By 2018, our visits and revisits have mounted up. mostly we’ve ridden in the north which offers the best touring trips. So our visits in reverse order are 2018,2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2009, 2002, and 1993.
Early on, in 1988, we rode from Hue to Saigon. At the time, travel permits were required but these restrictions were soon to disappear. We rode on Hwy #1 with side trips to Delat and some southern beaches.
Today, it’s simple, stay off Highway #1, the main road from the very north to the very south of Vietnam. It’s dangerous and not that interesting. Riding in Saigon is a hair-raising experience. It appears to be total chaos but there is a system that can be learned (See Road Stories). The roads to Delat and to Laos on Highway 9 are quieter but still not of great interest. The north has a cooler climate and is better biking because of quieter roads.
In 2018, 2002 and 1993 we rode in the Mekong Delta, off of Highway 1. The biking is flat and interesting. Mountain bikes here are preferable because it entails the use of very minor roads, sandy paths, bamboo bridges and small ferries. It’s a leap of faith and very doable. Highway 22, to Moc Bai (a border crossing to Cambodia via ferry) is better than Highway 1. This area is developing fast: busier roads, new suspension bridges and dirt paths being paved.
In 2009, we rode again from Saigon to the Cambodian boarder then Hanoi to Halong Bay, and the Northern route via Sapa south to Lao Border at Khe Sanh. The Mekong Delta is now too full of traffic even on the secondary roads for great biking. Mountain biking on very minor roads and sandy paths still works. The far North is sensational and arduous. In the north there is less traffic. Many roads are under construction so this will be excellent biking in a couple years. Hwy #1 is wide and can be used to make quick connections.
In February of 2012, we rode from Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu. The complete route was from Hanoi to Chiang Rai.
In early 2014, we rode from Saigon to Hanoi via Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand ending in Hanoi.
We returned to Hanoi in January, 2015 and rode to Laos at Lao Bao (west of Hue) and we visited the newly discover caves west of Ba Don. These caves are in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and are on the World Heritage List.
In 2017, we rode from Saigon (HCM) to Cambodia (Chau Doc crossing) then back into Viietnam into Dien Bien Phu and down to Mai Chau. In 2018, from Mai Chau (we stored our bikes there) to Hue then to Laos via the Lao Bao crossing.
How We Rate This Trip
If the highways are not good in Vietnam, then they are being improved. Highway 1 is wide enough around Saigon so there is room for bikes. There are side roads that vary in quality. Some are good biking. Very small roads and dirt paths are available in the Mekong Delta.
The roads were well engineered in the mountains. Long climbs.
The roads in the North have been much improved but the traffic, although heavier, is still manageable. The HO Chi Minh road is excellent.
Highway 1 is a nightmare with heavy truck traffic. In Saigon, the traffic is overwhelming, especially rush hours. There are bike lanes downtown. In the mountains and in the Mekong Delta there are some quiet roads, but eventually you have to encounter Highway 1.
The South is far too busy now. The Delta, mostly, is still very bikeable. Our route through the far north was very quiet.
November to March is the dry season and the weather in the south is warm and predictable. In the mountains and north there can be rain and it’s much cooler around Hanoi at this time.
In 3/2009, the northern highlands including Sapa were comfortably warm then cooler at night but not cold. Rather, coming down from the highlands into the clouds, it was very cool and wet. The SE Asia haze didn’t develop.
In 1/2018 & 1/2015, in the north, it varies in January from sunny warm 25C to 16C rainy days and cool nights. Around Hue, it is cool and rainy.
In the dry season the winds come from the north. It’s best to bike south. In the Mekong Delta the winds seem negligible.
In March’ they were unpredictable. We thought they would be NE but they varied day to day and hour to hour.
In 2018 & 2015 in the north, in January strong NE winds.
The beaches (especially China Beach) are overrated. Highway 1 is one long village with nondescript shops and houses which block any potential views. The best scenery is on Highway 1 between Hue and Danang. Occasionally, there are very good views of the sea when the road is right along the shore. Delat is OK. Highway 20 from Delat to Saigon has good scenery. The Mekong Delta is flat with agricultural scenery.
The north is simply spectacular. The Karst mountains are very dramatic. Around Sapa, it’s very scenic. Further south from Dien Bien Phu, it is very beautiful all the way to Hue.
This score is diminished by haze and also lots of dust.
The Delta is interesting but flat.
Your best source of information is other Western bikers when you find them. Guides and Tour agencies don’t have biker’s sensibilities.
A good map helps because they use our alphabet and you can point to cities you cannot pronounce.We lucked out by finding a bicycle tour guide to help us plan our trip. Other than that, the local information was unreliable.
In the north, almost nobody speaks English. Lost – not knowing where we were – we called a Vietnamese friend on my Iphone and this local man told him where we were – so our friend could tell us how to find our way.
There is a Lonely Planet bicycle book but I disagree with it when they direct you down Highway 1 in Vietnam. It’s now out of print and outdated.
Good road information is still hard to come by in 2018. The maps.me app was very helpful in the Delta.
Road Safety: 5
Hanoi is OK. The Mekong Delta is great when you take island paths and ferries. Highway 1 is to be avoided. We rode it in 1993 and saw two young girls on bikes killed by a truck. In 2002 it was 100 times worse. We met hardened bikers who started on Highway 1 and took the bus because it was so dangerous.
Quiet roads are safe roads in the north but road construction resulted in a lot of dump trucks. The Delta has become busier but with perserverance you can still find good peaceful riding.
The road system has consequences. We saw many accidents including fatal accidents.
General Safety: 7
Bodily harm or the threat of it is rare. Even in Saigon sneak thieves, pickpockets, and bike snatchers are rare.
The cities are still reputed to be dodgy but we encountered no problems. The more rural areas were very safe. Security seemed vastly improved.
Even in Saigon, you can find good quality hotels and restaurants at reasonable prices. High quality knock-off merchandise in Saigon. In towns of any size or tourist towns, the hotels and restaurants are good and cheap.
Both accommodations and restaurants offer good quality at reasonable prices. It seems every purchase is negotiated so you have to learn the fair prices early.
Hotels, restaurants, even stores have purified water dispensers. They value cold.
Beer is often warm so you add ice. The drip coffee was great.
Vietnamese food is spicy, fresh and interesting. Even small towns serve excellent food. Best to avoid the tourist places, western places and stick to the local eateries.
Pho is the noodle soup and we had it for breakfast and lunch. Its very tasty. French bread is often available and excellent if fresh. The other fare was very good.
There is a good variety of guesthouses and hotels. They are usually very clean. In the cities it’s very competitive so there are lots of choices. Especially in the North, beds can be very hard.
In the smaller towns, it could get very basic but you always get a hot shower. In the cities and tourist areas, the guest houses were very good and reasonable.
For such an international destination there is little English outside the large cities.
The Vietnamese are very aggressive people. They work hard, haggle endlessly, study seriously and are proud of all their accomplishments.
Other cyclists would confirm the aggressive nature of the Vietnamese. The school kids were a nuisance. Very vexing. But the Vietnamese can also be very kind and generous.
