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 BICYCLE TOURING - The Vietnam Adventure

Vietnam Adventure 

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Day 1-Cycling/Chu Chi Tunnels

Day 2-Saigon to Dalat

Day 3-Dalat to Nha Trang

Day 4-Free day Nha Trang

Day 5-Nha Trang to Tuy Hoa

Day 6-Tuy Hoa to Quang Ngai

Day 7-Quang Ngai to Hoi An

Day 8-Day 2 in Hoi An

Day 9-Climb High Van Pass to Hue

Day 10 - Cycling in & out of Hue

Day 11 - Flt to Hanoi & tour

Day 12-bus & boat to Ha Long Bay

Day 13-kayaking on Ha Long Bay

Day 14-Ha Long Bay & return to Hanoi

Day 15-Our extra day to explore Hanoi

scenes Siagon or Hanoi

 

 ..scenes along our route..

 
 
 
 

Bicycling in Vietnam

car free adventure _______________________

 

After Chile had been such a successful adventure we decided the world was open to us.  I was thinking of New Zealand next as a "self-designed" bicycle trip but I was struggling putting it together.  It had many loose ends and our ride calendar date was approaching.

 

My wife discovered that "Active Journeys" sponsored a bike trip through Vietnam.  I was sure the Vietnam War had not been forgotten, but "Active Journeys" was going and our son who was doing business in Vietnam told us nothing but good stories about the country.  We selected Vietnam. 

 

On our first trip to France we had adopted the strategy of seeing as much as possible in the area of the world we landed in because the airfare was expensive and we doubled down on all our trips and added other interesting places to visit once on the ground.  We added a tour of Cambodia to this trip. 

 

I was sure that Cambodians hated us also but we asked Active Journeys to recommend a tour group for Cambodia and they did. We actually joined three others from the Vietnam group in Cambodia and toured together.  

 

Our trip to Vietnam was planned for the end of the rainy season and we had read on the web that it was raining like mad in Saigon and Vietnam in general.  There was a lot of flooding.   Our trip was planned for November, the end of the rainy season, but it was raining every day as our start date approached.  Walking in mud, avoiding water and riding through beautiful countryside obscured by clouds would have an impact.  Being in wet clothes is not fun.  Active Journey's planned the ride in November and they must know!

 

The flight to Saigon would take 17 and a half hours.  How does one overcome the boredom, body aches, sleep depravation, etc. on a 17.5 hour airplane trip. 

 

We had learned to worry about seat location on the airplane to make the flight as comfortable as possible. 

 

There are a lot of bad seat locations on a 747.  On our tour of Vietnam we saw "live" pigs stacked on top of each other on the back of a motorcycle and I think that gives one the idea of 15 hours on a 747.  My wife changed our seats to Hong Kong three times finally getting two seats in the next to last row on a 747.  They turned out to be great.

 

We began our 17 plus hour day by catching an airplane at the Burbank Airport in the San Fernando Valley on a United Airlines flight to San Francisco.  The seats were across the isle in the front of the plane which provides more foot room and are typically available. The flight was smooth into San Francisco airport where we caught a United 747 flight to Hong Kong. 

 

The flight to San Francisco went quickly.   It may have seemed quick because my brain was fixed on the 10 hour plus fight to Hong Kong.

 

After a short wait we boarded our flight and took off.  The seat configuration for the peasant class on the 747 is three seats, four seats and three seats.  It was lucky for us that my wife had negotiated a deal for two seats on the side in the back.  The seats were comfortable and I had sufficient leg room to stretch out. 

 

I used the time on the flight over entering notes about the trip on my computer.  I let myself sleep whenever I wanted to.  I developed a headache about halfway across the Pacific which I think was caused by sinus.  We were fed often on the flight and the food was ok.  I ate everything because I was not sure when we would get to Saigon and what we could find to eat if we were hungry.

 

We landed in Hong Kong and changed planes for Saigon.  The long flight even with the headache had not been as bad as I had thought it would be.         

 

We changed planes and boarded a second 747 for the flight to Saigon.  We had to go through a security check where I lost a small pair of scissors that I had been carrying forever in a medical kit.  I had forgotten what was in the bag. 

 

The guy kept saying "we want the scissors."  I thought of the medical kit I carry and pulled it out.  I found the scissors which I had flown with all over the world with inside.  He asked me what I wanted to do with them and I said throw them away.  I can fly to Saigon or I can go to jail with my scissors.  It was a no brainer. 

 

The flight to Saigon was only 2 hours.  They fed us again.  I tried to sleep.  After customs we walked out to find a cab.  I had not hooked up with the Marriott where we were staying to have their van pick us up and  worried about finding a taxi in a location where I did not speak the language.

 

As we left the luggage area there was a place that said taxi.  We asked “What is the cost to take a cab to the Marriott?”  $12 was the reply.  I thought that was a steal.  We were escorted to an area in front of the airport and after a bit a cab appeared and we were off. 

 

We experienced our first “Mr. Toad’s” wild ride in Saigon.  The cab drove through a forest of motor bikes along a four lane highway.  The order was motor bikes in the left lane and cars in the right.  There was some sort of “Robert's Rules of Order” where a driver would signal the motor bikes that he was approaching and when they could move in front of him.  It appeared to be organized chaos that worked.  

 

After a long drive we arrived at the Marriott and checked in.  We went to our room.  The  Renaissance hotels I have stayed in were luxurious.  This one was ok spelled with capitol letters.  We went to bed on Vietnamese time. I awoke several times but got enough sleep to start my "time zone" turn around. 

 

After 1 rest day it was back to the airport and onto Cambodia.  After Cambodia we join Active Journeys and are off on our Vietnam Bike Adventure. 

 ..bicycling in Vietnam...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

...scenes from Halong Bay...

     



 DAY 1 -  November 3 - Exit Saigon, bicycling, Chu Chi Tunnels, War Museum 

     

 ...no traffic, sunshine, smooth road, good cycling...

 ...the tour group preparing to ride...clouds in the background are an omen to the rain to come... 

 ...lunch break...good varity, good conversation

Plan for the day – Today we visit the Chu Chi tunnels northwest of Saigon.  We will take the bus from the hotel to Trang Bang on route 22.  At Trang Bang we will begin to bicycle north to the Tunnels a distance of 22 miles.  After visiting the Tunnels and the War Museum we will return on the bus to the hotel in Saigon for a second night.   

The Active Journeys description:  Transfer out of Saigon and ride to the Chu Chi Tunnels.  After lunch we pay a visit to the War Museum.  Ride distance is 40 km or 25 miles.

Getting started - We got up at our hotel in Saigon and dressed in bike clothes to support the bike ride later in the day.  It would be our first day bicycling in Vietnam.  We did not have to pack our luggage.  We would return to the hotel. 

We ate our first breakfast at the hotel.  It was a huge buffet.  They had everything that I could want and the food was very good.  We selected a table which looked out onto the street so we could observe the Saigon morning activity being played out on the street.  It was busy. 

A fellow walked by the window we were looking through while eating our breakfast.  He was obviously selling something which he carried with him.  He stopped when he saw us and began to show us his wares, sun glasses.  He demonstrated several pair of glasses before the waiter came to the window and motioned for him to leave.  I thought his technique was interesting and amusing.  It was our first brush with the street life in Saigon but we got used to the Vietnam street life as we we made our way across Vietnam to Hanoi.

Today’s adventure After collecting what we planned to carry with us for the days adventure from our room, we boarded the bus in front of the hotel and began our trek out of the city.  I quickly realized why a novice did not want to ride in Saigon on a bicycle although I saw many of the locals riding their bikes. 

Leaving the city we were not delayed.  We were driving slow at times but the traffic did not come to a complete stop.  The lanes coming into the city were packed with bumper to bumper traffic and moving very slow or stopped. We had to get some distance out of the Saigon before we could make time.  

The Chu Chi Tunnels were north west of Saigon.  We had "sunshine" when we left Saigon.  We stopped about 30 miles before reaching the "Tunnels" to begin our bike ride.  It would be our first in Vietnam.  It was our acclimation day.  We would test the bike equipment, determine the riding skills of the group and see how much the days off the bike had effected my cycling capability. 

The road was paved and good for cycling.  I was not sure what the riding conditions would be like in Vietnam.  We encountered little or no traffic along the route. The weather was behaving when we begin to ride.  It was not hot or humid and riding was pleasant.   

It started to rain on us about three quarters of the way through our planned bike ride.  After we had completed 20 miles of our planned 30 mile ride we stopped for lunch.  I was doing well on the road and reached the lunch area with the first group.   Our lunch activity was sheltered from the elements and the tour people had laid out the food that had been carried with us on the bus. 

The last riders of our group on the road joined us at our lunch spot just before the worst of the rain began.  Shortly after they arrived it began to rain very hard.  The rain did not let up as we ate our lunch.  It was still raining hard when we finished our lunch.  Our guide asked if we wanted to continue our ride or call it a day.  The group decided to call and end to our riding day. 

Everyone boarded the bus and we rode to the Tunnels for our tour.   The Chu Chi Tunnels were used by the Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War.  Our tour began with a presentation where we were told what had transpired at the Tunnels, the Vietnamese version of course.  It was a bit "preachy" and uncomfortable.  After the presentation a film from 1967 followed which was really a propaganda film.  

Vietnam appeared to me to be doing well economically.  But I am sure the film is necessary to insure the “conservatives" in the Vietnamese government and the army that the struggle during the war is not forgotten.  And I chose to see the ruins.  I may be a bit down because I did not get to complete my ride today.      

The Tunnel location had been made into a park which covered a large area.  Our guide asked if we wanted to crawl through the tunnels.  Again the group had control and everyone wanted to give it a try.  My wife crawled all the way through the tunnels that where allowed for use by tourist. The crouching and crawling required to progress through the tunnels took a toll on my knee.  My knee was punishing me. It was no place for “big men.”  At the first possible exit point I crawled out of the tunnels.      

 

The park included a firing range where one could fire weapons used during the Vietnam War.  We went down to the gun range to look at the possibilities.  A couple of our cyclist selected the AK47 to experience.  Other guns from the Vietnam War were available to test.  We continued our tour of the park walking through a thickly forested area where combat had occurred.  We saw a burned out American tank along the route.  There were displays of booby traps used by the Vietnamese Army on display at various locations along the walk whose operation and use were explained by our guides. 

 

It began to rain very hard as we were on our tour.  The trees sheltered us as we listened to our guide explain what we were looking at but it was difficult to stay dry.  After our walk we returned to the bus to drive back to Saigon.  The group decided to blow off seeing the war museum.  Enough propaganda for one day.  

