Vietnam Cycling Reviews (2) – Vietnam Backroads
As much as I love living in Ho Chi Minh City, the hustle and bustle can sometimes be overwhelming. That’s when I like to head for quieter locales like the Mekong Delta. You guys probably know from my previous posts and our recent cycling adventure across Australia that I love bike riding. So what better way to de-stress, than a leisurely bicycle ride through the Mekong Delta with one of Vietnam’s best Tour Companies, Vietnam Backroads. I had an awesome day with Dat and two Aussie girls, so I hope you enjoy the second of my Vietnam Cycling Reviews.
Vietnam Backroads has a number of multi-day tours throughout the Delta, the rest of Vietnam and Indochina. Van, the owner spends days on end, searching out new and interesting rides and ensuring his tours get off the well trodden tourist routes. Sadly, I have limited time so it was only a one-day ride for me. The tour I chose is called Mytho Day Trip and it visits a part of the Mekong I haven’t been before.
Dat, our guide and Driver Mr Dung picked me up at my apartment in a very comfy Mercedes van and we headed over to pick up Natty and Roshani, two vivacious Aussies, at their hotel. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I breathed an instant sigh of relief. Other participants can make or break a trip for me. But when I think about it, I think this type of tour attracts happy, enthusiastic, motivated people as opposed to some of the more passive tours.
The 2-hour drive down to the Mekong isn’t all that exciting, but it does give you an insight into the frantic pace of Ho Chi Minh City versus the relative tranquillity of the Mekong. Dat also livened things up with expert commentary about the many interesting facets of Ho Chi Minh City and The Delta.
We pulled up on a quiet road and assembled the bikes. They’re excellent quality and very well maintained. Suspension and gel seats provide a bit of extra comfort on the often bumpy roads. Dat gave us a quick rundown on the gearing, brakes and other safety aspects and we topped up our water (all provided) before heading off.
Almost immediately we were into stunning rural scenery. Workers, in traditional Non La’s toiled diligently in the fields, pausing to smile and wave as we ambled past. There were plenty of opportunities for photos and the whole group was more than willing to pull up when great pics presented themselves. None of us was in a hurry. It was just nice to be out in the fresh air, getting a bit of exercise and enjoying the views.
I have to say Dat was a wealth of information. There wasn’t any question we had that he didn’t know the answers to and he has a phenomenal memory for facts and figures. We also had an impromptu stop at the local hat “factory”, where an extremely friendly local took us through the process of making straw hats in his house and the surrounding neighbourhood. This was definitely not part of the tour but provided an interesting insight into the industrious nature of the people of the Mekong.
Other than our photo stops our first break was just before the 10km mark. We purchased a big bag of local fruits of our choosing from the friendly local ladies, then scooted down the road to a cafe to enjoy them. Delicious longans, custard apples and pomelo, were accompanied by a refreshing coconut juice.
Back on the bikes we headed towards Ben Tre via the “Vegetable basket” of the Mekong. I think I learned more about Vietnamese veggies and how to use them in that hour and a bit than in the last 6 months. In what seemed like no time at all we had finished our 22km ride, packed the bikes back in the van, and it was time for lunch.
The lunch stop was definitely welcome. All of us had worked up a bit of an appetite and the bottom bits were starting to let me know I’d been sitting on a bike seat for a couple of hours. The very civilized bathrooms were also welcome after copious amounts of water, coconut juice and fruit. Be warned…this trip does take you to “Vietnam Backroads” so “loos” are a rare commodity. (Although there are plenty of bushes to hide behind if needed)
After our leisurely lunch, we headed down to the wharf and jumped on board our boat to Unicorn Island to get an insight into all things “coconut.” I give it a big thumbs up for the comfy woven seats; definitely more comfortable than the usual wooden benches. This part of the Mekong is known for its coconut industry. Not only do they grow and sell the fruit, they also manufacture various by-products from the entire plant. Mats are woven from the outer husk, handbags and other selected souvenirs are made from the shell and the various inner components used for coconut candy, milk, oil, and soap. Leaves from the trees are used for weaving. Not one skerrick is ever wasted.
After browsing the souvenir stalls, we headed to a small cafe to enjoy yet more tropical fruits, jasmine tea and a local cultural performance. My favourite had to be the girls singing “Happy and you know it”!!
Our last activity before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City was a leisurely canoe ride through the small waterways of the island back to our boat. It was so relaxing just to sit back and watch the locals heading home at the end of their day. Everyone seemed so happy, laughing and chatting. It had obviously been a good day for them. Yet another time I wish I had a GoPro!
Back on the boat, we were presented with another fresh coconut for our trip back to the wharf. Taking yet another opportunity for happy snaps, everyone agreed it had been a great day out. We’d had just the right amounts of activity, relaxation and local culture. The 22 km ride on flat roads is perfect for even the most inexperienced cyclists. If you want a longer ride then try out their 40 km cycling through the countryside of Cai Be, or better still, sign up for one of the multi-day trips to get a real insight into the Mekong culture.
Definitely a big thumbs up for the second of my Vietnam Cycling Reviews. Dat was a great guide. He’s extremely knowledgeable and has excellent English. The bikes were great and the route safe, scenic and interesting. The bonus activities in the afternoon really topped off a fabulous day out. It was just what the doctor ordered for this busy, blogging teacher.
Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.