The Vietnamese have quickly adapted to the western ways. The larger cities are pretty cosmopolitan (western orientated). Very little is left of the old times. Even the Buddhist influence is less than in the rest of Asia.
There’s not much. Even Hue is basically rebuilt. The war took it’s toll. Practicality results in historical buildings being bull dozed and new high-rises being built.
There is little physical evidence of their history. There are a few colonial buildings in the cities but generally the cities are just 3rd world hellholes.
Little is left of old Vietnam or even colonial buildings. There is no regard for history. Hanoi has some older neighborhoods left.
TOTAL SCORE 89
Route Descriptions and Maps
2012, Hanoi to Halong Bay, Northern route via Sapa south to Lao Border at Khe Sanh
Hanoi Airport to Hanoi by Van
Hanoi to Hai Phong 104Ks
Over the Long Bien Bridge (the train bridge which has a motorcycle/bike lane next to the tracks) for 2Ks then right to Hwy #5 at 3Ks. Hwy #5 has a side bike lane. Busy, urban and flat. Through industry all the way. At 92Ks, the highway becomes a city road. Wide. Then into city center. There are good signs.
Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island by ferry
(Hydrofoil will not take bikes.) We took the slow ferry, 2 1/2 hours.
Cat Ba Island riding
Cat Ba to Gia Lucan Port 23Ks
Past the market for 4 Ks to junction. Right. Up an down 2 hills then mostly flat. At 13Ks, junction with coast road. Straight. At 20Ks another hill then beautiful ride to Gia Luan Port at 23Ks. Variable wind.
Gia Lucan Port to Cat Ba 30Ks
Return 9Ks then right at coast junction. Over a hill. At 13Ks, junction. (Straight to Cai Veng Ferry, 9Ks.) Left to Cat Ba Town, 18Ks. 2 hills, along coast. Hillier this way. At 22Ks, up to junction, right. At 26Ks, junction with main road, right. At 28Ks, up then right and into town 30Ks.
Boat to Halong city via Halong Bay
Halong City to Cua Ong 44Ks
From the boat along shore to circuitous climb to bridge at 5Ks. Separate bike lane on bridge for 1.5Ks. Urban. Highway with a bike lane. Rolling hills. Karst scenery spoiled by urban blight. Around Can Pha to Cua Ong, it’s a coal mining area. Flatter as you go nothing worthy. At 44Ks Cua ong. Head winds (NE) wide road.
Cua Ong to Tien Yen 52Ks
Up out of town. Rough, old paved road. 2-lanes, no shoulder. Traffic including trucks. At 10Ks, Mong Duang. End of Coal Mines. Better road, less traffic, rolling hills. Some trucks. Reforested area. Lots of curves. At 34Ks, good hwy. restaurants. Head winds (NE). Flattens out and straighter. At mid-day, more traffic. At 48Ks, junction. Right 4Ks to Tien Yen at 52Ks.
Tien Yen to Dinh Lap 44Ks
4Ks to junction. Straight on Hwy #4B. New road for 10Ks up a river valley. Then under construction to 15Ks, going up gradually. At 20Ks, (February 2009) the old road which is very adequate. At 39Ks, climb out of the valley then down at 41K. Into Dinh Lap at 44Ks. Tail wind. Good ride.
Dinh Lap to Lang Son 55Ks
Around Dinh Lap the somewhat rough paved road is single lane. Gradual river valley up. Road widens. Tail winds (east). Up a short climb and out of the valley at 16Ks. Good scenery. At 22Ks, road and sewer work in Na Duong to 26Ks, then new road. At 31Ks, road construction then new road again. At 39Ks, construction to 47Ks then old rough paved road and more construction. Rolling Hills. Winds mostly following. Nice scenery. Construction into town at 55Ks. (In a year or two, this will be a very good ride. Now in 2/2009, too much construction.)
Lang Son to That Khe 66Ks
5Ks out to Hwy 1, left. 2-lanes with a motorcycle lane. Till 10Ks, there’s a side road option. At 15Ks, left into Dong Dang at 16Ks on Hwy #4A, climb 2Ks then a nice 4K descent. Wide 2-lanes to 24Ks. Junction, left on 4A. Older, narrower road. Rolling. Very good scenery and towns. Generally down river. At 31Ks, Na Sam. Moderate 3K climb then along the Karst then steep down to moderate rolling hills. Tail wind. At 46Ks, back to the river but above it. Fun gradual descend for 4Ks. Narrow but quite, an occasional big truck. Rolling hills along the river. Wider road. At 62Ks, cross the river. A boulevard into town at 66Ks.
That Khe to Cao Bang 63Ks
Fog till 9AM then clear. Out of town then climb to 12Ks. Mostly gradual some moderate. Good new 2-lane road. Very good scenery. Down at 15Ks. Construction starts but rideable (2/2009). At 18Ks, start rolling hills up valley. At 23Ks, Dong Khe. Up moderately to 25Ks. Mostly climbing. New road at 27Ks. Rolling generally up to 29Ks. Tail wind. Then gentle downhill to 35Ks. Climb steep 1.5Ks then down often steeply to 45Ks. Up moderately to 48Ks. Now down to the Bang River then mostly gradual down. At 57Ks, more construction. Into town at 63Ks.
Cao Bang to Tinh Tuc 61Ks
Out of town to Hanoi Hwy. At 7Ks, junction, right at sign for Nguyen Binh. Basically a single lane older tar road. Curves. Rolling. Very good scenery. Generally climbing. Often level to 30Ks. Light traffic. Excellent scenery. Down moderately for 4Ks to river. Gradual up river to Nguyen Binh at 45Ks. Start moderate but long climb to 57Ks then down. Great views. Road broken at times. Down steeply to 61Ks at Tinh Tuc. Usually a tail wind.
Tinh Tuc to Bao Lac 71Ks
Down out of town 2Ks then start climb 2Ks steep then 1K down then switch backs. Steep then moderate to 10Ks. Level traverse to 13Ks. Down steep to a river at 17Ks. Then choppy steep hills to 29Ks. Tough. Moderate descent to 37Ks. More steep choppy hills. At 42Ks, down but still up and down steep. Road is rough in parts. Generally a tailwind. Tribe people. After 50Ks, the road mellows out down the river. Still rolling but easy all the way to Bao Lac, at 71Ks.
In 2/2009, you need a travel permit obtained in Ha Giang to travel to Meo Vac, Dong Van and Lung Cua. This road is reported to have great scenery and improved, Previously dirt roads.
Bao Loc to Bac Me 71Ks
Out down along the Gam River. Good tar road. Lots of twists and turns. A few ups ad downs. All down along the river. Very nice, easy. Last 2Ks into Bao Lam, construction. Bao Lam at 40Ks. Good road continues. Through a narrow gorge, beautiful. Then it widens out. The road is gradual. Almost all down. Then, Wham, a steep 3K climb at 54Ks then corkscrew down 3Ks to river at 60Ks. At 64Ks, the bridge across the Gam River. There’s one moderate hill into town at 71Ks. More of a head wind through here.