 

It was raining hard off and on during our return.  The traffic was horrible for someone who had not gotten use to traffic conditions in Vietnam.  

 

Today’s landscape    

The traffic is Saigon can best be described as chaotic.  I could not understand how the mixture of motorcycles and cars made progress along the route.  It looks like “total” chaos but I saw no accidents.  Our bus driver was obviously a veteran and drove us out of the city. 

The vehicle of choice on the roads in Saigon appeared to be the motorcycle. Many more commuters were on motorcycles than any other vehicle.  When we reached the outskirts of the city we saw motorcycles carrying products to market.  Many motorcycles were piled high with cages of animals, vegetables, etc. to be sold in the city.  It was remarkable to me that the motorcycle could carry these loads.   

Today’s rain was giving me an idea of what the monsoon season must be like.  Living in Southern California I had basically forgotten about weather.  The rainy season should have been over in Vietnam, but this year it would be with us a bit longer. 

We had experienced several days of rain during our excursion to Cambodia but the trip had been great.  When one does not know what the weather is supposed to be in an area it is an advantage because the experience of travel overcomes getting wet.   

Bicycling notes – Note that our tour began on November 3.  We were again south of the equator but November is winter to me so.  The temperature even with the rain was waem.  I suspect that the rain reduce the humitidy to a reasonable level.  The rode surface on our first ride was good.  In Chile we had ridden on unpaved roads and I had expected the same in Vietnam.  Maybe that is to come.  There were no bugs.  The bikes we were given performed well but there were no hills. 

I planned my own bike trips in Europe.  But when we began to discuss trips to other parts of the world I was squeamish.  I felt I knew what to expect in Europe.  I was ignorant of what to expect in the rest of the world.  We had signed on with Active Journeys a Canadian tour company for our adventure in Chile.  Vietnam would be our second non-European cycling adventure.  We selected Active Journeys for Vietnam.     

One of the reasons I like the Active Journeys method of directing a tour is the flexibility.  The group can change the agenda of the tour.  The group can split in two with one group bicycling on the road and the second on the bus.  Changes are possible in the agenda for cities as well.  One group wants to skip a tour to shop or take a cooking class.  All of these changes are accommodated. It is a very relaxed attitude.

Post ride activity We drove back to hotel in Saigon for the night.  The rain had stopped on the way back from the Chu Chi Tunnels.  It was now humid but the rain had stopped.  Once we reached the hotel we returned to our rooms and showered and dressed for dinner. 

 

Dinner had not been planned by the tour so we joined a new friend from Massachuttes and walked a short distance down the street from the hotel where we had dinner.  I found Vietnamese food to be very good.  After dinner we returned to the hotel and prepared for the exit from Sagion the following morning.  We washed our bike clothes to support tomarrow's ride.  I packed the clothes I had left around the room into my suitcase. 

 

The hotel provided internet access for about $5 for all day.  A fair price so I had purchased a day when we left in the morning.  I had brought my “travel computer” along on the trip to enter data into a daily journal about our adventure.  I dressed for sleep, entered data about our day into the computer and went to sleep.  The cycling had begun in Vietman!      

 

return 

 

..after crawling a quarter of a mile through tunnels used by the Vietnamise Army at Chu Chi a woman reappears an exits tunnel ...

       

 



 DAY 2 -  November 4 - Saigon to Dalat by bus, cycle 25 miles into Dalat 

     

....the bikes were transported in the back of the bus and unloaded by the bus crew...

...our spontanious stop to photograph the tea harvest... 

...interesting plant...

...peek at the small town were we started our ride...

Plan for the day – Today we say goodbye to Saigon and head north to Dalat.  We checkout of our hotel, board the bus and exit the city on route 36 which becomes route 20 until we reach the location where we start our bicycle ride.  We will be on the bus for 62 miles and then we will bicycle the last 25 miles into Dalat. The 62 miles will  take us to the "highlands" and require 7 hours on the bus!  We stay overnight in Dalat. 

The Active Journey's description:  We get up early to drive to Dalat in the central highlands.  Dalat was a favored retreat for the French, especially during the summers.  It was known as the Le Petit Paris and is now a popular honeymoon destination for the Vietnamese.  In the afternoon we ride along quiet back roads near the Langbian Plateau.  The ride takes us past flower farms and vegetable gardens, through small villages, past picturesque churches, and ornate cemeteries, along cobbled roads and past old colonial buildings.  We stay in a beautifully converted French colonial Villa.  

Getting started I came down with diarrhea during the night.  The curse of the Asian traveler and my malady continued after I got up.  I was unsure what the day would bring.  We packed everything into our suite cases because this would be our last day in Saigon.  We wore our street clothes but carried our bike clothes in our back packs.  

We left our suitcases and bike gear at the hotel desk and went to the great buffet breakfast they served.  At breakfast I had been told to eat yogurt and bananas so I did and carried some with me to take on the bus.   I held back on the coffee and ate some toast and jam.  My stomach was calm when we left the hotel.  After breakfast we joined the group outside on the street to get onto the bus and head for the "highlands."  

Today’s adventure - We left the hotel in the bus and began the exit of Saigon.  The streets were packed as they always are in Saigon.  My wife discovered that she had left her bike shoes at the hotel desk.  We told the guide and the group quickly decided that we should return to the hotel.  The heavy traffic was not conducive to a quick trip back to the hotel but we made it, retrieved the bike shoes and again headed for the highlands. 

 

It would be a late start for the ride and we had to drive 7 hours before we reached the start of the day's ride.  Our bus trip would take us on Highway 1 to Highway 14.  We would turn on Highway 14 until we reached Highway 20 and finally onto highway 27.  I was not feeling a 100% with my malady so I tried to sleep and relax.  I had a bit of a headache as well.  I hoped the extra time on the bus would allow me to recover.

 

As we drove along our route one of our group noticed a group of people harvesting something in a field.  She jumped up and went to the front of the bus to stand in the door well to take pictures.  The driver immediately pulled over to the shoulder of the road, stopped and opened the door.  Several of the group followed her out of the bus and into the field to take pictures.  The workers did not interrupt their work but continued their work as the photographers stood near by taking pictures.  

 

Again I was impressed with the "group control" allowed by Active Journey's.  The driver, maybe at the direction of our guide,  in this case had decided to pull over and allow the group to vist the harvest.   It added a fun experience to a "long drive." 

 

We stopped at a scheduled break from the bus at a location where we could shop and have lunch.  I took the opportunity to change into my bike shorts and test to determine if my diarrhea had passed.  Unfortunately it had not.  Not as bad but still a worry.  After our meal a bit of shopping we continued on to the starting point of our ride.  

 

We would begin our riding day from a small town off the main road.  The bus pulled into an area off the road and our bikes were unloaded.  Everyone was basically responsible for the assembly of their bike but everyone including the crew were there if needed.  After bike assembly the group assembled and we were off on our second bicycle ride in Vietnam.

 

Our riding start point for the day was the small town Lien Khuong which was located a short distance west of  Highway 20.   The ride would end at Dalat.   The riders quickly dispersed into the quick, slow and slower rider groups along the road.  My wife and I were competitive for a short distance but could not hang with the quick for a long period of time.  Once we began to tide the climbing was difficult and we seemed to climb and climb.  My stomach malady cold have added to the difficulty.  The roads we bicycled on were very good.  We were dropped. 

 

Because of our slow start due to the return to the hotel for bike shoes, we were over come by darkness.  When the visibility became difficult we stopped riding and the bus loaded the bikes and us.  We drove on and caught the lead riders.  They discussed continuing to ride but wisely decided to bail for the day.  It was a wise decision because the bus driver was not skilled at driving close enough behind the cyclist to illuminate the road for them without the danger of hitting them if they slowed for any reason.  We rode in the bus behind the riders to test this theory for a short time and then the riders decided to give up.  The bikes were loaded into the bus and we headed for town in the bus. 

 

Bicycling notes  There was no rain today.  The sun was out and the humidity was tolerable.  We did not encounter any bugs.  The road surface was good without any traffic.  We rode alone.

 

The first day on our tour we were introduced to the term “happy house, tree or bush.”  Someone approached the guide from Saigon and said they needed to use “restroom.”  He responded; “you need to find a happy tree.”  We were driving along a road in the countryside and soon the bus driver found a location to pull off the road and stopped.  The guide and “needy person” left the bus and located sufficient foliage to hide in while relieving themselves.  The term “happy house, tree or bush" was introduced in to our vocabulary.  

 

When the "good" riders continued to ride after it got dark they were not told to quit riding by the crew.  The Saigon guide was riding with them.  I have ridden enough to know when conditions are dicey and these were dicey.  It was very dark and the twists and turns on the road left the riders without light at times because the bus had not made the turn.  We were riding on the "paved" back roads of Vietnam so we did have the advantage of not having to compete with traffic.  There was "no shoulder."  If a rider left the road the terrian was unknown but drop-offs or trees could be expected.  Rocks or undergrowth were everywhere near the edge of the road.  The riders were bunched together and if someone slowed it could be a problem.  I thought it was the adult thing to do to stop eventhough I was not pleased about not completing the day's ride because of the late start.   

 

The cycling group contained members that were of various ability and each day we would spread into about four groups along the road.  We had two Vietnamese guides.  One would ride with the lead group and the second would ride with the last rider on the road.  The guides were in phone contact with one another and with the two men on the bus.  They were in constant communication and organized snacks along the route or pick up points if weather threatened.

  

I planned my own bike trips in Europe.  But when we began to discuss trips to other parts of the world I was squeamish.  I felt I knew what to expect in Europe.  I was ignorant of what to expect in the rest of the world.  We had signed on with Active Journeys a Canadian tour company for our adventure in Chile.  Vietnam would be our second non-European cycling adventure.  We selected Active Journeys for Vietnam.       

 

Today’s landscape - After the "tea" picking photo shoot ended and everyone had returned to the bus our guide form Saigon told us that the crop was "tea" and that small shoots of tea on the ends of the branches were what was being picked.  They were mature and after they dried would be taken to market and sold.  I assume some were packaged for export.  After the pruning process the "bush or plant" would produce another shoot that would be picked in the future.  I assume it was a continuous process and much like grape vines the plants had long lives.   It was an enjoyable and informative interlude to a long drive.

 

The shape and color of the hills in the countryside along our bicycle route reminded me very much of the green hills in Kentucky.  The hills in Kentucky are covered with thick forests but these hills were less so.  I think they are referred to as mountains or at the very least “the highlands.”  In contrast in Kentucky the area is reffered to as the “hill country.”   The landscape in Vietnam along our ride were very beautiful green hills.  

