Rest Day

Today (January 10th 2016) we enjoyed our planned rest day in Long Xuyen, arriving at around 11am after 30 or so km.

We found the ferry crossings easily. They both run regular trips and the first just outside Cao Lahn was free for cyclists.

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Long Xuyen is a large town which always means higher prices but we’ve found a reasonable hotel near the ferry dock which has a parking bay inside where we can leave the tandem.

We spent the afternoon having a long lunch, watching the cargo ships going up and down the river.

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Annie made a new friend who was obsessed with taking selfies… She showed us how to peel and eat this fruit which is called Bong Sem – it’s good for helping with sleep apparently. You peel the acorn like seeds which are known as Hat Sem.

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We have both been struck by how friendly and helpful the people of Vietnam have been so far. With it comes a no nonsense attitude which is great.

Two 70km days ahead which should see us through to Ha Tien.

We were treated to a dragon dance practice session by the river while walking home.

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Cao Lanh

We had a good day yesterday with a nice tail wind, some scenic roads and a nice river town called ‘My An’ – so we had to stop there for a while!  

The country is flat as a pancake and we even got into top gear at one point! We stopped along the way to start to re-learn how to use our DSLR.

  
  
We arrived in Cao Lanh at 3pm then shower, 4 small beers with some friendly Vietnamese, fried noodles, an episode of ‘ the west wing’, asleep by 9.30, alarm at 5.30….

Tomorrow’s challenge is less cycling and 2 river crossings by ferry.

Our Position
10.456N,105.635E

Tanh Hoa – 100km on

Well here we are! A hairy ride through HCMC, a few wrong turns, 5 road side wees, 2 huge bowls of Pho and many smiles and waves later we have completed our first day on our tandem.

We made it, even if the German chocolate biscuits that Gina (our warm showers host) gave us for the journey didn’t…

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We think we did a 100km in total and we’ve stopped overnight at a sleepy town called Tanh Hoa. Our position
10.658degN,106.181W

It seems we are the only foreigners here – one of the joys of arriving by bike – but we are acutely aware we need to improve our basic Vietnamese quickly.

My bum (Annie) is more than feeling the 7 hours in the saddle although Ben’s bikers balm is working it’s magic.

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Our hotel is basic but clean. We feel the bed spread pretty much sums it up…

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Paddy is physically in pretty good shape although mentally exhausted from navigating through the road traffic. Dad will be pleased to know that his suggestion to fit a handlebar mirror was a good one and we would encourage other cycle tourers to think about getting one too. The Mekong Delta is heavily populated resulting in quite a lot of traffic and it’s really useful to know if there are large vehicles coming up behind us. The Vietnamese are not aggressive drivers but they do like to overtake wherever possible, we can use the mirror to slow down/speed up so we’re never  near 2 trucks passing each other. We also wished we had bought pollution masks as the roads in HCMC and other towns can be truly nasty.

The bike performed well – we have a slightly warped disk break (a result from the flight) which we have fixed but need to keep an eye on.

Day of Prep

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We spent most of our first full day exploring HCMC. Neither of us are that enamoured with it as a place and we’re really keen to get going on the bike and explore the countryside of the Mekong Delta.

The War Museum was well worth the visit though and we had a good lunch on a roof top cafe (a recommendation from Gina) – the second beer at lunch was definitely a mistake however… We’re still acclimitising to the humidity, heat and new time zone and the second beer knocked us out for most of the early evening. We stayed up long enough to watch a film (‘The Snapper’) from our hard drive (thanks Johnny!).

We’ve been getting up at 6am as we plan to do the majority of our cycle miles before 12 noon each day. Today will be a day of planning and final prep before we head off tomorrow. Bike set up, navigation, provisions, loading our panniers etc

We will head west towards the coastal town Ha Tien, from where we can get a ferry across to Phu Quoc island.

The bike looks in good shape after the flight and we might take it for a test run later.

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Settling in Saigon

So, here we are then. We’ve just woken up from our first full nights sleep in the lovely house of Gina and Tony, our warm showers hosts, which includes AC, a pool, en-suite, Yorkshire tea and good company.

 We’ve started in a style that’s unlikely to continue but it is perfect to get over the jetlag and get set up.

 Gina works in the German embassy and has been all over the world – good stories from Addis Abbaba and Afganistan. Tony is a fitness trainer from Sheffield and is a big Conor McGregor fan – fair play. Along with the two kids and their dog Stampy they’ve been really welcoming.

 Our flight was fine except both UK and Vietnamese security cutting open the bike box! Luckily we had lots of spare gaffa tape and cling film. Thanks to Matt for dropping us off with lots of time to spare – it was needed in the end!

Today we’re heading into Ho-Chi-Minh which looks like a metropolis compared to Hanoi.

We might leave tomorrow, or we might stay one more day to plot our route to Cambodia. We’re going to go to an island somewhere along the way we think…,