Bac Me to Ha Giang 53Ks
Rolling along the river to 5Ks then a moderate/steep climb for 1K away from the river then a gradual serpentine climb to 13Ks. Steep down and up to 15Ks then a long, steep curvey downhill. Tail winds. At 21Ks, over bridge, climb 1K then down to river at 23Ks. Climb above river then down and up steeply to 30Ks then rolling hills. Good scenery and interesting villages. After 36Ks, more up than down. 1K steep curvey climb out of valley. Top at 43Ks. Panoramic view. A great moderate descent into town for 8Ks. Then a wide road to the bridge into central Ha Giang at 53Ks.
Ha Giang to Viet Quang 60Ks
Out along river on Hwy #2. Good 2-land road. At 20Ks, a shoulder. At 24Ks, Vi Xuyen. At 30Ks, no shoulder. Light traffic. OK scenery. Head winds. (We thought the February winds were NE, but not here.) Away from the river then back. Easy rolling or flat. A little rain here. It’s also greener. At 45Ks, a shoulder. At 48Ks, junction with road to Hoang Su Phi. Shoulder ends at 52Ks. Moderate hills into Viet Quang at 60Ks.
Another option recommended by Loc in Hanoi
At the junction to Hoang Su Phi (48Ks south of Ha Giang) take the road to Hoang Su Phi. It is reported as easy cycling then mountains to Xin Man and Bac Ha then to Lao Cai. Reported to be beautiful but tough climbs.
Viet Quang to Pho Rong 67Ks
Turn west at junction in town on Hwy #279. 1 1/2-lane older tar road. Adequate but often broken. Rolling. Beautiful green (in February), rice fields. At 10Ks, some construction is beginning (2/2009). Foggy, overcast and some rain. Little traffic. At 25Ks, Yen Binh. Construction continues to 27Ks. Old tar road (OK). At 31Ks, climb moderately then gradually along the Karst Mountains. Top at 35Ks. Steeper down to 39Ks. Hills to 44Ks. Generally down river, rolling hills. At 50Ks, up 1 1/2Ks steep above river. Very good scenery. Tailwinds. Then 3Ks steep down to bridge over river at 55Ks. Over bridge over Song Chay at 57Ks. Follow river down to Pho Rong, easy grades. Into town at 67Ks.
Pho Rong to Lao Cai 75Ks
Out and up gradually for 3Ks. On a high quality new wide 2-lane road. At 5Ks, road under construction (what else). Rolling but generally up to 18Ks then generally down. At 20Ks, new road. Up again at 23Ks to 26Ks then rolling generally and gradually down. So-so scenery. Tail wind. At 58Ks, the road is narrower then at 64Ks, its a divided 4-lane road still gradual into Lao Cai at 75Ks. Light traffic. (An accident in the mountains stopped all the traffic except bikes and motorcycles so the road was especially quiet, our good luck.)
This route completely surprised us. After 26Ks of hills and bad roads under construction, it was a 50K glide, good road, easy grades and a tail wind all the way to Lao Cai.
Lao Cai to Sapa 37Ks (elevation 1650)
Through town then rolling hills to 9Ks on Hwy #40. The climb starts. Moderate parts and step parts. No wind effect but it’s a tail wind. Lots of nice vistas. Light traffic. 2-lane good tarmac road. At 27Ks,gradual parts. Winds become strong and swirl through the mountains. Steep again the last 5Ks into Sapa at 37Ks. Its a long climb.
Sapa (elevation 1650) to Lai Chau 73Ks
Up steep to Hwy #4D at 1K. Left. Road construction and climb to 4Ks. Road finished and traverse to 7Ks. A gradual descent to 9Ks. Road construction again. Start upward traverse along mountain. Great vistas. Swirling winds. Light traffic. Rocky, dusty road. At 12Ks, steep and rough to top, Tram Ton Pass at 15Ks, 1900 meters (highest pass in Vietnam). Strong winds (head). Now adequate asphalt road, narrow. Steep descent. Great mountain scenery then more moderate to 28Ks, steep again then moderate then gradual to flat at 38Ks then moderate down to 40Ks. Junction Hwy #26, right on 4B down to 42K then rolling into Tam Duong at 45Ks. Start straight moderate climb to 58Ks. Rolling to 60Ks. Construction and down. Some moderate, some steep. Rolling hills into town at 73Ks.(2/2009 extremely dusty, bad last 13Ks.) Lai Chau is the dust/smoke capitol of Vietnam.
Lai Chou to Muong Lay 108Ks
2012, This road is still under repair and traffic can be held up for hours.
Out of town and climb thru good scenery obscured by haze to 10Ks. Moderate/gradual. Good narrow asphalt road. Light traffic. To river at 28Ks. Along river. Construction (very dusty) through Phong Tho to 34Ks. On Hwy 12, along river up and down. Older road but OK. Some trucks. At 55Ks, climb above river until 63Ks. Very nice scenery. Light head winds. At 83Ks, climb inland. Some short dirt (dusty) sections. Chan Nua at 88Ks back at river. Area of land slides. (This is a temporary condition due to making a new higher road for when they create the new dam in this area in 1 or 2 years.) The dirt road closes as they work on it. Stopped five times due to road closures. Adds up to 1-2 hours to a trip. Dirty, dusty, terrible. The last 20Ks is a nightmare into Muong Lay at 108Ks.
Mong Lay to Tuan Giao 92Ks
Reported to be good new road, very quiet, pretty. 13K climb to start, then rolling.
Muong Lay to Dien Bien Pho 102Ks
Rolling up smaller river. At 10Ks, a moderate climb to 18Ks. Very good 2-lane road. Quiet. Hwy #12. Drift lower to 22Ks then climb again to 28Ks. Nice scenery. Vistas. Hazy. Down generally over choppy hills to 35Ks then descent to Muong Cha** at 43Ks. Gradually down to bridge over river at 53Ks. Gradually up river to 57Ks over some hills to 68Ks. Climb to 70Ks then down to 72Ks. New road. Light winds. Start to gradually climb up a nice rice valley. Then climb moderately on curvy road with construction but rideable. Top at 88Ks. Down moderately to 96Ks in a flat valley. Dien Bien Pho at 102Ks.
2012, **Mung Cha to Mung Lay, 43Ks
Good road. Markers show 48Ks but it is 43Ks to Muong Lay bus station, the center of a sprawling town. Road older but still good. New road runs a little above the town. Its a little rough due to on going dam construction.
Dien Bien Pho to Tuan Giao 78Ks
Update: 3/17, 75Ks, Hwy 279. Moderate climb to 11Ks. Down to 13Ks. Rolling up to 28Ks. Climb to 30Ks. A second top at 32Ks. Moderate down to 40Ks (Muang Ang). Gradual down to 59Ks. Rolling to 69Ks, climb to 71Ks, rolling down to Tuan Giao at 75Ks.
In 2012, Road is all good. OK, 300 meters of dirt road just outside town. Hwy#279. Moderate climb to 11Ks then down to river at 13Ks. Now gradual or rolling hills up valley to 30Ks. Moderate climb to top at 32Ks. Vista but haze obscured. Moderate descent. At 40Ks Muong Ang. Gradual descent at 44Ks. Some rolling hills, down river. At 59Ks, beautiful Karst mountain valley. At 72Ks, climb to 74Ks. Then rolling hills mostly down into Tuan Giao at 78Ks.