 

The town we stayed in had been a resort town when the French controlled the country or during the French occupation.  The town appeared to be rather modern and interesting.

 

Post ride activity – We checked into the hotel and went to dinner.   Our diner was served across the street from the hotel and to cross the street to get there was an adventure.  We got to play mongoose and snake with the traffic crossing the street.  The meal was a spread of various Vietnam delicacies.  I was a bit more careful picking and choosing from the offerings because of the day's stomach problems.  

 

After dinner we came back to our room and went to bed.  The ride had brought me back.  I felt much better and my diarrhea had seemed to pass.  A good nights sleep should put me back into bicycle competition. 

  

return



 DAY 3 - November 5 - Dalat to Nha Trang - 62 miles on the bike

     

 ...putting the bikes together before we start our ride...

...we were joined by a fun group of people on our Vietnam adventure, and today, the weather supports us on our 60 plus mile ride.. 

...without refrigeration meat was prepared and served fresh along the road....  

Plan for the day – Today we continue north on route 20 to Nha Trang which is located on the coast.  We will exit Dalat on our bikes and ride approximately 58 miles before we board the bus again which will take us to our hotel in Nha Trang. 

The Active Journey's description:  Setting out from the hotel on our bikes we ride out of Dalat along quite roads.  There are some fantastic views and beautiful mountain scenery before we reach the Cham towers of Po Klong Garai.  Those arriving early may have time to explore the crumbling Hindu temples.  We then drive to Nha Trang the resort town where we can enjoy a more lively evening.   Total distance is 109 km or about 67 miles.

Getting started - The hotel had been very pleasant.  It had rained but the clouds had disappeared by the time we got up.  The temperature was very comfortable.  We were riding from the hotel today so we dressed in our bike clothes.  We would be staying only the one night at the hotel so we packed our bags and took them to the lobby.  Our bus crew would see that they made their way onto the bus.    

We would eat breakfast at a restaurant across the street from the hotel where we had eaten dinner the night before.  I assumed it was part of the hotel property but I do not know that for sure.  The street was very busy with morning traffic.  It would be a game of mongoose and snake to get across. 

I was a bit intimated but I watched as school kids came to my corner and worked their way across with the traffic.  After seeing no casualties, I joined the next group of school kids and was escorted across the street. 

Breakfast was very good and afterward we used the same strategy as the school kids had used to cross through the cars back to the hotel.  Basically that is when a "small" break appears in the traffic one starts across.  The next car adjusts.  If one continues to walk the traffic adjusts to the walker's position.  If the walker stops then things get a bit dicey.  The object is to continue to communicate to the drivers by ones pace and direction.    

We waited with the others and talked about our "Vietnam experience" while we waited for our guides to call us together and start the days ride. The bikes had been taken off the bus while we were at breakfast and stood patiently against the front wall of the hotel to be collected by their rider.

Today’s adventure Our guides arrived and told us about today's adventure.  We would make a brief tour of the city as we made our exit on our bikes and then onto some climbing north of the city.  After a short discussion about the plan we got on our bikes and exited the hotel parking lot. 

We rode from the hotel on busy streets through a couple of roundabouts to the lake located in the center of the city.  From there we exited the city on a narrow road with light traffic north of the city to begin our 109 KM (67 miles) ride.  Our guide said we would climb for 60 km and descend for 40 km down to the city where our hotel would be or so we thought.

The climb was long and difficult.  The countryside along the road again reminded me of Kentucky where I grew up.  Our guide had warned us and the road went up continuously sprinkled with climbs one after another.  As we approached the summit of the last climb the road tipped up to a steady climb of 7%.  The final climb consisted of two separate difficult climbs the second hidden from the first which gave one the false hope that the climbing was over only to top the first climb to see that the task was not complete.  I had been riding behind one of the female riders on the first climb and had told her that I could see the top.  Then we topped the first climb and saw the second I told her “one should never predict the end of the climb until the bike is pointed down hill.” 

 

The climb to the top had been very tough.  We had light rain which started along the way to the top of the climb.  At one point we had to detour because the road had been washed out by a previous rain.  After our brief detour we returned to the main road and continued.  

  

At the top of the climb we began a very steep decline.  It began to rain hard and rained hard off and on as we descended.  There was fog which at times became thick enough that it obscured the rider in front of you.  I moved to the center of the road and stopped pedaling as I entered an area obsecured by fog.  I did not slow down for fear of being hit by the rider behind me.  It was an interesting experience.  Between each path of fog there were beautiful scenes along the road.  Water was running across the road as I rode which was a bit dicey.  It became warmer as we approached the bottom of the decent but the fear of riding off the shoulder of the road put temperature at the bottom of the concern list in my brain. 

 

At one of the rest stops I put on my plastic jacket just before it began to rain hard.  Soon my riding shirt was wet because my jacket is plastic and does not breath.  But it kept me warm.  When we stopped for lunch I took the plastic jacket off and put my riding jacket on over my wet riding shirt.  I hoped the dry riding jacket would soak up some of the moisture from my shirt.  I was cold when I started to ride after the stop but after a few miles I warmed up from the peddling. 

 

When we reached the flat at the bottom the road got narrower and we began to climb rollers.  Some were 10% but they were short.  We passed through a village where the kids stood along the road and yelled hello and slapped our hands as we rode through.  It was following that village that the climbing got serious.  

I had loss my chain off the rear cog earlier and had it happen again on this climb.  We were on Cannondale bicycles which were not bad but were old.  One of the support crew helped me with the first chain loss, the second I had to get off and fix it myself.  As I did so a couple of kids rode by laughing.  The road was just about one car length wide.  After the town we began to climb again.  The climbs were steep but short and we worked our way to the exit point.   

 

When we rode up to the bus which was parked along the road we told them we would not ride any further but would take the bus to the hotel.  We walked across the bridge which we were told had a large number of cows etc. coming across before we had arrived.  We got onto the bus.  We were bushed and sopping wet when we arrived at the bus.  I pulled off my shirt and put on a dry one I carried in my backpack.  The bus headed for the hotel. Everyone was excited about the ride.  Much of the talk was about the descent down the hill through the fog. 

 

Today’s landscape - Delat was a resort area developed by the French during the years they controlled Vietnam and it gave off that flavor.

Bicycling notes – We had climbed 5000 ft and then descended.  The fog we encountered had been dicey.  A couple of times I was following another rider and then they would disappear in front of me.  My brain started feeding me information about what could be in front of me.  Had they fallen or had I sped up?  Did the road turn sharply?

I was not pleased with my plastic rain jacket.  I got wet anyway from the sweating with it on.  No problems with the wet road surface and we were cranking.  No wind.  No bugs.  It was a fun ride and the group responded well.   

The bike lost its chain a couple of times but the bikes were rentals and one does not adjust to a new ride (the gearing) in a short time.  That is why we bring our bikes from the States when it is possible.       

There were two “cycling” guides supporting our tour.  One rode with the riders at the front.  The second rode with the last rider on the road.  The guide who rode in the front was an excellent cyclist and his home was South Vietnam.  The second, who I did not see often on the bike beacuse I was in the middle of the pack, was from North Vietnam and I am sure an excellent cyclist.  He was from Hanoi.  

 

Our guide from Saigon was hilarious. He entertained us every morning during the discussion on the bus about the day’s activities.  He called our guide from Hanoi “the Communist.”  The guide from Hanoi appeared to be very serious and did not smile often.  It could have been an arrangement between the two to entertain us because they were both very good at their job. 

 

Post ride activity – We went to dinner at a place which served raw meat which was cooked on a little stove that was placed at the table.  Another idea from the guides to make sure we had the full Vietnam experience.  The food was very good.  There were four small stoves available. 

 

We returned to the hotel and got a massage.  The technique was interesting.  At the end the lady who was giving me the massage got up on the table and walked along my back.  I thought this was a bit much but survived.  Later talking with others I was told this was some feature of the 'Vietnam Massage."  I did not find the walk uncomfortable but I did think to myself during the stroll that "I hope this is not the end of my cycling in Vietnam!"

 

After our massage we retired to our room and went to bed.  It had been a challenging day on the bike.  Looking forward to tomorrow!

  

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 DAY 4 - November 6 – Free Day in Nha Tang, swim, snorkel, scuba dive optional; no cycling

...the people and the transportation that supported our adventure...

     

...our driver...

 ....the crew and our home on the road......

 ,,,relaxing at home..

Plan for the day – Active Journeys:  Taking a rest from the bikes we offer a boat ride to the Coral Islands for swimming and snorkling.  Those who don't feel like a boat trip can relax and enjoy the beach or even scuba diving.  Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Today was a free day but there is no such thing as a free day on an Active Journey's trip.  There is always the option to test one's self.  A boat to an island in the bay was offered and then swimming in the ocean or snorkling was available.  It was possible to join a scuba adventure at the dock.   

Getting started - Since today was a free day we did not have to repack our suitcases or dress in bike clothes.  It was a bit more relaxed.     We went down to breakfast at the hotel.  The hotel offered this great buffet breakfast which I love allowing me to pick what I want and eat a lot of it.  We met some of our fellow travelers at breakfast and most had decided to go to the island to swim, snorkel or just hang out.   

It was raining very hard when we got up.  I am not a water person and the rain gave me the perfect excuse to beg off from the island adventure.  My wife was a water person.  She was a member of the swim team in highschool and did very well in the sport.  She joined the group on the boat to the island.     

Today’s adventure spent my day sleeping or entering notes for my journal onto my computer.  It continued to rain and I was sure that I had made the right choice.

I talked to my fellow cyclist the next day about their snorkeling experience and they said they had a good time.  My wife had already relayed this information to me.  She said it was not raining on the island.  I was told by all that they had a good experience.  I believe them because this was one of those special groups that sometimes you meet on the raod where they are all interested in finding out everything about the location they are in.  They try everything.  Not to show off but because they are interested.  

 

I was told they had seen many fish along the reef snorkling.  Our guide took them to a restaurant he recommended on their return from the island which they enjoyed very much.  Our guide from Siagon was very special as well and was always willing to let us go just a bit farther if we chose.  He also had a great sence of humor which helped on our long bus rides.   

Today’s landscape Very pleasant hotel room, execellent food, TV and I was "dry." 

Bicycling notes –  No cycling.  It would have been a tough day in the rain on a bike.  The free day allowed me to relax and let my leg mussles recover. 

