Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Request for Itinerary feedback, specifically Mekong Delta bicycle

Posted by canueckli on 16/2/2014 at 16:01

I'd very much appreciate some itinerary feedback for an upcoming Vietnam trip, thanks to all who brave this wall of text. I've put a bit of info about us so you know what we're about, and I've listed our itinerary with questions in italics

About us: Couple, 29 and 31, second trip to Vietnam. We've previously traveled through Asia for 7 months, so we can handle squat toilets and cockroach roommates when required. My wife is originally from Vietnam and still speaks Vietnamese (at the level of a six year old, she says~) Even after a year of travel, when most travellers find they want to stay in each city for weeks at a time, we still find we enjoy moving fairly quickly. Short attention spans. We're most interested in natural scenery, physical activities, fooooooood, bucolic scenes of traditional culture that with enough suspension of disbelief momentarily make you think you've travelled through time, and interesting architecture. Visiting things like honey factories, jade shops etc, that makes my soul cry.

About the trip: We're heading to Vietnam for a family wedding and would like to see some of the things we missed on our first tour which was Saigon/Hoi An/Hue/Hanoi/Halong Bay.
March 6-9: Hue - Family wedding
March 10: Hire someone to drive us with motorcycle over Hai Van to Danang. (Enough time to see Marble Mountain same day?) Overnight Danang.
March 11-12: Fly to Dalat early morning. See the kitschy bits, see some mountain scenery. Bit of trekking, maybe canyoning.
March 13-15: Hire motorcycle ride to Nha trang. We're not yet too old for a bit of backpacker partying.
March 16: Fly to Saigon, head directly to the Delta. This is where I'm struggling. More below.
March 18-20: Few days beaching and scootering in Phu Quoc, then back to Saigon for flight home.

I've only got the three nights for the Delta, but we'd like to avoid the cheapy tours; they sound horrid. Ideally, a guided bicycle trip from Ben Tre to Can Tho would be great, but as others have noted on the forum, 300 to 700 USD for these trips is a bit wild. I've sent in some requests in to some of the online guiding companies to see if they can offer anything we can work with. Finding bikes we could rent one way seems unlikely, so I'm drawing up a backup plan of making our way with buses and doing shorter bike trips in the countryside with guesthouse or rental bikes. Not knowing specifically where the best areas to get our biking in, I'm relying on a little guidebook blurb that recommends the Ben Tre-Mo Cay run and Tra Vinh - Can Tho.

Mar 16:
early as possible Bus to Ben Tre
Rent bikes to ride around (how long might it take to get to Mo Cay and back?)
Afternoon boat trip, overnight ben tre

Mar 17:
Slow boat to Tra Vinh (unless we haven't been able to bike as far as Mo Cay the day before, is it likely we could find a xe om to make the trip to Tra Vinh through Mo Cay, and how much?)
check out Tra Vinh, pagodas, lunch.
bus to vinh long, stay in homestay on an binh. (Are the homestays on an binh really that much more fabulous than elsewhere that they deserve a trip there for their own sake? Since we'll be skipping cai be because we'll later see cai rang, I've only added Vinh Long for the homestays. Would we get the same experience in Tra Vinh or somewhere near?)

Mar 18:
chill out, ride bikes around an binh
bus to can tho, check out town, sort out morning trip to cai rang, overnight.
Mar 19:
Cai Rang market, and back in time for 14:50 flight to Phu Quoc.(With a 6am start, this should leave us enough time to take the long route back?)

Extra credit question: Are there other areas we should get at with a bike? And anyone have an idea for finding a more frugal guided bike trip, especially considering we don't really need an English speaking guide? We can even sort out accommodation, boat trips and food ourselves, just need someone to provide the bikes and route knowledge.

Cam on

#1 canueckli has been a member since 16/2/2014. Posts: 2

Posted by Want2BHappy on 17/2/2014 at 09:13

You could consider just buying new or second hand bikes and setting off on your own.... I've done this a few times.

Be Tre to Can Tho via Tra Vinh is only 126 km....

Unlocked smart phone and google maps will see that you don't get lost, or at least that you don't stay lost. :-) So no guide needed.

If you're not travelling very light, you could air freight the bulk of your luggage to Phu Quoc to await your arrival, or leave it at your hotel in Saigon to await your return. The delta is extremely easy cycling country, but it's always better to travel light when cycling.

When you're done with the bikes, just give them away, or sell them if you have the time and inclination.

#2 Want2BHappy has been a member since 23/2/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 81
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Posted by canueckli on 17/2/2014 at 14:19

Yeah, this is something I've been wondering about - I assume it would be easiest to pick up bikes in Saigon, though I'd prefer to only start riding from My Tho or Ben Tre. What kind of prices should we expect for a run of the mill bike we could put up with for 3 days of flat riding? Looking at online classifieds/expat websites, used mtn bikes look to go for 100USD+, I'd think there must be something cheaper than that out there for our needs?

We'll definitely have a phone with data/gps, and especially with having the language, I'm not worried about getting proper lost. I am worried about spending large stretches on uninteresting roads while some amazing route lies a few clicks parallel to ours. I can't find any good detailed maps/route descriptions or gps tracks online. After watching people in youtube videos riding over little bridges over irrigation channels etc, I want to make sure we get into those spots. Did you just wing it and find a good route as you went, or did you have some specific recommendations?

#3 canueckli has been a member since 16/2/2014. Posts: 2

Posted by Want2BHappy on 18/2/2014 at 01:57

I've bought second hand bikes in Vietnam on Lê Thánh Tôn. I've also bought second hand bikes in Delta towns just by asking around. They're much cheaper (down to about $15), but always come with punctures :-)

As for finding good routes, you can ask before you set off, but I just tend to either just take the less travelled path (even if it's not quite the right direction) or just go exploring once I've arrived where I'm stayiong for the day. The Delta towns aren't very big and you soon leave them behind....

#4 Want2BHappy has been a member since 23/2/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 81
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