Tuan Giao to Son La 82K
Update: 3/17, Good road. Gradually up to 7ks. Steep climb to 18Ks, down to 26Ks. Down steep to 31Ks. Rolling then down to 36Ks. Gradual down to 47Ks. (Thaun Chau, Guest houses). Gradual down to 55Ks then gradually up then moderately up to 61Ks. Rolling or gradually down to 75Ks. Climb to 78Ks then down to Son La at 82Ks.
In 2012, New road gradually up valley to 7.5Ks on Hwy #6. Steep climb starts to 17Ks. OK vistas and scenery. New road over the mountain pass Hills down and up to 22Ks. The top. Down mostly steep Great views to 29Ks. Rolling hills then down again at 31Ks to 36Ks then a gradual drift lower to Thaun Chau at 51Ks. Great scenery, village life and road. Light winds. At 60Ks, junction Hwy #107. Straight on Hy #6. Now gradually up then a moderate climb to 66Ks. Rolling then gradually down to 78Ks. Junction with old Hwy#6. (Check out the climb to the tower.) Straight. Gradually up now stronger head winds. Moderate climb at 79Ks for 3Ks. View of city. Moderate descent into Son La at 81Ks.
2012 Son La to Tuan Giao (opposite direction)
At 49Ks, moderate/steep climb to 54Ks, traverse then down to 56Ks. Now steep/moderate climb to 63Ks. The top. New road but same old mountain. Steep/moderate descent 74Ks. Today in the clouds, fog, no views. Then 7Ks down valley to Tuan Giao at 81Ks.
Son La to Yen Chau 65Ks
Update: 3/17, Road a little older and bumpier but ok. Some road repaving in progress. Variable winds.
In 2012, 6-lane Hwy with bike lane for 12Ks. Rolling and urban sprawl. Then drift lower on rolling hills to 29Ks on a narrow 2-lane asphalt road. Hat Lot (a big town). Light traffic but mostly trucks (loud horns). Agriculture, OK scenery. Slightly ascending. Tail wind here. At 42Ks, climb moderately. At 43Ks, junction, Hwy #37.** At 44Ks, down. Good views, good scenery. Moderate then gradual to 53Ks then rolling hills down generally all the way to Yen Chen at 65s.
2012 Yen Chau to Son La (Opposite direction)
Start climb at 14Ks, moderate then steeper to 21Ks. Fradual descent with tailwind to 36KS.
**Hwy #37 reported to be quiet, pretty with a ferry connection back to Hwy #6.
Yen Chau to Moc Chau 55Ks (1500 meters)
Update: 3/17, Road is newer and better. It’s still being improved. Variable winds but tail winds toward the top.
In 2012, Continue on Hwy #6, 2-lane older asphalt road. Rolling hills down to 6Ks then up river. Good scenery. Light traffic but big trucks. At 29Ks, easy climb above river. Mostly head winds (I don’t understand the wind direction through here.) At 50Ks, sorta the top. Its rounded and anti climatic. Its a 95% gradual and 5% moderate climb. Long (44Ks) but easy. Very good scenery. Wider, better road. Rolling hills into town. At 55Ks, sorta the center of the stretched out town. In 2012, road a little older and bumpier. Winds switch to opposite direction in the middle of the day.
Update: 2017, Mai Chau to Moc Chou 65Ks (opposite direction)
Out and up then rolling up at 8Ks, climb to 12Ks then down rolling to 17Ks at 26Ks rolling hils. Mostly down. at 42Ks, down steep. At 59Ks bottom junction Mai Caou at 65Ks.
2012, Going up. Moderate to 19Ks, steep to 27Ks. Moderate to 29Ks, 2K descent, 1Ksteep up to 32Ks, moderate to 35Ks (top) Strong head winds, good views but hazy. Rolling moderate hills to 45Ks (2nd top. Steep hills to 53Ks (3rd top). then mostly down to Moc Chau.
Moc Chau to Mai Chau 65Ks
Update: 3/17, At 12Ks, long rolling hills (more down than up) to 34Ks. Variabe winds, mostly head winds and strong. Again low clouds. At 34Ks, down, good views. 75% moderate, 25% gradual to the junction. All good road. More trucks. Older, rougher road into Mai Chau.
In2012, On Hwy #6, up and out of town then rolling hills mostly up. Diary farms. Good scenery. Karsts, green. Moderate climb for 4Ks to 12Ks. Good view from top. Down to 17Ks Steepish hills. Slightly more traffic. Swirling strong winds. At 26Ks, more easy rolling hills. Mostly down. At 42Ks, steep descent into a cloud bank (Views are unknown) Warm on top, cold in the cloud fog. At 59Ks, bottom. Junction Hwy 15, right. Still down on a rougher tar 2-lanes road. Beautiful scenery. Into Mai Chau at 65Ks.
Ho Chi Minh Hwy is busier (more cars). More hotels and restaurants on the road too. The road is a little older but good.
Vietnam January, 2009
February, 2012 Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu complete route from Hanoi to Chiang Rai
Hanoi to Hoa Binh 60Ks
2017 Update: Before Hoa Binh, Hwy 6 is under construction to widen the road. To avoid Hoa Binh, 6Ks before town, there is a round about to the left toward Son La.
City streets to Hwy 6. Heavy traffic with a separate lane for Buses and bikes for 10Ks. All flat variable winds. At 20Ks, road arrows. Broken and being repaired. At 30Ks, better 2-lane road. Still busy. Now good Karst scenery. Less traffic. Easy rolling hills. At 65Ks, flat again. 4-lanes into town at 73Ks.
Hoa Binh to Mai Chau 63Ks
5Ks through town sprawl then moderate climb to 10Ks, 2-lanes, light traffic. AM light winds becomes cross wind. Down 2Ks to valley. Wick road to 17Ks. Good karst scenery. At 21Ks, up to 24Ks then down into another valley. At 28Ks, Muong Khen. Rolling hills to 38Ks. Climb moderate/steep to 49Ks. Views limited by haze. Adequate sealed road. Down moderate/steep. At, 56Ks, great vista of rice valley. At 68Ks, Junction. Hwy 15, left continue down rice valley to Mai Chau at 63Ks.
(see Northern Vietnam route for route from Sapa south to Lao Border via Mai Chau)
Dien Bien Phu to Lao Border, Tay Trang 36Ks
Out to 14Ks, flat, flat rice valley. into the mountains, moderate/step climb to 24Ks. Broken asphalt road. Down steep to 25Ks. Now mostly gradual to 29Ks. Moderate climb. Nice mountain scenery. Some gravel pits. Some dump trucks. Less traffic, better asphalt. Tay Trang border crossing at 33Ks. Border up gradually to 36Ks. Update: 3/17, This route is now terrible, more traffic and the last 16Ks are gravel trucks, rough road, dusty. The border is closed 11:30A-1:00P.