When someone would ask out guide from Saigon a question about our trip or Vietnam as we rode on the bus he would slowly get out of his seat located at the front of the bus and turn slowly to face the back of the bus exclaiming  “Oh my Godddddd!!!”  This would bring a smile from everyone.  Then after a brief pause he would begin the answer to the question.  He was very entertaining.  He called the guide from Hanoi "the Communist."  If both were needed to provide the answer to a question he would finish his explaination and then introduce his counter part by saying; "and now the communist will tell you about ........." 

 

Post ride activity –  Our guide had taken the group out to eat before they returned.  I had snacks at the hotel.  When my wife returned she told me about the experience and we watched a bit of TV and went to bed.  Tomorrow it was back on the road for me. 

 

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.....the people on the tour.....

     

 ..our guide from Saigon...

 ...our tour group...

...our guide from Hanoi...



 DAY 5 -  November 7 – Nha Trang to Tuy Hoa

     

 ...we took the bus to Dai Hanh on the beach for a quick walk along the beach before we began to bicycle.. 

 ...quick snack with trip stories before continuing our ride... 

 ...a Vietnamese motor cyclist stopped to talk to the cycling group and shared his bike.... 

Plan for the day – The plan for the day was cycling.  The description from Active Journey's had us swimming and relaxing.  This was a cycling group that understood the significance of experiencing Vietnam at 15 miles an hour.  Our Vietnamese guide had detected the mood of the group and he was starting to make it up as we went.  The rain in Vietnam had taken its toll on the planned cycling.  The group had already moved "off bike activities" down the To Do List.  Today we would bicycle to the plan, 25 miles from the beach at Dia Hanh to Tuy Hoa, and then bicycle off the plan. 

Active Journey's description of today's events:  An early start takes us on a wonderfully scenic ride to the beautiful fishing village of Dai Hanh.  We will have lunch on the beach.  Most people will spend the rest of the day swimming and relaxing but serious cyclist might want to ride the last 45 km into the town of Tuy Hoa. 

Getting started - We got up a bit late.  My wife thought we left at 9AM but we left at 8AM.  I had no idea!  I went for and early cup of coffee and found out our exit time.  I went back to the room and we started packing our suitcases and getting ready to leave.  We took our stuff down to the lobby to be loaded on the bus and headed for breakfast. 

I filled up a plate with food and took it to a table.  The others in the tour were already starting to leave the breakfast area.  At the table I made sandwiches using toast and eggs, etc.  I did not have anything to wrap the food in accept napkins so we made do.  The hotel people probably thought we were the ugly Americans.  We grabbed our food and headed for the bus.  We were rushed but we did it. 

Today’s adventure The bus left the hotel parking lot and headed for the start location for the day's bike ride.  The plan would be to stop at a beach near the start of the ride for a break and rake a stroll along the shore.   The driving distance to the beach along Highway 1 where we planned to stop was about 50 miles.  When we reached our destination we parked at a restaurant near the beach and exited the bus.  

Our guide had told us that we had half an hour on the beach before we continued to the starting point of our bike ride.  Several of the tour group walked down to the beach.  A couple walked into the surf but there were no swimmers.  We walked to the edge of the water, snapped some photos and then walked back to the restaurant area.  We had made some sandwiches at the hotel using breakfast meats during our quick breakfast exit.  We sat at tables overlooking the beach and ate our snack while waiting for the others to complete their beach tour. 

After all had returned from the beach we boarded the bus and headed to the start of our bike ride.   The rain had stopped at least an hour before we reached the beach stop.  A bit of blue could be seen in the sky.  The temperature was rather pleasant as well.

 

I could see the road ahead going up along a hill at the end of the bay as we had walked along the beach.  I had assumed we would begin to ride from where we were standing at the restaurant but our guide told us he wanted to take us off Highway 1.  We continued on the bus for a number of miles and then turned onto a road.  Our ride would start from that intersection.  

 

Our bicycles were unloaded and we began to ride.  The road was flat at the beginning but we quickly got to the first climb which was not as steep as the grades we had experienced the day before but a good climb.  We rode with the ocean on one side and the mountains (hills) along the other.   When we got to the top of the climb the bus was waiting and we stopped for a snack the driver and his assistant had laid out.    The bus was parked on an overlook which had a great view of the ocean.  As we stood around enjoying our snack everyone began telling stories.  

 

Two guys on a motor bike rode in and parked near the bus.  They were interested in our bicycles particularly the construction of the bicycles.  One of our group asked that we take a picture of the Vietnamese visitor with him which we did.  My wife and another lady on our tour took a picture setting on their motor bike.

 

A second cyclist stopped as we were eating and told our guide that one of the bikes had a flat tire back up the road.  The driver and his companion immediately got into the bus and turned around and drove back up the road to locate the cyclist and the guide riding with the last of the riders on the road.  After a short time the bus returned with the bike and the guide who had substituted his tire for the flat.  The other cyclists still on the road rode up almost immediately and all of our group was accounted for.   

 

We finished our snack and returned to our bikes.  We successfully made it over the remaining climbs and the road leveled out and we rode for several miles on the flat.  We cranked along and the entire group made good time.  We stopped in a village for a late lunch of noodles and hot water.  It was basic but not bad.  As we ate our late lunch the stories continued.  Our bikes had been loaded as we ate and after we finished lunch we boarded the bus and headed for the special ride of the day as described by our guide.   

 

The bus stopped at the entrance to the road we were to ride on.  Our guide told us to stick together because the route could change unexpectedly and we could easily get lost.  The support bus could not follow us on the narrow cement trails and would meet us at a meeting point further along our route.  We would be on our own for a few miles of the ride.  

 

We started our ride on a one car width lane made of large cement slabs which were placed end to end.  The cracks between the slabs were filled with what looked like cement.  After a mile or so we turned onto a dirt road which had mud puddles and some dicey wet spots.  After about a half mile we again turned back onto a road made of cement slabs.  At one point we rode across a bridge which was flooded and the water was above our bike peddles.  My feet got wet but that is part of the adventure of Vietnam.  

 

We reached the end of the cement path where it intersected with a road and the bus was waiting.  We loaded our bikes and drove to the hotel.    

 

Today's landscape - We had two unique landscape experiences on our bicycle ride today.  The first ride we rode along the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean) on a route that was cut into the side of a hill.  We were treated to an exposed red soil and rock mixture with green foliage growing above it on one side and the blue ocean on the other.  In the afternoon we rode through farm land and farm villages where we saw lush green rice plants growing on both sides of our bike Path.     

 

We were riding down a road or path and came up on a rice paddy that had a large number of ducks swimming in it and eating as I have seen them do by ducking under the water every once in a while to grab something. I thought how interesting to have ducks clean out the “unwanted creatures” from the rice paddy and I would assume that duck was a meat that was eaten as well.   Later as we were riding along we saw a farmer herding the ducks from one rice paddy to another.  The process was interesting and funny as well. As can be imagined ducks are not the easiest "species" to herd and many had their minds made up as to where they wanted to go.  But the farmer was successful and the ducks did finally "flock" together and following a leader as one sees when they are flying.   

 

Today we had a terrific bicycle experience.  We bicycled through a Vietnamese farming community.  We rode on the cement slab roads, dirt paths, crossed dams for rice fields, beside rice fields and along paths with homes on each side.  Our path was about as wide as a two way bike path.  People came out in numbers in the villages to watch us ride by.  The young kids all waved and said “hello” in English.  They laughed and smiled at us as we rode past.  It was a very interesting and fun experience.  I appreciate that our guide took us through the area because it was unplanned and I enjoy the one on one experiences with the people.   

 

Bicycling notes – It was raining when we got on the bus to drive to the beach stop.  I assumed it would rain all day but the weather cleared just before we reached the beach.  We were on a roll.  The weather remained perfect for riding for the rest of the day.  We had no wind.  It was cool and overcast at times but it did not rain again. 

 

My wife had a very amusing experience attempting to find a "happy house."  When we turned off the road to start the day's ride my wife needed to find a "happy bush."  We were at the intersection of two roads and there were flat fields along the road with a few houses near the intersection.  Not finding a "happy bush or tree" my wife walked across the road toward the houses.  When she returned she said that no one spoke English.  In desperation she had squatted in front of one of the women and made water sounds.  She said the woman responded, "oh," and took her inside her home to the toilet. 

 

I was impressed how the tour folks had taken care of the flat tire that one of our tours cyclist experienced on the road during our first ride.  Our guide who was riding with the last rider on the road took his tire off and replaced the flat tire sending the rider on while he waited to be picked up on the bus.  However, not before he had waved down a motorbike and told the rider to pass the problem onto the driver of a bus that he would find ahead on the road.  Our guide waited for the bus while the rider continued to enjoy the trip.  The process was efficient and effective.  

 

Post ride activity  We checked into the hotel and I went to our room and showered off the "bicycle dirt" that had accumulated during our ride.  I washed my bike clothes in the sink and hung them up.  I hoped they would dry by morning.  The humidity kept everything damp.  I had made a mistake by bringing "cotton" clothing on the trip.  It would be added ro my "Lessons Learned" list when I get back to the States.     

 

We ate dinner at the hotel.  The food was Vietnamese and good.  I was now a fan of Vietnamese food.  We all set together at a long table.  As had become part of our routine we relived the riding day with stories while we ate.  The ride though the Vietnam farming community had been a very pleasant experience.   After dinner we went to our room, watched TV and sacked out.  Tomorrow was another riding day with more adventure. 

 

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...our guide's off-road adventure...

     

 ..cement blocks were laid end to end to create paths for walking, bicycling and motobikes at the edge of the rice fields....

 ...it had rained a great deal before we arrived in Vietnam and rained while we were there causing bicycling route changes, cancellations and flooding but when on a cycling trip ones goes with the conditions...especially if its not your bike

 ...gravel paths were common along the rice paddys but proved to be a good riding surface for bicycles...

 



 DAY 6 -  November 8 – Tuy Hoa to Quang Ngai - bike 45 miles. visit My Lai

     

 ..real estate is expensive in Vietnam.  A shop owner builds his house above his shop some reaching three stories..this is true in the countryside also...

 ..typically the back roads of Vietnam are one lane of paved road...if a vehicle appears the bike gets off the pavement until they pass but there are few cars...note that the shoulder is gravel...

 ...the motor bike is the transportation of choice...we saw many with animals in cages stacked on them, vegetables being taken to market was common...  

Plan for the day – We start riding along a remote but well surfaced road running beside the railway.  The terrain is gently rolling with beautiful views of the foothills of the highlands.  We pass a mix of tribal Viet Villages.  Fearless potbellied and barefoot children trot across your trail.    

