The first cycling trip of my life: The motorcycle trip in Cambodia in early 2016, was an amazing experience and the next country to ride through after that was Vietnam. I was planning to buy a used motorcycle from Saigon (Many tourists buy cheap motorbikes and ride all the way to Hanoi), sell it over there before visiting Laos. I came up with an idea which was occupying my mind for quite some time since the Cambodia trip, about riding a bicycle rather than racing on motorbikes, where you cannot explore observingly. There was enough time now as such, to see things keenly, because I had quit my job in Bangalore.
Thus, on my bus journey from 'Phnom Phen' to 'Ho chi Minh' city I thought about buying a bicycle. I never cycled after my school days so I was not sure if i can do it or not. But still, I thought about giving it a shot. Hence, on reaching Saigon, I spent 5 days and went to most of the main bike shops to find a touring bike for the trip. Ultimately, I found one, and brought some basic accessories, starting my journey towards Hanoi.
I left Saigon early in the morning, at 5:30 am and as it happens to be at the beginning of every trip, it initially gets really difficult to get out from the city, to understand the route, and also establishing communication with people takes some time. After 2 kms, I realised that its not gonna be easy and asked myself "Are you sure about it?" Given this situation, where I did not have any specific plan, it came as a surprise when it turned out that I cycled 84 kms in the first day and reached 'Mui Ne' on the 3rd day. I later spent 3- 4 days and got enough rest to continue my journey further.
Sunrise view before leaving Mui Ne to Nha Trang.
I got the first flat tyre and i had to push my bike around 3km to reach to this shop to fix it.
The Red Sand Dunes of Mui Ne.
The Sand Dune Highway, Mui Ne to Ca Na: This deserted highway go though some beautiful beach views. The weather was really hot but I was excited to see this continuous landscape along the way, which kept me riding further.
Another 1445 Km to Hanoi.
Another flat tyre which i had to fix myself.
Entering Nha Trang city.
Nha Trang beach.
Tram Huong Tower.
Left Nha Trang and riding towards Quy Nhon.
Flat tyre No: 3.
While the mechanic was fixing my bike,I saw his wife watching TV and I was amusingly surprised to see, what she was seeing was an Indian TV serial, dubbed in Vietnamese.
Sunset view jut before reaching Tuy Hoa.
The roaming around Quy Nhon was over, and I began to check out the next destination, 'Quang Nghai', realising that its 176 kms away. The Hotel desk informed me that there are no guesthouses along the route. I was sure that its not possible for me to ride such a long distance in a day, besides the weather was hot, and constant rain was going to pose problems. I decided to leave early morning the next day and ride as much as I can. I started the journey with out any plan. It was raining when I started at 5am. Aware of the fact that I was not going to find a place to lodge on the way, I kept riding with out many halts for photos and frequent rests, which helped me to cover a good amount of distance. The rain kept the weather cool allowing me to escape the otherwise hot climate.
When I crossed around 120kms, I realised that I should push myself to reach Quang Nghai. I was just keeping the same pace and riding and thinking about what will happen if it gets dark. Its not easy to ride on this road at night with this kind of traffic. I didn’t have a good light to see the road properly. In the evening, the right side pedal started getting tighter, because of the damp mud and sand on the rainy day. I stopped at a mechanic shop and asked him to put some oil to make it clean. By the time I left the shop it was dark. I couldn’t see much on the road with my bicycle light but i was following the other big vehicles and their tail lights. At one point the pedal came off the bike, because of too much oil in it. There wasn't enough light to check, but I had to push my bike till the next shop, I got a household's help to arrange a torch light to search the pedal. I found it lying on the road side after walking a few minutes. After fixing the pedal, I resumed riding towards Quang Nghai again. I was wet, tired , hungry and just wanted to reach the Hotel. It was getting very difficult to ride when there were no vehicles on the road and no tail lights.I promised myself to buy a good bicycle light after reaching the next destination, and kept riding....
I felt relieved when I finally reached Quang Nhai around 9.30 in the night. It had turned out to be an amazing day of cycling. I still could not believe that I could cover 176 kms in just the second week of my first cycling journey, and that too on a rainy day.
I was hoping to take a day off, after a tiring previous one, but as I said earlier, it always feels fresh after a good sleep and dinner. I left the Hotel a little later, and headed excitedly towards Hoi An, a place which I had read about.
Very soon on the day I reached Hoi An, I started exploring the local food, by visiting 'Madam Khanh-The Banh Mi Queen, a popular food joint.
Experiencing good Vietnamese food and taking good rest, I left Hoi An for Hue. Just next to Danag City, there is the 'Hai Van Mountain Pass'. There was going to be a long day of cycling ahead; as I started off in the early hours.
Hai Van Pass with a beautiful view of the Ocean.
It was fun to go down all the way to the river.
Vietnamese girls on bike in a beautiful traditional dress called Ao Dai.
Ngo Mon Square, Citadel, Hue.
It was raining all the time in Hue. The weather changed just after crossing Hei Van Pass. It became cloudy, cold and it began raining all the time. I spent two days site-seeing, and got delayed one more day due to rain. I decided to anyway leave the next day, ignoring the rains.
The wheels started wobbling because of too much weight on the bike. I stopped at one of the bikes shop, for alignment.
Stayed at Buffalo Hostel; met some cyclists who came from Laos. It was nice to hear some stories about Laos, as I was planning to go there after finishing Vietnam. The Hostel served some really good food and breakfast. Most of the Hostels in Vietnam provide free breakfast.
Next destination was Phong Nha National Park, and I was looking forward anxiously to visit some caves.
A flat tyre just before Phong Nha, and this lady fixed it very fast.
Entering Phong Nha town.
On the way to explore Phong Nha cave
On the way to Paradise Cave
Zip line at Dark Cave
Yes I am on track!
Cowboy from Vietnam!
Entering Vinh City
Reached Ninh Binh, and heading to Tam Coc Hostel.
Hostel at the end of the path.
Tam Coc boating area.
The movie, King Kong was shot at this place.
A view from the Hostel.
Traditional Vietnamese Wedding ceremony. I was invited to join in for food and drinks.
Just 10kms away from warm shower and good food.
Everything on a small scooter
In Hanoi ultimately, and exploring the city.
After a month of my amazing first cycling trip ever, from Saigon to Hanoi, I stayed back for a week, before heading to the next country 'Laos'. I always wanted to explore Laos on a motorbike or by backpacking. I had never dreamt that it would be a bicycle tour. I really enjoyed riding in Hanoi; having treated myself with good food. It also made me mentally prepare for the next destination, Laos. I serviced my bike and changed a few things, learning by experience gained from this journey.