Mai Chau to Ngoc Lac 98Ks
1/:2018 Update After Co Loung at 16Ks the road is completely rebuilt. A better engineered road and 2Ks shorter but we miss the old small road 1.5K climb then down 1.5Ks then down. After 37Ks, its the old road, narrow scenic and fun. After Lang Chanh, a wider road. January weather: Cool nights, warm sunny days. Fog in AM in Mai Chau. Winds variable. (More head wind). Quan Hoa to junction a bit more broken. Junction, right on 15A to Ngoc Lac 98Ks. (Previously 100Ks, shorter now).
In 2012, Down valley. Beautiful. Rice fields. 1 1/2-lane road.(Hwy #15) Strong tail wind (NE) some rolling hills into Co Loung at 14Ks. Now follow Ma river, down. Choppy little hills and lots of curves in a narrow valley. At 33Ks, steep climb above the river to 36Ks. Foggy and some rain. Bamboo forest. Down and up to 38Ks. Beautiful scenery. Down to river and rolling hills to Quan Hoa at 45Ks. Over bridge at 48Ks then easy rolling hills to 64Ks. Junction, straight on Hwy #15A. Rolling hills generally up. A short steep climb to 75Ks. Great scenery. Now down rolling hills to 82Ks at Lang Chanh. Up rolling hills to 88Ks then straight and gradual down. One small hill then down into town at 100Ks. Wide road into town. What a great ride even if it was cold and overcast.
Ngoc Lac to Thai Hoa 106Ks
1/2018 Update: Ho Chi Minh Hwy is busier (more cars). More hotels and restaurants on the road too. The road is a little older but good. light head winds all day.
Now on Ho Chi Minh Trail, a new wide 2-lane Hwy. Light traffic. Some trucks including Sugar Cane Trucks. Rolling hills. Never long and never steep. The road skirts the towns. We went in and out of Yen Cat at 55Ks. Light north winds (following). Scenery only OK. The dramatic scenery is gone. At 98Ks, off HCM Hwy and into Thai Hoa at 106Ks.
Thai Hoa to Nam Dan 99Ks
1/2018 Update: Light traffic but some dump trucks. Tai -wind today to Tan Ky. Still must ask for road to Nam Dan (not posted). 15QL. More traffic and bumpy. At 82Ks, new road then construction for 10Ks.
7Ks out on Hwy #48 to Ho Chi Minh Hwy. Right. Again rolling hills. Excellent well engineered highway. Nice agricultural scenery. At 44Ks, Tan Ky. At circle, left on Hwy #15. Flat improved road to Do Luong at 65Ks. Hard to find road to Nam Dan, Hwy 5A, ask for Nam dam. Good older tar road. Narrow 2-lane. Light traffic. A moderate hill then flat through rice fields. Nice agricultural scenery of Vietnam. At 82Ks, some minor hills. Narrow 2-lanes. Light traffic. Flat into Nam Dan at 99Ks.
Nam Dan to HaTinh 74Ks
1/2018 Update: Over bridge on QL15 mostly flat. Rural and crops. Fun riding. Quiet. Stay on QL15. Sometimes a little broken. Light head winds. Junction at 28Ks, straight on Hwy. AH15 (QL8). Four lanes, flat. Light head winds. Hwy. #1 at 45Ks (Hong Linh). Hwy #1 to bridge at 12Ks, first left, Hwy 548 east. (Follow Google Map alternate driving route, only 2Ks further and greatly more interesting.) North (tail) wind. Cold & drizzle. Flat, narrow road. Somewhat broken. Quiet.
Hwy 15A is all constructed. At 22Ks, bear left on narrow road to 25Ks, then right on 1-lane bridge to Duc Tho (Route suggested by locals, different). Left after bridge along levee to 29Ks. Right. Concrete road, at 31Ks, left on Hwy 8 (4-lanes) to 33Ks, bear right. At 36Ks, straight on 2-lane road. Hwy 15A to Dong Loc at 54Ks. Left at junction at 15B (east). At 66Ks, Hwy 1. At circle straight into HaTinh at 74Ks. (Any port in a storm. We had bad information regarding hotels in Dong Loc).
HaTinh to Houng Khe 34Ks
1/2018 Update: HaTinh to Hwy 1 (bypass) and DT550 at 4Ks. 2-lanes with a shoulder. Light traffic. At 16Ks, Khe Giao. At Khe Giao, left on 15A which is now a very good 2-lane road. At Ho Chi Minh Hwy, left. Some Big trucks now. Still quiet into Houng Khe (5 hotels).
Nam Dan to Huong Khe 93Ks
1K to Bridge over river. Good flat country road (Hwy #15A) to 16Ks then construction and dirt road to 22Ks. Now older tar road to a 1-lane bridge at 28Ks into Duc Tho. Turn right out to Hwy #8. At the circle at 30Ks, left toward Bai Vot then at 35Ks, bear left on Hwy 15A to Dong Loc. The Hwy becomes a 1-lane road. Mostly flat. Light east wind (head). Light traffic. At 53Ks, Hwy #15A becomes a 2-Lane road. At 55Ks, Dong Loc. At 63Ks, Khe Giao. Now rolling hills (light rain, fog and mud). 1-lane often. Scenery is good (I think). Hillier on 15A to the Ho Chi Minh Trail at 81Ks. Left. Excellent road. Easy hills, light traffic. Turn off for Huong Khe at 90Ks. Rolling good road into town at 93Ks.
Huong Khe to Ba Don 102Ks
1/2018 Update: At 30Ks, road is paved. Moderate 3K climb and 3K steeper descent.
In 2012: Out to Ho Chi Minh Hwy almost in town. 25Ks to junction just beyond Tan Ap. Rolling. Light traffic. OK scenery. No wind. Left. Good tar road along railroad tracks. At 30Ks, stone and mud road, away from tracks and limb (this was not our intention) to 33Ks, down to 36Ks and asphalt and the train tracks. Rolling hills on good road. Nice scenery. East winds (head). At 53Ks, Dong Le. Out on Hwy 12A along train tracks. New improved Hwy. Rolling. East winds (head) slow you. Generally down to 70Ks. Very good Karst scenery then basically flat into Ba Don. Light traffic but heavier into town at 102Ks.
Ba Don to Dong Hoi (River Front) 42Ks (If not visiting Phong Nha Caves)
1K to Hwy 1, right. 2-lanes with wide bike shoulder. At 5K, over river bridge. Flat straight, uninteresting. Lots of trucks. At 17Ks, a short hill with sea views. Flat again. The traffic is only moderate here but lots of air-horn honking trucks. NE winds (previously head), so cross to following winds. Dull ride. Don Hoi at 37Ks. Through town to River front at 42Ks.
1/2015 Update: Ba Don to Caves to Dong Hoi
Ba Don to Phong Nha (Caves) 31Ks
To Hwy 1, right, at bridge at 6Ks, first right (Hwy 560) at 7Ks. 2-lanes, somewhat broken. Some road work. Moderate hills. At 15Ks, flatter. Junction Hwy 15, straight. At 23Ks, Ho Chi Minh Hwy. Right. Rolling at 30Ks, left into town at 31Ks.
Phong Nha to Dong Hoi 45Ks
To Ho Chi Minh Hwy, at 1K, right. At 8Ks, junction Hwy 15, straight on HCM Hwy. Rolling hills. So-so scenery. Light traffic. Light winds. (rain today). At 37Ks, left to Dong Hoi. Town at 44Ks and Hwy 1, right to 45Ks at Riverside.