Today we travel from Tuy Ho to Quang Ngai a distance of 168 miles along Highway 1.  We plan to bicycle on an unmarked road that runs parallel to highway 1 from Chi Thanh to Phu Tai for an advertised distance of 60 miles.  I think the distance will be more like 37.5 miles.  The problem with our plan is that it has been raining hard in Vietnam before we started our adventure and many of the back roads that we plan to bicycle have been washed out or damaged.  We will have to alter our plans today and detour onto a road which is not paved in places and has suffered damage from the rain.  Wish us luck but this is what cycling adventure is all about.     

Getting started - We had stayed the night at a hotel in Tuy Hoa.  I got up early enough to do a little computer before I packed up for our trip north.  We dressed in bike clothes because we were to bicycle ride today.  We packed our pj's and walking around clothes and took our suitcases with us to breakfast to be put onto the bus. 

We met our tour mates at breakfast.  Breakfast consisted of fried eggs with slices of tomato and cucumber.  Coffee was a hoot. The process consisted of a cup of hot water with an espresso operation on the side.  Coffee dripped into a second glass cup and then hot water was poured into the second cup, to make the coffee.  I asked for some orange juice which cost me extra. 

We talked about the trip and what excitement was planned for today while we ate.  When everyone had finished we made our way to the bus and took our "customary" self-assigned seats.  The bus crew had taken care of the luggage and we were ready to start the day's adventure.   

Today’s adventure - It was a bright clear day!  It was humid but I was glad to see the sun.  It was our first day of clear weather.  When we began to ride the breeze created by the bike moving forward had a cooling affect and made for very comfortable ride.

The rain had been keeping us off the bike so sunshine was welcome.   We exited the city of Tuy Ho on Highway 1 and drove north about 25 miles to the intersection of the road which we were to ride on.  We had driven for about half an hour to the start of the ride.   We got off the bus and our bikes were unloaded and we began to ride. 

The road we were to ride on turned northwest away from Highway 1 and followed along the railway tracks north.  Like many of the roads in Vietnam the road along the railroad did not have a number on the map.  Unfortunately, the rainy weather had caused the road to be closed to traffic but a detour had been devised.  The problem with the detour was that it was not paved all the way to the end.   

We rode about ten miles along our "original" route before we had to take the detour.  We turned onto a narrow paved road but after a few miles it turned to gravel with only dirt for long stretches.  The road was rutted and the recent heavy rains had left mud in areas along the road.  The road went up and down over small hills.  The climbing was not a challenge but in places because of the mud and the ruts the downhill was a bit treacherous. 

I tried to be macho today and keep up with one of the guys who  was one of the leaders on the road.  I did well but note that the road was gravel, mud and dirt and it was difficult to maintain a good pace under the conditions.   I think he slowed down to allow me to keep up.   I think the correct term might be "keep me in sight" if I fell off my bike. The two of us beat everyone into a small town or hamlet where we stopped and waited for the others.  We were not being nice we did not know where to turn.

As we waited for the group to arrive a large group of children gathered around us and attempted to have a conversation with us in English.  This happened often with the children we met on the road in Vietnam because I assume they wanted to learn English.  They were always curious. 

 

After the lead riders arrived they continued into town. My wife was in the middle of the pack and we rode together into town.  We found one of the riders at the side of the road teaching a large group of kids who had gathered around him a magic trick. 

 

Our guide arrived and passed us. We continued along the road to find the turn which would take us back to our original route.  We had completed our detour around the area of the road that had been washed out.  When we rode into town he waited or us at an intersection which would return us to our intended route.  Once back on the route we rode until we were about 15KM from the end of the bike ride and stopped for Lunch. 

 

I was famished and ate everything that was put in front of me.  We had coke, noodles, a roll with tuna and cheese plus water.  I thought I may have over eaten when I started to ride again.  There was some complaining from the group at the stop that we should have stopped for an earlier break. 

 

We exited our lunch break and continued along the road until it intersected with Highway 1.  Our bicycling was done for the day.  Our guide had told us when we started that the ride would be 70 KM but the ride turned into a 62 KM ride or about 40 miles.

 

The bus was waiting for us at the intersection with Highway 1.  Our bikes were loaded back onto the bus, we got on and headed for Quang Ngai where we would spend the night.  We still had 120 miles to ride on the bus.  It took us a few hours to cover the distance but the bus conversation was lively and fun and it went by quickly.

After we arrived in the hotel in Quang Ngai and checked in we drove to visit My Lai a short distance outside of Quang Ngai.  If forgotten, May Lai is where a group of Marines went crazy during the Vietnam War and killed everyone in the village of My Lia.  We walked through the My Lai memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives there.  After our tour we boarded the bus and returned to Quang Ngai and the hotel.    

Today’s landscape - The heavy rain had brought every plant in the countryside to life.  We rode through rolling green hills along the dirt road to our detour.  The green hills were not covered with trees.  In places we could see the ocean.   The countryside remained green everywhere we went.  

Bicycling notes – We had made it through the day without rain.  No rain today was a real plus, but we were cycling with yesterday's rain still on the road in the form of mud.  I did not have an "ugly" problem riding through the mud that I could not avoid on the dirt road and no one fell on the day's ride.  It is a good group.     

A passenger train had passed us before we had to take our detour.  I asked our guide if bikes could be taken onboard or did they have to be shipped as cargo on the train.  I was told that a bike ride cannot be supported by using a train for transport. 

Every group tour that I have signed onto divides itself into three groups of riders on the first day on the road.  The elite riders are always out of sight in front.  The good riders are some distance behind them and the slower riders are last.  But the way our tour was organized, one guide stayed with the faster riders and the second with the slow riders.  The bus is typically in the middle or with the slower riders.  If it begins to rain or assistance is needed the slower riders get attention first and the others "who many times want to continue to ride even if it is raining" can ride until the bus arrives and then it can follow if the riders do not want to stop.  It is a good scheme and I think supports all three "types" of cyclist and allows everyone to participate at the level they want and have a good time.   

We were introduced to the term “Vietnamese time” by our guide from Saigon.  During all explanations about what “time” we would arrive at destinations or when an event would start he would give some time estimate and then follow that with "that of course is Vietnamese time.”  

 

Post ride activity – When we got to the hotel the room was basic which is fine.  I have stayed in "much" worst in the States on our bicycle rides and "room comforts" are very low on my list of needs on a bike ride.  Hot shower, Jacuzzi and a massage are high on the list.  A massage is not always available.  Next is good food within a reasonable distance.  A comfortable bed is necessary as well.   

 

Two guys who were sharing a room had an “electrical” fire break out in their bathroom.  They could not change rooms because the hotel was full.  Our guides came through and said the two guides would exchange rooms with them.  The guides slept with the problem which was basically the smell of smoke.  The hotel gave the guides two bottles of free water and said they would use air fresher to get rid of the smell.  Very interesting and everyone thought the episode was funny and laughed about it.  The guides were making their customers happy.  It was their job.   

 

We ate in the hotel dining room.  The food was good and the riders joined in a lively conversation about the day’s events.  After dinner we returned to our room and went to bed.  It was another good day on the trail in Vietnam.  

 

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 DAY 7 -  November 9 - Quang Ngai to Hoi An

....room at the Riverside Inn & Spa...

     

Plan for the day In the morning we ride 12 kilometers to My Lai, the site of the worst battles of the American/Vietnam War.  After a guided tour of the site and museum we continue cycling out into the Vietnam countryside.  We stop to visit an interesting pagoda.  The rest of the ride is through quiet, rural villages before eventually looping back to the main highway.  We transfer the rest of the way to Hoi An, arriving in time for lunch.  The afternoon is free to explore Hoi An.  More than anywhere in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the feel of the past.  There are over 844 structures of historic significance and most people spend the day wandering around, enjoying the sights and atmosphere.   

We got up to rain.  After a discussion at breakfast "the group" decision was to cancel the planned outdoor activities and head for Hoi An.  Shopping in Hoi Hoi An was on our agenda and it would be increased to fill the day.  The cycling for the day would be cancelled.  Our day would be spent shopping and mingling with the Vietnamese people.

Getting started We got up, put on bike clothes and packed our walking clothes and pj's into our luggage.  We went down to breakfast and met some of the cycling group.  As we ate breakfast we discussed the weather and the plan for day's agenda.  It was raining and it did not appear that it would stop anytime soon. 

It continued to rain as we ate our breakfast discussing what the cycling would be like today.  We had experienced riding in the rain on our trip and it had not been ugly but we had started our ride before the rain began and were well into it before the weather turned against us.  Today we would start in the rain.  It is a big difference in cycling phycology.  

When our guide arrived at breakfast we discussed the rain and the "group" opted to blow off the touring of My Lai and the associated cycling and head for Hoi An.  I was unaware of research by the group in the States that had shown that shopping in Hoi An was a must.  Shopping equates to interest in spending extra time in Hoi An.  The original plan was to spend much of the afternoon and evening in Hoi An shopping anyway ( because Active Journeys knew of the shopping interest of their tour participants) so the new plan just extended the shopping day to the delight of many in the group.  

 

After breakfast we collected our luggage and brought it down to the bus.  We decided to stay in our riding clothes to Hoi An and change at the hotel in Hoi An before the shopping spree began.

Today’s adventure We were staying at the Riverside Resort & Spa.  It was the best of the hotels we had stayed at in Vietnam.  The Marriott in Saigon had been great but the Hoi An Riverside Resort & Spa was a bit unique and the places where we had stayed had been comfortable but this was special.  We checked in and got our room assignment.  We collected our luggage and headed for our room.  When we opened the door to our room we discovered that all of the furnishings were very low to the floor.  This was going to be an interesting stay.

It had taken us several hours to drive to Hoi An but we had extra time to roam through the city.  We were also staying two nights at the Riverside Resort which I reasoned later must be planned because it was possible to have clothes and shoes made in various shops but more than a day was required to do so.  The clothes were created overnight, then fitted and then tailored to fit the following day.  The finished product would then arrive the morning of our departure.   

Our shopping adventure began at a "silk" store or "silk" factory.  As we entered the store (factory) silk worms spinning silk in one room. (I assume “spinning” is the correct terminology.) There was a person in the room who explained the process of producing silk.  As we walked further into the store we entered an area where people were setting at tables embroidering pictures onto silk.  It was a large area with the workers in the center and framed pictures of their work hanging from the walls around them.  There was an accompanying room that was also filled with but pictures.  All were for for sale. 

