Monthly Archives: November 2014

Into the Mekong Delta… Our last big adventure

My bike was fixed!! We finally left Mui Ne, we’d had a brilliant time there, but it felt like we needed to get back on the road. We are due to fly to Phuket on the 20th which meant we only had 10 days left in total for Vietnam and I really wanted to see the Delta. Plus our friend Steve from Nha Trang has agreed to meet us in Can Tho and holiday with us into Saigon! So strange to think we’ve been here for almost 10 weeks! It’s come around quickly but we’ve done so much it also feels like we’ve been here for ages- if that makes any sense! Apart from when Jamie couldn’t walk and we were restricted by his recovery (and thank God he recovered so quickly and completely) I really feel we’ve done everything we set out to do and see, plus so many more unexpected surprises!!

Day 1 – 160 Km. Mui Ne to Ba Ria…

Felt good to be on the go again! My bike now had a new engine so I couldn’t take it over 60 kph while I ran it in. The owner of the hostel we were staying in suggested we follow the coastal road rather than highway 1 which is apparently full of pot holes. The ride was easy except for one puncture in Phan Thiet. Jamie needed a new inner tube for his front wheel and unfortunately it was one of those times that we very nearly got screwed. The mechanic removed his wheel then pretty much refused to change the inner tube, saying we had to buy a new tyre for 600,000 (about £18). After a fair amount of arguing he changed the inner tube and then scowled a lot as we went on our way! What can you do? Every other time we’ve had a problem with our bikes the locals have stopped to help us, and its never cost us much before.
It was also our 3 yr anniversary, the money we’d planned to splash on a posh hotel ended up being spent on my motorbike! But we still had a lovely supper x lots of people said before we came travelling that we would find it hard and that we’d argue a lot. The thing is we’re used to living in each other’s pockets, and yes we annoy each other some days, but we’ve been getting along so well since we’ve been away. I couldn’t imagine being here with anyone else. Here’s to us J x

Day 2 – 170 km. Ba Ria to Ben Tre…

We were very much mistaken when we thought this would be a breeze! Unfortunately what our map didn’t show us was that the ferry we intended on crossing was within the boundaries of a military base! So we detoured north, around the outskirts of Saigon and then headed south into the Delta. We had our first ferry crossing on this day! It cost about 10p for both bikes and us. It is even hotter down here than anywhere else we’ve been yet. On the ferry there are lorries and loads of other bikes all parked on a flat platform. You can imagine, with all those engines around you it’s like being in a furnace! Quite an experience though!

crossing the bridge with Saigon in the background...

crossing the bridge with Saigon in the background…

 

sunset in Ben Tre...

sunset in Ben Tre…

IMG_4631

ferry crossings

ferry crossings

on another ferry, and next to a lorry full of Beer Saigon!

on another ferry, and next to a lorry full of Beer Saigon!

Day 3 – 80 km Ben Tre to Can Tho…

The further west you go the more wild the delta becomes. The roads are narrow, but good, and there is so much to look at you don’t really want to go fast anyway. Everywhere around you is there is thick jungle and winding little waterways. Locals are dozing in hammocks, or fishing, or laying out produce to dry in the sun. It really is a different world. We did another three ferry crossings, and we rode over a narrow bridge with actual holes in it! I couldn’t help thinking those holes were probably big enough for my bike wheel to jam in, and this bridge crosses the river! There were metal sheets layered out over the worst of it… Bit scary but fun too. Can Tho is a huge city, the traffic is pretty hectic too. We arrived, checked in, and went off to find Steve!

IMG_4705

the mighty Mekong

the mighty Mekong

IMG_4715

IMG_4777

Day 4 – 110 km Day Trip from Can Tho to Vi Thanh…

Because our first hotel was a little out of the way we checked into another in a better location. We stayed right down on the riverfront. Can Tho is not particularly geared up for Western tourists but there is a small area down on the river that has a few bars and restaurants. The local ex-pat community are very friendly and we were made really welcome at a little place called the Mekong. Our hotel was perfectly acceptable and about £10 a night. Plus it was right next door to the Mekong so breakfast was easy.

Jamie, Steve and I set aside a day to explore further south-west into the Delta. It was spectacular and so very different to the rest of Vietnam. We travelled along a road that follows the river, the jungle is thick and impenetrable on the other side. Red Vietnamese flags line the road, and blossoming shrubs scatter vibrant yellows and oranges. There are banana trees; heavy with fruit and enormous red blossoms. There are food sellers, fishermen out on the river, and people spreading out rice, fish, and coconut shells to dry on the roads. And the air changes- I know it sounds strange but it does… As you ride along and reach a break in the trees the air drops from that jungle sweat-box heat and you pass through a pocket of cool air. The earthy smells of vegetation drop to the richness of the water. It was an incredible experience and one we’ll never forget.

produce drying in the sun

produce drying in the sun

IMG_4771 IMG_4765 IMG_4751

IMG_4799 IMG_4792

 

IMG_47112

Day 5 – was just spent relaxing because that many kilometres in four days will just about ruin your bum, shoulders and back!