Dong Hoi to Dong Ha 97Ks
Hwy #1A. 2-lanes with 2 meter shoulder. Moderate traffic but lots of trucks and buses. Flat to 45Ks then slightly rolling. Foggy early then clear and warm. East winds (head winds here) dull scenery. No sea views. Dull. Dong Ha center (junction Hwy#9) at 97Ks.
Dong Ha to Hue 71Ks
1/2018 Update: Opposite direction. 76Ks using Google Maps walking route at times. Very muddy so opted around on roads. Back to Hwy #1 at 56Ks. 20Ks into Dong Ha.
Description is Hue to Dong Ha 71Ks
Out over cycle only bridge and left along the river and past Imperial City. 4-lanes and urban to 7Ks. Then 2-lanes on Hwy #1A with cycle shoulder. Along the train tracks. Straight, flat and dull. Cross winds (NE). Through the towns wider 4-lanes road usually. Traffic is relatively light but mostly big trucks and buses. Junction Hwy #9 at 71Ks.
**Hue to Danang (Not ridden in 1/2018) Route from Google Maps and Hue bike tour company. Out to coast, then toward Land Co. then Hwy #1. a) overpass (1500m) or b) tunnel (service to take bikers and motorcycles through). Danang to Hoi An. Again along coast. (we gave up due to rain and cold in January 2018).
Dong Ha to Khe Sanh 64Ks
1/2018 Update: No change. Road also called A16. Strong tailwinds that sometimes swirl. Now better lodging etc. in Lao Bao (Laos Border) rather than in Khe Sanh.
Hwy #9, good asphalt road. 2-lanes with shoulder. Up the Cam Lo river valley. Gradual. Light traffic. At 8Ks, the cut off for Hue if going there. At 12Ks, first juction for Ho Chi Minh Road. Straight on Hwy #9. Rolling hills generally up to 27Ks. The Rock Pile. Nice scenery. Gradual rolling to the bridge (Hwy #14, Ho Chi Minh Road) at 50Ks. Gradual to 56Ks then climb moderately to 59Ks. A truck transit check (You don’t have to stop). Continue moderate climb to Khe Sanh at 64Ks.
Khe Sanh to Lao Border 19Ks
Rolling hills and gradually down. Through Lao Bao at 17Ks then to border. Good road, light traffic. Tail wind (east). Easy riding.
January to March, 2012, Saigon to Cambodian boarder (Ho Chi Minh to Chau Doc and Cambodian border)
Ho Chi Minh Airport (Tan Son Nhut) to downtown. Multiple routes go directly to town. 8Ks
Saigon to My Tho 76Ks (1/17)
Various city street finally on Duoug S07. This runs along just north of the Expressway , then under it to Ben Luc at 32Ks. Now on old Hwy 1 (has cycle shoulder but busy) to Tan An at 48Ks and off Hwy 1. Thru town then right on Hwy 828 (not posted as 828 but its on the map) locals guided us to it. 2-lanes, little traffic and along the river. At 66Ks , junction. We continued straight on a cement path that snaked around to 71Ks. Right on minor road to 73Ks. Left to junction at 75Ks, then right (there’s a sign) My Tho at 76Ks. (2Ks more to riverside).
Saigon to My Tho 82Ks
6Ks on city streets left to bridge at 6Ks. Straight on busy road to 9Ks. Right on tollway. Very wide with a separate side road for motorcycles. Makes it almost peaceful, ends at 19Ks. Right on Hwy #1, 4-lanes with a motorcycle shoulder. Lots of traffic, dusty, flat. NE wind (tail). Urban and dull. Tan An at 50Ks, right on minor Hwy #827 to Tam Vu at 62Ks. Junction, at 63Ks, right on farm road toward Long Tri at 67Ks. T junction at 74Ks, right. Rougher and busier into My Tho at 82Ks.
My Tho to Vinh Long 53Ks (1/17)
Out along the ruver.4-lanes ti 6Ks, Truck traffic then quieter as you go. At 35Ks, cycle bridge only. Old 1-lane road to ferry at 38Ks. At stop light, left to ferry to “Binh Hoa Phuoc” at 41Ks. Ferry (about every hours). Off on island. Follow main cement cycle path. At any junction, ask for Vinh Long. At 53Ks, ferry to Vinh Long (frequent), Riverfrout at 53Ks.
Vinh Long to Can Tho 40Ks (1/17)
There are options (longer) on quiet and mroe interesting roads or Hwy 1. We went Hwy 1, left. Shoulder all the way. Over a suspension bridge at 33Ks (both routes cross this bridge). Follow signs to Can Tho Riverside area at 40Ks.
Can Tho to Long Xuyen 61Ks (1/17)
Go to old ferry at 3 ks. Out to Hwy 54 at 4Ks, left. Road under construction (1/17) 60% finished. Urban to country side. At 51Ks, junction (left to ferry to cross river again). We go straight to 52Ks around a circle straight on small road to small ferry to Hwy 964. 1-lane paved. Nice. At 58ks, left to ferry to Long Xuyen. Hotels at 61Ks.
Long Xuyen to Chau Doc 55Ks (1/17)
Out on Hwy 91. At 10Ks, right to ferry (Bendo Pha Son Dot). Along a former brick road now 1-lane asphalt. Thru a continuous village. Only cycle traffic. At 24Ks, Do Vam Nao Bendo (ferry). Straight on dirt path for 1K then left on paved road 1K to bridge, left to cross. Bigger road, 2-lanes. At 40Ks Vinh Tri Ferry (Bendo). Right. Over river and out to Hwy 91 at 41Ks. Wide 2-lane road. Busy. Right at 53Ks to river then left into center at 55Ks.
Chau Doc to Border 26Ks (1/17)
On old Hwy 91 to Sam Mt at 6Ks. Tin Bien at 24Ks. Gradual up 2s and down 2ks.
My Tho to Can Tho 94Ks
Out along river. Now its newly industrial for 10Ks. Then quieter. Good 2-lane road.
(7 years later the road is paved only the bridges are the same.) Light traffic to Tam Binh at 24Ks on DT#864. At 28Ks, junction. (This might be where we crossed by ferry in 2002.) Straight. Parts are gravel and under construction other parts are dirt tracks. One ferry and some bike only bridges and one last ferry into Cai Be at 38Ks. Out 1K then right to River at 40Ks. Ferry across. Out for 3Ks along canal then right on cement path to road at 44Ks straight to junction. Sign post to Vinh Long right at 45Ks to ferry. Straight for 7Ks to Hwy #1 then 39Ks very busy. The road is being widened. Ferry at 91Ks. Then 3Ks more into town at 94Ks. Hwy #1 is nasty. Some construction in 2009.
Can Tho to Long Xuyen 75Ks
3Ks to ferry. Cross and 300 meters go left on Hwy 54. Becomes a quiet rural road. Narrow asphalt, usually good. Many 1-lane wooden bridges. After 25Ks, some road widening and new wide cement bridges. At 53Ks Lap Vo, cross road. We made a mistake and took the ferry to Hwy #1 then right to Long Xuyen, 4-lanes. Not that busy. (Better to stay straight to the An Hoa ferry into Long Xuyen.)