As we continued further into the store we entered an area where the clothes were ordered.  The people who manufactured or produced the clothes were not in the area.  The area consisted of several rooms each filled with a particular style of clothing that had already been manufactured.  People were everywhere trying on various items.  If an article or style of clothing was found that was not exactly what a customer wanted then a sales person was found and what the individual wanted discussed.  If a solution was found that satisfied the customer the salesperson would then order the desired changes to be made over night.  The modified article of clothing would be completed overnight and brought to the hotel for a final fitting and decision the next morning.  If the article of clothing still met the expectations of the customer final changes were made over night if necessary and the customer returned to the store for a final fitting and purchase by the end of the day.  

My wife had a jacket made and bought a silk scarf.  The other people of the group bought various items.  I bought a picture of a Vietnamese cyclist.  Two ladies on the tour bought shawls.  I looked at the clothes for the men but did not see anything that I wanted to buy.  The shop provided a comfortable waiting area where I sat and read while waiting for my wife.  Occasionally she would appear and ask if I liked something she had tried on. 

While we were roaming around looking for a place to eat dinner we by chance saw three guys on our tour participating in a cooking class in the city.  They told us later that they ate the results of their labor for dinner.  They were taking the recipes they used to create the dishes back to the states with them.  I noticed several signs as we toured the city advertising classes taught by the Vietnamese on various subjects having to do with their culture.  We visited a place where they made rice cakes. 

Today’s landscape - Hoi An is located on the banks of the Thu Bon River.  The Thu Bon River flows into the East China Sea or the Pacific Ocean at Hoi An.  The river has broken into several tributaries near the ocean producing some small islands and the landscape of Hoi An illustrates the evolution. 

Along the bank in one area there are streets, building and businesses while across the river there is a jungle of lush green growth which in some cases is hiding buildings nearby that make up the city.    

 

The foliage along the river reminded me very much of the landscape of Kentucky in the United States where I grew up.  The city has been cut out of a jungle of growth, but if left unattended the area would be quickly overgrown by a thick undergrowth that must be cut regularly or it will reclaim the landscape completely.

 

Bicycling notes The fun about touring on a bike is experiencing the environment at 15 miles an hour.  I can experience each mile of the route and meet the people along the way.  When it is raining all that is lost.  The only solace gained by cycling in the rain is that I can cope with the conditions on a bike.  A more cost effective method of proving that I can ride in the rain is to test the hypothesis  near my home.  I know the environment so no experience is lost.  In Vietnam if the choice is between riding in the rain, getting wet and missing the experience, or riding in the bus, staying dry and missing the experience it’s the bus for me.

I asked our guide for a recommendation about where I could get my clothes washed.  The humidity made wearing "cotton" clothing more than one day difficult on everyone.  Our guide had told me to bring my laundry down to the lobby when we reached Hoi An and he would take care of the problem.  I did and he took the clothes.  I have no idea where he took my clothes and he never told me.  He just walked away with them and the next morning he handed me the washed clothes.  They were clean and perfectly folded.  He also refused to take any money! 

 

Post ride activity There could also be late minute shopping to be done down town before dinner.  We ate dinner in Hoi An before returning to the hotel.  The food was some of the best we have had in Vietnam.  After dinner we returned to the hotel. 

 

When we returned to the hotel we got a massage.  We had been doing this all the way through Vietnam. My wife had asked if they were available and then scheduled one before we left the hotel for as soon as we returned.  It was a great way to end the day.    Hot water was not always on in hotel?

 

return

...scenes from Hai An ....

     



 DAY 8 -  November 10 – Day 2 in Hoi An

       

...we were required to pay government taxes at the pottery store because we did not purchase anything...our guide was angry..  

...residents of Hoi An live and work along the banks of the Thu Bon River near where it enters the Pacific Ocean...

...the River has seperated into multiple streams as it enters the Pacific...bridges reconnect the populated areas along the River...

...a "happy bush" are "happy tree" is where you find it...

Plan for the day – Staying another night in Hoi An, we ride out of town to visit My Son, the ancient center of the Cham civilization.  The ride is worth the effort in itself and is arguably one of the best of the trip.  We transfer out of the town to avoid the highway before cycling along the scenic country back road, past paddy fields and through eucalyptus forest, while passing many scenic villages.  The road climbs away from the coast, offering stunning views.  We ride further as the road cuts a gorge through lush jungle alongside the Song Tranh River.  Eventually we arrive at My Son which was once Champa's greatest city.  In the afternoon, we transfer by bus back to Hoi An.  Dinner on your own.  54 km.    

The day before the bicycling between My Lai and Hoi An was cancelled because of a steady down pour of rain.  The bicycling plan for today will be to bicycle from the hotel in Hoi An around the city before getting back on the plan for the day.  The plan for the day will be to transfer by bus to rural area where we plan to bicycle along the "narrow" path ways used by the locals to get from one "hamlet" to another.  Some of these paths will be paved others will not.  Our goal is the ruins at My Son.  After completing our tour of the ruins at My Son we will return to Hoi An for a second night.      

getting started - I got up tired.  The shopping had done me in.  We dressed in or bike clothes and went down to breakfast.  We met up with some of the tour folks and selected a table and went for coffee  wake me up.  Breakfast was good.  In fact everything about the Riverside Resort had been good. 

I had an omelet, toast and jam, watermelon, potatoes, and coffee.  I made a sandwich to take on the bus or maybe since we are coming back to the hotel to the room.  The sandwich theft had become a daily routine in Vietnam.  I rook something to snack on the bus from breakfast.  We had a refrigerator in the room so it could be kept fresh in the room until we left for the bus.  

Our guide had told me to bring my laundry down and he would take care of it for me.  I carried my laundry to the front desk, looked him up and handed my bag of laundry them to him.  I have no idea where he took my clothes but he walked away with them without a word.  Will I see my clothes again?   

 

Today's adventure - Our guide decided that we should start our day with a bike ride from the hotel around Hoi An to make up for loosing the day before to rain.  We rode back and forth along the walking paths around the city.  We were accompanied by bicycles and motor bikes on the path through the town. 

 

After we exited Hoi An "most" of the paths we rode on were paved with cement sections about 15 feet by 15 feet.  A path was created by laying the cement sections end to end.  A single line of cement sections laid end to end "appeared" to be reserved as a walking path.  Two cement sections laid end to end were used to create small roadways for use by four wheeled vehicles and motor bikes.  But people and bicycles were on the wider paths as well. 

 

As we rode it continued to threatened rain but we had no rain.  The ride turned out to be very pleasant and relaxing.  Our ride along the cement paths allowed us to get up close and personal with the Vietnamese people.  We did not see any of the children who we had begun to expect along our route.  Maybe they were in school that time of day.

 

After riding about forty miles total we turned a corner and our bus was waiting.  The bus was parked near a building with an open door about the size of a garage door.  There were table and chairs inside.  I had become accustomed to these "roadside restaurants" that we frequented on our way across Vietnam.  The bus crew had unloaded the a few snacks for the group plus there was a "happy house."

   

The bikes were loaded onto the bus and we headed for the near by My Son ruins.  There were three sets ruins of ruins at the site and the plan was to walk though each.  We walked to the first of three ruins.  Pictures were snapped and our guide gave us a brief history of the place.  We then walked to a second area of ruins and walked through. 

 

After a discussion the group decided that we would skip walking to the last set of ruins.  Everyone had enjoyed the shopping, "classes" and other street art that the group had participated in the night before and found it more of interest than the Vietnam history. 

 

The discussion to continue the tour or not had been influenced by a "cooking class" and the fitting for the clothes being created in Hoi An.  Both activities were scheduled to begin at 5 PM.  Two of the women had had shoes made for them as well and that fitting was at 6.  We were to exit Hoi An the next morning and the clothes and shoes had to fitted that night to be ready for our departure.  Several prople had signed up for the cooking class.  We returned to the bus and headed for the hotel.  

 

Today’s landscape - Today's bike ride through Hoi An provided contrasting views of the landscape along the Thu Bon River where the city is located.  Civilization has carved out a habitat in a jungle of plant life along one shore of the river while the opposite shore is overgrown with plant life.  It was quite a contrast.

 

 

We were cycling along a cement path on one shore of the river with building and businesses while across the river a jungle of lush green growth surrounded a few crudely built structures.  I assumed these building supported some sort of farming or commercial activity.  At one location I saw a fisherman in a small boat casting a net into the river.  The buildings could have been used to support fishing or farming but there was no activity around them. 

 

Plant life on the way to the My Son ruins lost due to the bus tide conversation.  But at the ruins it was obvious that there was a battle between the managers of the site and nature to keep the plant growth down to a reasonable level.  There was very thick growth near the ruins and within a mile of the site there were rolling hills that were covered with a thick growth of trees and undergrowth. 

 

Bicycling notes    It was overcast when we started our ride but it was not raining.  The humidity was not bad either.  In fact it was actually cool but there was a bit of wind.    

It continued to be wet on our trek through Vietnam but that did not stop the group from cycling.  I believe the group priorities were in the following order: cycling, participating in interesting spontaneous activities, shopping and visiting historical sites.  My kind of people!

Our day of shopping the day before had worn me out.  I am just not a good shopper which is a talent that I want to develop.  Like anything else it is mental.  I want to come up with an idea of something I want to buy and then pursue it.  I want to develop the skill.  Last night's dinner also gave me a bit of a sugar low.  I had an immediate sugar low after dinner.  With all of that analysis I have to say that I thought I slept well.  After a little coffee I was bright and ready to see Vietnam.  I can be less than a 100% at home.  When on a bike ride adventure "its game time."

As we drove I noticed several Vietnamese flags flying along the route.  I thought as in the US that this meant we were in a conservative area.  The populace wanted to express their patriotism.  Someone asked our guide about the "flags" as we rode in the bus and in his usual manner he stood up slowly and turned toward group and began with his opening phrase "oh my God!!!!"  He went on to tell us that it was customary that numerous flags be flown when government officials were in town.    

Post ride activity The food for dinner was the best we have had.  Hot water not always on in hotel???   Then there was the massage.  Bren scheduled one as soon as we arrived. There could also be late minute shopping to be done down town before dinner. 

 

return

....scenes from the ruins near My Son the ancient center of the Cham civilization.....

     

 



 DAY 9 -  November 11 – Climb High Van Pass on the way to Hue

Climb to the summit of High Van Pass

     

 .....rough climb, the group was spread out all along the climb...

 ...approaching the top about a half mile left to go...

 ...at the summit....

