Distance cycled — 400ks
- All meals and accommodation included
- One person fell off, but was unhurt
- Everyone gained confidence and new cycling skillsHere is one of the groups tours – clearly an epic.Most import when thinking Vietnam, understand the weather. It was 35 in Saigon on the 20th November when we were there. You could barely move.
And Garry’s Visit to Vietnam
When it comes to Cycling in Vietnam, I know very little and that is likely the position you will be in when you come to Vietnam. So here are the main facts.
Everyone in Vietnam rides a motor scooter all the time, sure there are a few people who ride bicycles and a few cars and trucks but there are motor scooters everywhere. Generally they do this really well but the volumes are off the chart and the rules they follow are very hard to follow and easy to admire because it works. But a tourist should just not bother except for Hoi An.
In Hoi An you can ride a bicycle in Old Town. This beautiful area has no motor bikes or cars at certain times of the day so it can be peaceful but its not very big and its crowded.
So you will need to ride in the countryside. We did the easier of the two rides on this page. This is where the bicycle tours go and we saw a lot of those on our ride. I don’t think you need to follow a tour in this area if you take it easy on the roads heading to the edge of the city. At the edge of the city you will follow old concrete paths across the country side and around the lakes and rivers. We really enjoyed it. We rode some very comfy hotel bikes that had very worn out brakes. The next three photos are from our ride around the farms at Hoi An.
Hoi An – Our ride
There are a lot of bicycle tours from Hoi An. Plan them early as the larger longer tours may be booked out. This is the only way you will get a decent cycle and a helmet. The 3+ hour tours leave early so book at the hotel the night before if you are leaving it to the last minute. Find tours here
Here are some photos I took in the Old Town.
Other things to note: No one wears a helmet but you should if you do any city cycling or ride on major roads it Vietnam.
In Vietnam cars drive on the right hand side of the road. This is a major reason not to get too excited about riding in Vietnam.
Weather is important for holidays in Vietnam. Check this carefully before booking the holiday. Also check for popular times for tourists and avoid these. November is a good time by the look of it, we have had great weather and the tourist numbers are moderate.
Having a Sim Card with decent data allowance would have helped following the trail. I survived by downloading the google maps to offline maps on my phone.
Summary. Enjoy Vietnam as a tourist, plan to ride in Hoi An and just do a couple of rides. It was fun.
Note I believe you can ride 20km up and back on the perfect river in Hue. Some Hue cycling ideas here
A reader gave positive review of this tour group
Postcript. Saigon cycling is out of the question. Too many motor bikes