Socialist Republic of Vietnam…Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam
Our trip though Vietnam was an organized bike tour, offered through SpiceRoads Cycle Tours. There were 11 of us in the group with 2 guides, Tuan Trinh & Gia Luong, and a bus driver, Mr. Bia. They did a great job on the route, making sure we did’t have to ride on the busy main highway, Hwy 1. Most of the roads were back lane roads that traveled through small villages and rice paddies. When busy Hwy 1 was our only option they loaded us, and the bikes, into the bus and we drove until we could continue our ride again on back roads. Many days were bike, bus, bike, bus, bike, bus.
Vietnam was fabulous, and the people warm and friendly. Riding through villages, children run to the street and yell hello, with many adults waving and calling hello as well. Sometimes children rode along with us and asked questions. “What your name?” “How old are you?” “What you do?” When we answered they giggled and laughed like crazy, and said thank you. When you caught someone’s eye on the street and smiled, you were usually rewarded with a very warm smile in return. Most genuinely enjoyed us riding by in our crazy bike outfits.
At first tackling the roads, either on foot or on bike was a bit daunting. Vietnam reportedly has 40 million motor scooters. Most of them have 2-4 people on them. Driving is a massive swarm: hundreds of motor scooters; many bicycles; some cars; trucks; buses. Once you’re in it a few times you realize it’s an organized swarm. There is definitely a hierarchy, and everyone moves together and around each other. No one drives fast, and everyone watches out for each other. So you just need to stay alert, hold your line, and weave with the flow. Riding there actually felt safer than many of roads in California. The horn also is a driving tool. Once you got used to it you realized that most of the time they’re not honking for you to get out of the way, but giving you a “toot, toot” to let you know they’re there.
The Vietnamese were very polite, traveling was exceptionally enjoyable, and the food was terrific! Even with riding everyday, the trip was not for loosing weight. We expected very hot weather, and did have a few hot days in Saigon, but most days were very pleasant. We rode north up the coast, and like in California the wind blows south, so most days had a pretty strong head wind. The further north we rode the cooler the weather, including many rainy days. Since we rode often on dirt roads, with the rain, we were usually a mess by the end of the day, and often pretty cold. Fortunately we had nice hotels and always a hot shower at the end of the day.
At the end of our bike trip, our daughter Ana joined us in Hanoi. She continued to travel with us on through Cambodia and Thailand. All were incredible places to visit and definitely worth it if you’re wondering. As you go through the pictures you’ll find specifics on the wonderful sites and places throughout.