Plan for the day Active Journeys:  This is probably the toughest ride of the tour but is also one of the best.  We transfer beyond Danang to take on the High Van Pass.  Climbing 500 meters above sea level, we enjoy stunning views of the South China Sea.  The afternoon downhill is just a reward.  After lunch we turn off the main highway and take a coastal side road for 44 km almost all the way to our destination.  Energetic riders will make it all the way into Hue, the old capitol of the Ngu Yen Dynasty.  100 km.    

Today will be a cycling day.  We will take the bus to the bottom of High Van Pass.  We will bicycle to the top of the Pass and then decline to the bottom on the opposite side.  At the bottom we get back on the bus and drive to the location where we will begin our second ride of the day which will take us near our destination Hue.  Before beginning the second ride we will have lunch in a small roadside "establishment."  The cycling will be approximately 60 miles.  After we complete the second adventure we get back on the bus and drive to our accommodations for the evening in Hue.

Getting started We dressed in our bike clothes when we got up and packed our luggage for the bus.  We carried some of our stuff down to the lobby and left it at the desk and headed for breakfast.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs, potatoes, baked tomatoes, toast, jelly and watermelon.  I also made a sandwich for the road and took some cookies to support an expected long ride in the bus before we reached High Van Pass.

Today’s adventure -  We exited the hotel carrying our luggage, boarded the bus and took our “self” assigned seats.  After everyone was aboard we began the drive to the start of the climb up High Van Pass.  The group began to entertain themselves with reading they had brought with them or talking about current events.  Some dozed.  We had a few hours scheduled on the bus.

We reached the bottom of the Pass and the bikes were taken off the bus and the group started to ride up the climb.  The climb would be 6.2 miles, 10K.  From where the bus was located we began to climb immediately and the group separated into skill groups within a short distance.  After a mile or so the hill dropped down to a lesser grade for about two miles.  Then the grade began to increase again and then receded for two miles.  Finally we started the last climb to the summit which we could see from below.  The knowledge that we were about to the summit allowed us to kick in that last bit of adrenalin needed to carry us over the top. 

After we reached the top we joined those who had dropped us on the way to the summit and toured the area.  There was a shopping complex at the summit which had food and souvenirs.  There were places to buy trinkets.  Pill boxes used in the Vietnam War were located across the road from the shopping complex. We climbed up to them and looked over the valley.  It was a great view.  We said a few words for those lost in the war and then walked back down to parking lot. 

 

The group had assembled and we got back on our bikes to ride down the other side of the Pass.  It was a quick two miles.  I may have forgotten to say that ‘I am a downhill specialist.”  When we reached the bottom of the Pass we stopped.  Our bikes were loaded back onto the bus.  Before we started the drive on the bus to our next adventure of the day we had lunch at a small "Vietnamese cafe."  The tour supplied the food for lunch so I am not sure what the arrangements were with the cafe owners.  I again had noodles which had become my favorite.  It was very good and filling. After our lunch we boarded the bus for the short drive to the start of our second ride of the day. 

 

The ride would take us along a lagoon on our way toward Hue.  The ride began along the highway but we soon turned to go onto a road which ran perpendicular to the highway.  As we made the turn onto the road we were stopped at by a gate across the road at a train crossing.  The crossing gate was down when we arrived at the railroad tracks and we were told by our guide that a person we could see setting in a small shed near the crossing had pushed the gate into place.  The process was not automatic and someone was employed to physically close the crossing before a train arrived. 

 

We waited at the crossing telling stories from the trail until the train arrived and passed.  After it passed the person left his small house and pushed the crossing gate out of the way by hand.  It was a very interesting process and illustrated I think that the country was not yet completely in the modern era.  

 

The ride continued along the narrow one lane road with the usual traffic of motor bikes.  There were only a few motor bikes but the narrow road made them memorable.  The road followed the terrain and the shoulders were covered with gravel. We had to climb a rather difficult section at one point which was unexpected.  On the way down the other side I had to ride through a thick layer gravel that had accumulated at the bottom of the hill and covered the road for a short distance.  It was a little hairy but I made it through.  

 

I have had the experience of riding along a road and have it turn to loose sand or gravel and it makes for an interesting "bike handling" experience.  This happened in South Dakota on our state ride using an "Adventure Cycling Map" to guide us.  I looked at the small print on the map after that experience and it did say "Jim, beware."    

 

We crossed a bridge and began to ride near the coast.  We passed through several small communities along this part of the route.  Again it was a narrow one lane paved road.  The young kids who lived in the houses along the route came out to greet us as we rode past.  They were all smiling and yelled "hello" in English as we rode past them.  Some moved into the road and would slap my hands if I reached out as I passed.  They were very friendly and interesting to me.  

 

Our guide was briefly lost at one point and we stopped near a small village so he could figure out what turn to take.  The kids from the village gathered around us and one of our group began to show them magic tricks.  His show was a great hit and he was quickly surrounded by what appeared to be 50 kids. 

 

Our guide found his bearings and we saddled up to continue our adventure.  In a short time we returned to the main road.  We waited a short time for the bus and loaded the bikes and headed into Hue.  It had been another interesting "cycling" day in Vietnam.

Today’s landscape - On the way up the climb the roadside was a jungle of green trees and undergrowth.  It was very pleasant surroundings to cycle through.  

 

Because of the physical challenge of a climb a cyclist may (does) not appreciate the landscape as much as when on the downhill.   I do, however, on a climb register the surface of the road and the changes in elevation at various points along the climb. 

 

As we bicycled down after the climb we continued to ride through a very lush green forest to the bottom.  The ocean could be seen to our right in places on both the uphill and the downhill.  It was a beautiful scene

 

Bicycling notes –

The weather was great.  We had hazy sunshine with threatening skies to the west at times but no rain. I do not remember humidity. It was cool with an occasional increase in temperature on the climb in places where the air was trapped.  Typically on the climb we faced a cool head wind which was not an impediment to my progress but refreshing.

 

Today was the big ride over High Van pass.  We had assumed before we left LA that this ride would be the only climbing we would participate in while cycling in Vietnam.  To my surprise I had climbed some very large hills on two of our other ride days.  

 

The ignorance I have about the rest of the world never ceases to amaze me.  I am especially amazed by the misunderstanding of the people we meet while cycling.  I have found that people everywhere we have traveled are very helpful and interested in what we are doing. 

 

I found out that our guide had taken our laundry the night before to a little place about 50 yards down the road from the hotel.  Two other guys on our tour discovered the place and had theirs done there as well and they said it cost one dollar.  This is the way to have clothes washed because the hotel charged $1.25 for one shirt!

 

Everyone carried something with them on the bus to entertain themselves during the bus ride to the next cycling leg.  We had developed a list of "stuff" to carry in a backpack with us which we used during a “public transit system experience” in Los Angeles.  We called it our "boredom abatement kit."  We carried our "kit" to Vietnam for use on the plane and the tour bus. 

As I looked around on the bus the group was talking, reading books, magazines, or newspapers, writing or dozing.  Few if any were catching the scene outside. This is one f the main reasons why I like cycling.  When on a bike I have the total experience.  I am involved in every change in the road, I see the scenery up close and personal, I interact with the people, I am exposed to the weather, etc.  After a ride I can tell you almost everything that occurred in the environment I was cycling through.  In a moving vehicle I know little about where I have been.  The question becomes “why did I make this trip?”  I can check out the inside of a moving vehicle driving around my neighborhood and save money. 

 

Post ride activity - We reached the hotel and checked in.  We cleaned up and put on something for our dinner experience.  Tonight we would be taken to a restaurant outside of the city.  It was quite a layout.  The entire group sat at a long table.  The meal was great even though I cannot remember what we ate! 

 

The reason my memory is lacking is that after the meal the group decided to share an alcoholic drink that was served from a jar that had snakes floating in it.  The drink was suggested by our guide who was always making sure we enjoyed the full Vietnamese experience.  The thought of the drink experience blotted out the meal.

 

There was a second large group with us in the restaurant dressed in costumes.  Our guide told us that this was a "Buddhist ritual which left food for the dead."  I may have this all wrong.  The costumes that were worn by the participants were left on the chairs the people sat in after they left.

 

Two members of our group could not pass up the opportunity to take a picture setting at the head table in a headdress.  Our tour group never passed up an opportunity to drink "snake wine" or take a picture in local costume.       

 

When we got back to the hotel it was straight to bed.  No massage tonight.  We would bicycle again tomorrow.  

 

return

 

       

 ...discussing the High Van Pass climb at lunch...

 ...preparing to begin our afternoon adventure...

 ...waving to the engineer as we waited at the crossing... 

 ...end of our second ride at the bay waiting for the bus...

 



 DAY 10 -  November 12 – Cycling in and out of Hue 

     

 ...entertaining the wild life in the lake on the grounds of the Citadel...

 ..the first bike ride of the day ended at the Citadel where we toured the grounds...the Thai Hoa Palace is in the background...

 ..shopping in the market in Hue after dinner...

Plan for the day – Active Journey's description of today's activity: Hue served as Vietnam's political Capitol from 1802 to 1945 under the rule of the 13 emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty.  Traditionally the city has been one of Vietnam's cultural, religious and educational centers.  Recently Hue has been listed as a World Heritage Site.  After breakfast, we cycle a back roads loop of Hue through lush countryside on a mix of footpaths and quit country lanes.  100 km 

We bicycle in the Vietnam countryside today which provided us with an opportunity to experience rural Vietnam and meet and interact with the people. I was looking forward to the experience.    

We would spend a second night in our hotel in Hue. We would fly to Hanoi tomorrow to begin our adventure in the North.  Not having to pack is always a bit relaxing way to start the riding day.   

Getting started - We got up and did not pack or put on our bike attire.  I went down to breakfast in my walk around PJ’s which looks like a jogging outfit.  Actually it is a jogging output.  I adopted this night attire after seeing a fellow in Germany standing at the coffee pot in the morning and knew that he had not been working out.  This is what he slept in.      

At breakfast and the layout was the same.  Great!!  During the breakfast discussion our guide told us we would bicycle from the hotel.  After breakfast we returned to our room and got ready for cycling.  We returned to the lobby and met up with the other cyclist to begin the day's adventure.     

Today’s adventure - After we had all assembled in the parking lot we got onto our bikes and exited the hotel parking lot.  It was a bit dicey because the traffic was heavy.  I also got to ride in heavy traffic through a round-about. I am sure this is the last French influence in Vietnam.    

My goal in a roundabout, especially in Vietnam, was to blend in.  That is a poor term but translated meant that I would grit my teeth and follow the people in front of me who were in turn following our guide into a round-about with what seemed to be thousands of cars.  I just gritted my teeth and keep turning or crossing the road during these turns hoping to blend in and not be run over. 