Long Xuyen to Chau Doc 90Ks (not direct)
Cross the river on the An Hoa ferry. 1K to ferry. Then first left on narrow asphalt road. Along a minor river at 20Ks, go left over bridge. At 27Ks over bridge into Cho Moi. Straight to Cuan Cianz ferry at 31Ks. Now straight on Hwy #954. A little busier. Not as interesting. Cho Vam at 48Ks. Tan Chau 71Ks, straight through. Rural road. Muslim area before Chan Giang ferry at 88Ks. Into Chau Doc right 2Ks to center at 90Ks. Better but longer than the main Hwy #91 road.
Chau Doc to border with Cambodia 25Ks
Hwy 91 to and around Sam Mountain at 5Ks, 2-lanes. Some traffic. At 17Ks, junction right in Nha Bang. Mild climb into small hills. still on Hwy #91. Nice gradual downhill to the Cambodian border at 25Ks.
We flew from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Hanoi, Vietnam. Rode around the North and then south to Hue and crossed the border to Laos near Hue.
Cambodian Border to Ha Tien 6Ks (2/2018)
Straight, busy into town.
Ferry to Phu Quoc Island (Fast and slow ferries all take bicycles)
Phu Quoc Pier to Long beach 13Ks
Some traffic but wide then 4-lanes past the airport. At 10Ks, right toward Duong Dong. Busier at 13Ks. (Duong Doug is 2Ks farther from the car ferry).
Long Beach to Ganh Dau round-trip 52Ks (Description of return)
Main road, up a 1K moderate hill & down. OK 2-lane. Some traffic. Headwinds. To 8Ks, road widening and much development of all kinds. Easy, rolling. So-so scenery. At 10Ks, turn to CuaCan. At 18Ks, turn to Ong Lang. Now a cycle shoulder. More traffic thru Duong Dong Town. At 26Ks, Long Beach (5Ks long).
Long Beach to An Thoi 24Ks (Different return, 26Ks)
At circle, 3Ks, straight 4-lanes with cycle shoulder. Flat, dull. Light traffic. At 23Ks, junction right down to An Thoi at 24Ks. Different return 26Ks, up to junction, straight. 4-lanes with cycle shoulder 6ks, junction (right 2Ks to Bai Sao “white sand beach”) tailwind a bit rolling. Light traffic. So-so scenery. At 21Ks, left past airport, then right into Long Beach at 26Ks.
Long Beach to Bai Tham 32Ks (Best ride on the island)
Through Duong Dong over bridge to 4-lane highway with cycle shoulder. Various winds. Past pepper farms. At 12Ks, divided 2-lanes road with shoulder. Rolling and good jungle scenery thru National Park. At 32Ks, right to beach at 32Ks. (it’s another 10Ks to Ferry dock on a narrow cement road over some steel bridges.
Ha Tien to Chau Doc 96Ks
Over bridge and out 5Ks on narrow 2-lane with no shoulder. Lots of traffic (we were warned about the traffic so changed our route to go to Chau Doc instead of Racha Gia). Left on 2-lane tar road. Much quieter toward Chau Doc. Straight and flat on ok older road. Actually a nice ride. Irrigated, green rice fields. Along a canal. Light headwinds. At 70Ks, Tien Bien. Basic guest houses (Turn for another route to the Cambodian border). Continue along canal on 955A. New tar road to 78Ks, then construction then old road, broken but rideable. At 89Ks, out to main road at Mt. Sam. Chaotic traffic to 90Ks then into Chau Doc on Hwy with a separate cycle lane to the city at 96Ks.
Chau Doc to Long Xuyen 56Ks
City ferry to cross the river then right on narrow tar path along river. After 3Ks, dirt path to 8Ks, along canal left to Hwy 951, right. Good 2-lane road becomes Hwy 954. At 30Ks, over canal then right on tar 1-lane. At 35Ks a minor ferry over tributary river. (Puc Vu to Vam Nao) continue along the river on a dirt road that becomes a tar road. At 44Ks T-junction right then left to river. Some dirt road again then narrow tar to 47Ks. Bendo (ferry) My Thanh to An Chau. Right to ferry. Off thru An Chau to Hwy 91, left. 4-lanes and busy then a wide 2-lane road to town at 56Ks.
3/2018 Update: From Long Xuyen its easy to miss the small ferry so we eventually found another larger ferry more up stream on tributary river. This added 10Ks to trip. Also continued on
Hwy 951 to Hwy 953 and left to ferry to Chau Doc. (Better road! and no longer).
Long Xuyen to Long Xuyen 56Ks
Ferry then left on Hwy 946 narrow 2-lane tar road. Motorcycle traffic. Sometimes patched and bumpey. Better and quieter as you go. At 24Ks, Cho Moi and Hwy 942. Right. Wider and busier. At 37Ks, My Luong. At 43Ks, views of river. At 45Ks right on Hwy 944. Straight to ferry to Long Xuygen at 56Ks.
Long Xuygen to Can Tho 50Ks
3/2018 Update: At 7Ks, straight onto ferry Hwy 946. On to Hwy 54. Excellent road to 39Ks then older, narrower and busier to Ferry. (in opposite direction). At junction of Hwy 54 & Hwy 80 right to circle then left to ferry.
Can Tho to Vinh Long 50Ks
New route. Over ferry to Hwy 54 (busy) to Hwy 1 at 4Ks, left before the Hwy. Then at 5Ks, left on Hwy 854. At 9Ks, T-junction, right on narrow tar road. Fun. At 14Ks, right on Hwy 908. Good 2-lane tar road, quiet. At 25Ks, Hwy 1, left. At 27Ks, just before bridge, right on narrow tar road. At 33Ks, t-junction after bridge, left on Hwy 909. 2-lanes tar road. Light traffic. At 43Ks, Hwy 53, becomes 4-lane then 2-lanes with cycle shoulder. Traffic into Vinh Long at 50Ks, straight into city.
Vinh Long to BenTre 50Ks
4Ks to Ferry to Cho Lach on Hwy 902. Then Hwy57. 2-lanes patched tar road to circle at 20Ks. moderate traffic. Left on Hwy 884 to ferry at 22Ks. At 34Ks, junction with Hwy 884. Left. Busier into town to river at 50Ks.
BenTre to Tra Vinh 51Ks
City streets to Hwy 60 4-lanes. Over bridge to circle at 7Ks, left. 2-lanes quiet. At 9Ks, right at T-junction. At 11Ks, back to Hwy 60. Busy, patched and bumpy. At 18Ks over bridge and right on minor tar road, then rough cement path. maps.me failed us. Got lost. Found Hwy 60 again. At 35Ks, start up bridge (4-lanes). At 37Ks, left and then veer right on tar motorcycle road (no cars allowed). At 38Ks, verge onto tar road. At 42Ks over flood gate bridge and follow to 45Ks, verge onto pretty boulevard into town at 51Ks.