Day 6 – 175km Can Tho to Saigon…

This was the last long ride of our trip! It felt a little sad, but at the same time I’m not sure I could have done much more. So much of the time we have been on the go- its been loads of fun but nearly everything in my backpack needed washing and I was excited about getting to Thailand. The roads to Saigon are mainly just motorways, not a lot to see, but quick and comfortable to ride on. At one point the plastic covering over Jamie’s back brake and indicators fell off and went bouncing down the road. I pulled him over and as we were contemplating going back for it three huge lorries ran it over!

I won’t lie, I was nervous about riding into Saigon, but if I wasn’t ready now after ten weeks and almost 3,000 km I guess I never would be… Riding into Saigon really was crazy, I don’t think roads can get any busier than this! The traffic creeps along bumper to bumper, mopeds are fifteen deep, horns blaring… its chaos! You can’t hesitate for a second, you just have to keep crawling along with the flow. Our friend Steve was knocked off his bike and grazed his arm, he was badly bruised but luckily he was okay after a couple of days. We enjoyed Saigon for the four days we had there. Our main focus was to sell our motorbikes. Our first offer was $100 for both, then $140 from another guy. We’d always said if we could get half our money back we’d be happy. To be honest anything back was a bonus- the experience we’ve had with the bikes was worth every penny. We advertised them on Craigslist and ended up selling them to a local Vietnamese guy for $200. He said he would fix them up and sell them locally. I was sad to sell my bike, but they did us well and I’m really considering getting my bike licence back home in the UK. I love it too much to give up now!!

Saigon traffic

Saigon traffic

After selling the bikes we found we were kind of just waiting around for a couple of days until our flight to Thailand. It was a huge weight off our shoulders to have actually sold the bikes (even more of a surprise to have been happy with the price). Once that was done we were able to wander around the city doing the normal touristy things… Saigon is so vibrant I felt I could walk around for ages just soaking up the vibe of the city. I preferred it to Hanoi. The war museum was a harrowing experience, I would definitely recommend it.

We had lunch one day in a place that served hand-pulled noodles. You could watch the chefs making them- they stretch out a piece of dough and double it, cut it, stretch it, double it… until they have a big bunch of noodles- very cool! For our last night Jamie treated me to a gorgeous sushi supper and we met our friends afterwards for some goodbye drinks.

Thank you Vietnam!! Its been absolutely incredible! I have fallen in love with this country- and I’ll never forget these past three months! Jamie and I both said we will most definitely come back one day. But for now its goodbye Vietnam and onwards to Thailand!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxx

view of the city from our hotel room

view of the city from our hotel room

IMG_46872 IMG_4864 IMG_4854 IMG_4833

the last time we parked our bikes up...

the last time we parked our bikes up…

 

 

 

 

The Lovely Mui Ne: Sand Dunes, Backpackers and Breakdowns…

Mui Ne is a busy little coastal town. Full of bars and clubs and lots of good places to eat. We enjoyed our time here a lot, although we had to hang around longer than we’d have liked because of my bike… (more on that later).
We stayed at the Backpackers Village. Nice rooms, gorgeous pool, cheap food and drink. The place is mostly full of English and American backpackers, mostly everyone is nice and we made quite a few friends during our time here. Travelers can be an odd bunch though… I’ve decided I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to my fellow backpacker. I think we fall roughly into three categories:

  1. ENTHUSIASTSSSS!!!!– Friendly- can be a bit ‘clique-ey’. Loud. Talk mostly about themselves because everything that’s happened to them has been ‘amaazing’ … Cambodia is the most amazing of all amazing-ness, (and they always say it like this: ‘Cam-Bow-Dee-Aaahh.) They travel in groups mostly, all think Vietnam is ‘definitely amazing’, life-changing etc. etc. (Note: they may have only been here 2 days but totally get it right away). (Funniest thing I overheard was a girl in the bathroom saying how ‘amazing Cambodia is’, when asked if she’d been there, she replies ‘Erm… no but I’ve totally seen pictures and it really looks amazing’….).
  2. So-So’s– Still friendly. Quiet. Mostly found travelling alone. Much more Reserved. They have been to most places but they haven’t loved that much of it. Things were ”dirty’ or ‘strange’ or ‘not like home’, they’ll say this and wrinkle their noses a bit… Definitely hardly anything was ‘amazing’.
  3. Other– Varied. Mostly friendly. By far the most common category. You may have to work a little to strike up a friendship but probably worth the effort.  Can look moody but most likely just shy, its worth trying to make conversation. I think most travelers are just normal. Take away the two extremes above and the friends we’ve made have also been incredibly interesting and have made our time and experiences more special. I’d like to think Jamie and I are ‘Others’, maybe you have to see what its like for yourself to really appreciate it but some people are just so over the top I don’t know what to think!