Tra Vinh to Vinh Long 65Ks
Out the way we came in. Cross Hwy 60 at 14Ks. At 22Ks, over flood gate bridge. Narrow quiet tar road. Tailwind. Good scenery. At 25Ks, over bridge then left. At 28Ks, Hwy 53. Right . At 30Ks, veer right on Hwy 902. Narrow older tar road. At 40Ks, ferry. At 55Ks, wider, newer, smoother road into town. Good way in. Center at 65Ks. Good Ride.
Vinh Long to My Tho 49Ks
Ferry then follow asphalt. At 1K, right. At 5Ks, left. Ask for “Ben Pha Dong Phu” ferry. At 8Ks
1 meter cement path to ferry. Off ferry to Cai Be at 12Ks. Either over bridge or by cycle ferry to Hwy 864. Narrow tar road. No cars Cycles only. New bridges being built 3/2018 (crossings by motorcycle or bicycle, no cars). At 25Ks, now a smooth asphalt Hwy. Now some vehicles. More and more traffic and the road is a bit patched and bumpy. Under suspension bridge at 47Ks. Straight on urban streets to river front at 49Ks.
Vinh Long to Can Tho 50Ks
(Better, avoiding Hwy 53) from Market, cycle bridge over canal then right. Quiet. 2-lanes to T-junction at 8Ks. Right, cross Hwy 53 at 9Ks, straight on road we came in on . Based on information from Cuu Long Tourist office). Cross to Hwy 909. At 16Ks, right on 49B. At 21Ks, Hwy 1,, left. (scramble over median) At 23Ks, right on Hwy 908. At 33Ks, left on Hwy 854. At 37Ks, bear left (on our way out, we went wrong. Should have taken a right). At 40Ks, merger onto Hwy 54 (never go on Hwy 1). Junction at 44Ks, straight, then at river go left to Ngang ferry at 45Ks.
2012 – Bike Problems
35 years on the road with bike problems solved by ingenious mechanics with a hammer, oil and bailing wire – not this time. We were in Lo Cai, Northern Vietnam next to China and Sally’s bike broke down. After countless mechanics, some hammering, etc one called in his 14 year old daugher to translate in her school uniform. Dad gave her a long explanation of what was wrong with the bike. She turned to us and said, “Where are you from?” We pointed to the bike. Her Harry Potter glasses looked at us and said, “Can not fix.” At 1AM we woke up and had a brainstorm. We called Jerry at Rainbow Jersey in Milwaukee (noon there). We explained the problem and he told us exactly what we needed: a new back wheel with 9 speed sproket. Our best hope was Hanoi. After a 10 hour bus ride back to Hanoi we contacted Chung who had fixed Peters bike before we left. He works for a bike touring company. His fussy attention to detail drove Peter crazy. Chung is a strong stocky older guy with 1920s greased jet black hair, almost parted in the middle with matching waves at each temple. He examined the wheel, left for 5 minutes, and was back with a new trek 9 speed sprocket wheel. Then he meticulously took 2 hours to go over the bike and get it all set up. We could not face a return 10 hour trip so we decided to once, again, ride out of Hanoi, this time toward the west. Now that’s an expreience you only need once, riding out of Hanoi/breaking a wheel. Phew! Back on the road.
Nosey, Noisey & Bossy
We flew from Angkor Watt to Hanoi Vietnam with our bikes. Rode east to Ha Long Bay, the #1 tourist attraction in North Vietnam. Dramatic karsts form mazes in the sea and Chinese (tourist) Junks weave through the fantastic scenery. Leaving Ha Long Bay we were assured of getting off the tourist trail, at least to some extent. We get to the dot on the map to sleep, Cua Ong. Well, there’s never been a tourist here, believe me. It’s a coal mining town! This is unadulterated Vietnam but in an adulterated landscape. At least there’s a guesthouse. The Vietnamese, they’re noisy. Guests arriving a 1 AM, yelling down the hall to each other. Guests at 6AM, loudly conversing. (Our interpretation) “Hey were is Wu?”. “He’s asleep.” “Let’s get him up.” Bang, Bang,Bang. “Get up.” “Go to Hell.” “We’re leaving.” And so on. Everyone is gone by the time we get to the lobby. Two attractive girls, direct us though one dining room into another. We obey the bosses. We order the usual, noodle soup. The two girls, who run the dining room, serve us and then plop down at our table. They have a running conversation about our condiment choices. One girl gasps when Sally loads her soup with chili sauce. They giggle at our lack of proficiency with chopsticks. They look in our bowls to check our progress. Talk about Nosy! We get out bikes out of storage and park them in front of the hotel to load. The hotel lady gesticulates not to park there. She points to another place. We see no reason to move to this other place. We shrug and obey the boss.
The Yin. Overcharging at every turn, prices and bills must be checked carefully or else. Then there’s the screaming greetings in your face “Hello, Hello”, all day long. We’ve not said “hello” in return for days, they just wear you down. We once called them nosy, noisy and bossy. Now, we’d say obnoxious, aggressive and “in your face”. Finally, the school kids. We cringe when we see school let out. The kids on bikes come streaming out in hoards and swarm us. Riding in front, back and on both sides, screaming at us. Even the girls. We try various tactics. Stopping: they stop. Ignoring it all: it continues. Speed up: they out run us. Confront them “go away”, “leave us alone”: it’s an invitation to them. Often the motor cycles swarm us too. We heave a sigh when they finally turn off but then it’s a reply in the next town. Now for the Yang. We arrived in Huong Khe (pronounced Honky) late, wet, and muddy. We spy a motor cycle shop with a power water hose the owner lets us clean our mud caked bikes and helps me re-oil them. He won’t accept any money. Later at the hotel there was no chance to wash our filthy cloths and get them dry by the morning. We rinsed them out anyway. I am hanging them in the covered court yard when the young receptionist pulls me to their washing machine. Then throws our wet duds in. She says “Downy” and adds some and starts the machine spinning to dry our cloths 90%. We relish these little kindnesses.
Doing Business In Asia
We met Peter Kennedy, a retired Aussie construction business owner. He sold his business and moved to Asia and is now living in Danang, Vietnam. He got bored and is now working for a Construction company in South East Asia. He detailed how business is done in Laos where we are now. He told us of the itemized bills he gets for importing all his equipment. At the bottom of the bill is an amount, itemized as “corruption charge” followed by “police tip”. Kennedy says it’s very straight forward. He also told us that the import charge is based on the perceived utility of the item. So multi million dollar mining equipment will be charged $100US as an import fee but a personal computer ($400 value) will be charged $200US to import. Finally, the working boots for the miners. Peter K says “it’s simple, we attach a couple dozen smaller size working boots to the outside of a container. On arrival, there are no importation charges but there are no small size boots attached to the container.” It’s all very straight forward.
For What It’s Worth
From Mai Chau to Huang Khe: Possible hotels and Guest Houses can be found at:
1) Quan Hoa
2) Ngoc Lac
3) Khe Ha
4) Yen Cat
5) 12 Ks before Thai Hoa junction
6) Thai Hoa
7) Tan Ky – multiple
8) Do Luong – multiple
9) 10Ks before Huang Khe on HCM Hwy
10) Huang Khe, 5 hotels including a new one on the HCM Hwy.