IMG_4457

Anyways, glad I got that off my chest… We planned to visit the White and Red sand dunes one afternoon. The white first and then the red at sunset. This was my first riding a bike on sand- difficult! I think I got used to it about the time we were fit to leave. The dunes were very beautiful, although the amount of quad bikes spoilt it a little. We walked around for twenty minutes or so- its hot work walking up sand dunes!- then we left for the red ones. A couple of kilometers out my bike screeched, thudded and died. We were faced with a 22 km walk home. Luckily some Vietnamese guys on a trap pulled by oxen stopped to help us. They showed us how you can push a bike with one rider on the dead bike and another on a working bike behind. I had to scooch along to get a bit of momentum then the ‘pusher’ (Jamie) has to put his foot on the engine box and….(balance….) you’re off! It was tricky to say the least but we got there. He had to kick me into traffic at times, duck in behind me and then resume the foot push! Still, it was preferable to walking/hand-rolling the bike back 22 km! The news at the mechanics was not good, I needed a new engine and it would take three days. We paid a very reasonable price and resigned ourselves to waiting. There are worse place in the world to be stuck in I’m sure!!

IMG_4479 IMG_4477 IMG_4475 IMG_4470 IMG_4467 IMG_4466

 

herd of oxen crossing the road...

herd of oxen crossing the road…

We went to a foam party one night, watched the football another… Our days were spent chilling around the pool. We met some really nice people from Liverpool, and a group of Americans that were a lot of fun. We had our favourite dinner: blue swimmer crabs in a restaurant next door and while we were eating the heavens opened… the owner and the manager were sat beside us and convinced us not to go! they bought us beer all night and kept bringing us more food. He was a Korean fisherman and we got some off his catch to try- grilled baby octopus! it was actually very tasty!

I felt so nervous on the day we had to pick up my bike but the man had managed to fix it (YAY!!!). It really felt like it was time to get back on the road. We want to explore the delta before heading into Saigon. The next morning then, we said goodbye to Mui Ne and the friends we’d made there and headed to Ba Ria….

IMG_4446 IMG_4354 IMG_4336 IMG_4332 IMG_4326

 

Treating ourselves x The Fiore Healthy Resort…

We’ve been using Hotels.com whenever we can to book our rooms. They have a rewards scheme where if you book 10 nights you get a free night based on your average spend… So, we found this little resort and decided to treat ourselves to a little luxury for 2 nights.

IMG_4417 IMG_4422 IMG_4425

Call me mad (it’s still around 30 degrees at night) but I’ve been wanting a good long soak in the tub for weeks. I figure I’ll just blast the air-con, pour some wine and run a nice hot bubbly bath! When we checked-in it turns out that our room only has a shower and it’s £12 a night more for the room with a bath 😦 we showed the lady our booking and got a free upgrade (woop woop!!) to an amazing room. Two full glass walls overlooking the ocean and the grounds. The view in the morning was just beautiful.

view from our room

view from our room

IMG_4380

bubbles!

bubbles!

We’d read that it was expensive to eat/drink at the resort so we came prepared with gin & tonic and a bottle of red! The restaurant was ridiculously expensive and then they added 15% on top of everything. Funny thing is we had two beers at 50,000 dong, then the waitress says it’s 60,000 because of the 15% charge… I’m slow at maths but 15% of 50,000 isn’t 10,000! When I pointed this out she just bursts out laughing and agreed to give us our change (still 500 short)! Funny girl! I wonder how many people just don’t notice or don’t say? It’s only small change but I bet it would soon add up!

Despite this the staff here were really lovely here, very friendly and helpful. The pool was big and you got a fresh towel every visit. I can’t quite say how amazing this was for us as our towels are nearly 3 months in now and quite frankly they are humming! There were these tiny little midges with bright white wings that destroyed us- we didn’t realise they were biters until it was too late! The bites only came up tiny but I must have been gotten about 30 times! Not sure what they were, sand flies maybe? they only appeared in the afternoon, none at all in the mornings. Strange…

We rode out for a cheaper dinner- seafood hotpot with king prawns, squid and clams. The pot bubbles away on a stove in front of you- very yummy and very hot! It’s surprising how many spicy hot soups you find on menus here- given that the average daily temperatures are in the mid-thirties! They had the cutest puppy. We smuggled him bits of prawn shell!

IMG_4393

 

IMG_4438 IMG_4437

Not a lot in Phan Rang!!

We stopped here for two nights, but really we only needed the one. Unfortunately there was literally nothing going on here! We managed to find one bar called the Unique Beer Club, the staff were friendly enough. I don’t think they get many Westerners as it went back to everything we said being totally hilarious! (They can be a funny lot the Vietnamese, I think it’s just like nervous laughter, but I’m not sure sometimes- it’s not like anyone is ever rude- it’s just a bit weird!)
Thankfully the street food places we found for dinner were very good- but then they mostly are in Vietnam- and so cheap!
So we drank beer, watched films and ate good food. Can’t complain really!

IMG_4322.JPG