After our multiple mongoose and snake round-about experience after leaving the hotel we began to ride along streets that were less crowded.  The fear of dying became less prevalent. 

Our goal for the ride was the Citadel.  The ride was about 10 miles and once there we toured the Citadel.  The Citadel had been the King's Palace before the French took over the country.  The buildings and surrounding property had been the residence of the kings who ruled Vietnam before the French had taken over the country.   We visited the kings quarters, the library, the theater, and explored the grounds. 

 

After the French took over the Citadel was used by the French as their "Government House."  The French government had used these quarters during their occupation of Vietnam but the character of the grounds and building did not appear to me to have changed a great deal.  I am not sure that the French lived in the Palace during their occupation but I understood that the buildings in the complex where the hub of their government.  

 

After our tour of the Citadel we exited on our bikes and headed out of Hue to the countryside.   We again rode on dirt walking paths that connected hamlets together.  The farmers who lived here raised rice, livestock and other crops.  At times we rode on cement slabs laid end to end which were a bit larger than a car width.  We rode for a short distance in mud in one location.  Gravel was also experienced.  We returned to the main road or a major road to meet the bus for lunch.  Some sweets were on the menu.  

 

After lunch we continued to ride on the main road.  Our goal was the Tomb of Khni Dinh a Vietnamese king. Once we reached the tomb our cycling day was complete.  We left our bikes at the bus which had preceded us and headed into the tomb complex. 

 

To reach the tomb it was necessary to climb a large set of steps up to the first level of the complex.  On the first level were many carved statues that were well preserved.  A second set of steps continued up to the tomb itself.  We entered the tomb which contained many old relics of the period.  We took pictures of the area to remind us later of what we had seen and support a more relaxed research into the site.  

 

The group slowly gathered back at the bus. After everyone had satisfied their curiosity about Khni Dinh we got on the bus and headed back to our hotel in Hue.  On the way to the hotel our guide told us that he wanted to take us to the market for dinner.  Again I got the felling that this was not the norm but our guide wanted to provide us with the full Vietnam experience. I had not been disappointed by his suggestions thus far and we wanted the 'A" adventure.  

   

Today’s landscape - Today's landscape began with the ride through the streets of Hue on our way to the Citadel.  The landscape was filled with cars and motor bikes up close and personal.  We then rode along tree lined two lane streets to the Citadel.  The grounds of the Citadel were very green.  The area was filled with large groomed lawns, numerous trees and bushes.

On our ride along the rice patties we were introduced to "duck herding" The farmers had employed ducks to support their crops.  As we rode along we could see ducks floating in the rice patties eating what we assumed must be creatures that could do harm to the crop.

In one field we saw a farmer attempting to move his ducks from one rice patty to a second.  He was attempting to herd the ducks through a small causeway between the two rice patties.  When he began it appeared to be total caass but after he had successfully gotten some of the lead group through the causeway into the second rice patty "all" of the other ducks began to fall in line follow them.  It was very interesting to watch.  

Bicycling notes –   Our bikes stayed up in mud and sand.  Everyone in the group was a good cyclist.  No one fell during our trip.  There was a difference in training which produces a difference in speed.  As my son defined "training" for me when I started riding "it doesn't get easier you just get faster."  Everyone rode at their own pace and the guides took care of the differences along the route.   

Our Saigon guide was pushing us everyday.  I am sure that after the first day when he discovered the guys would risk life and limb riding in darkness then he could put the pedal down.  The weather had also been unkind and I believe he was trying to make sure we had our riding experience in Vietnam.

During our second excursion into the hamlets I experienced a couple of close encounters with the population.  The road that we were riding on intersected with a second in a small community.  The bike traffic and pedestrian traffic was a "bit" heavy on both roads.  At the intersection I paused and then began to move through the intersection and a "older" lady ran into me with her bike.  The collision was at a slow speed and neither of us fell over.  I was concerned about her but she apologized and apologized to me for hitting me.  It was her fault but I was surprised that she was so concerned.  After I assured her I was fine I rejoined the group and continued the ride. 

 

My second experience was not as pleasant.  I was riding on one of the narrow "cement block" paths again approaching a second junction with a cement slab road.  A motor bike approached along the second path and the guy started to cross and then stopped turned toward me in my half of the road.  I assumed he stopped to let me pass so I pulled to the left and started past.  As I passed him he reached out and grabbed the seat on my bike.  He did not have a good hold, there was a slight tug and he lost his grip and I rode on.  I did not stop.  I assumed he was pissed that I had not stopped at he intersection so he could stop but I did not know the rules of the pedestrian roadways in Vietnam.  I would have to stay in contact with our guide. 

 

I now do the same.  Running around the lobby in white PJ's with Walt Disney characters scattered around on the material says "this guy just got out of bed."  A running suit says "this guy just finished working out and is having a cup of coffee."  I always use a running suit to sleep in and go to breakfast in.   

 

Post ride activity - We changed out of our riding clothes and went back to the bus.  After everyone was onboard we headed downtown to "the market" to find dinner. It was a bit scary eating away from the hotel because one may loose a day of one's trip because of a poor selection for dinner.  Not eating at a resturant pushs the risk closer to the edge of the probility curve.  

 

A friend was sick for day's because of a bad food source selection in Peru.  We ate everywhere and everything in our Pervian environment and I rate Peru's food the best in the world.  Luck plays a roll in the food adventure!

 

Our guide picked the food source (booth) in the market where we would eat.  We sat in low benches with a small table in front of us.  Our guide spent time looking at the menu, the food and talking with the people serving the food.  He seemed comfortable with the decision he had made so I was comfortable as well.  He had not failed us yet and had enjoyed the adventure he had introduced us to. 

 

He suggested two choices noodles and a meat dish.  I played it safe and had noodles.  My wife had the meat dish.  The desert was sweetened beans and mixed fruit in a glass.  The beans came in three flavors, two dark and one white.  The white beans appeared to be in a rice mixture. 

 

The group ate their market selection and told stories about the days experiences.  The food was good and the conversation was better.  We finished and walked through the market.  After all had satisfied their curiosity and made the purchases they wanted we gathered back at the bus and returned to the hotel.  We retired to our room and hit the sack.  It had been another good, interesting day in Vietnam!   In passing I have to say the food in Vietnam had been very good.

return

     

 ...Throne..Thai Hoa Palace...

 ...Thai Hoa Palace...

 ...Hien Nhan Gate...

 

Bike ride 2 of the day was to Khai Dinh's Tomb

     

 



 DAY 11 -  November 13 – Fly from Hue to Hanoi - Tour Hanoi

       

...traffic was the same in Hanoi as we had experienced in Sagion...

...the infrastructure needs a bit of work in Vietnam..

...the hotel lobby had two computers tied to the web for the customers... 

...the Hanoi Hilton of Vietnam War fame...

Plan for the day – Active Journey's:  We will transfer to Phu Bai airport for a morning flight to Hanoi.  We will then transfer to the hotel and leave our luggage.  Hanoi is an elegant city with tree lined boulevards, graceful French Colonial architecture, peaceful lakes and oriental temples, and we have most of the day to explore the best parts.  We will start by taking a city tour by bus that includes visits to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature, and others.   After lunch enjoy a guided tour through the bustling Old Quarter and the sprawling Dong Xaun Market.  After Dong Xaun market and the final part to our Hanoi experience we explore the fascinating area further by Cyco, Hanoi's famous reclining three-wheeled "chariots."       

Today we fly to Hanoi and begin our northern Vietnam adventure.  There will be no bicycling in northern Vietnam.  It is unclear to me why that is true.  It is not bike friendly road wise or people wise?  Do we not have enough time?  Is the terrain not worth looking at?  Anyway our cycling in Vietnam is over.

The flight to Hanoi is short and after we arrive we spend the remainder of the day touring Hanoi.  We will visit the place where Ho Chi Min's body is on display and we will view same.  We visit the Prison where Senator McCain was held after his plane was hot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War.  We will visit other attractions which I am not familiar with.  What is new?  It should be a very busy day or Active Journey.   

Getting started - We got up at 6 AM.  I must admit that I acclimated quickly to the time change in Cambodia (Where we started our adventure) and have not looked back.  I am Vietnamese!  If only I could just learn to ride with 15 pigs in cages on my bike.  Should be an Olympic event!

We dressed for the day and packed our overnight clothes into our luggage.   We took our luggage with us down to the lobby.  I had my coffee "fix" and we ate a minimum breakfast.  After our breakfast we went out front with the others to take a bus to the airport.  We were starting our journey to North Vietnam.  

Today’s adventure - We boarded our bus and were off to the airport to start the first leg of today's journey.  When we arrived at the airport we checked in and after a short wait boarded the airplane that would take us to North Vietnam.  We were flying on Vietnam Airlines.  After everyone was on board we taxied out and took off for Hanoi. 

When we arrived at the Hanoi Airport and exited the airplane.  It took about an hour to get our luggage.  They have adopted quickly to western ways.  Once we had our luggage we pushed it to parking lot on a cart and got onboard a bus.  Once everyone was onboard we were off to downtown.  There had been an accident on the bridge over the Red River into Hanoi and the mishap had slowed things down a bit.

When we got to the hotel we checked in and took our luggage up to our assigned room.  Afterward we returned to the lobby to meet with the group.  After we had assembled we got back on the bus and headed to the University.  The University was known as the Temple of Literature.  We were told it was the "first" University in Vietnam. 

During the tour our guide from Hanoi told us that when a monarchy ruled Vietnam the King picked the "men" who performed best on the tests given at the University as his advisors.  They were called the Mandolins.  A woman on the tour asked where there any women advisors and our guide said they were way down the list no matter how they scored on the test.  He doubted that there were any woman advisors.  The order of ranking was; the men, their sons, then mother and last the daughter.  I would assume that if there were more than one son oldest son ranked ahead on the youngest.

After the tour we went to eat lunch.  I was getting into Vietnamese food by this time on the trip.  I had grown to appreciate Vietnamese's food.  I thought it was very good.  Today's menu included some very good rolls of some variety.  I am a fan of bread.  We had the Vietnam staple rice with pork and morning glories.  Not sure what the taste of the morning glories was.  There were vegetables and curd of some variety.  We had fruit for desert.  Lunch was very tasty and very satisfying.

 

After lunch we visited the Hanoi Hilton where Senator McCain had been imprisoned after he was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War.  It was much different from what I had expected.  There were pictures on the walls of dignitaries who had visited the prison to gain the release of the prisoners.  There were artifacts left by the prisoners.  The lodging of the prison appeared to be a bit harsh.

 

We also saw the lake where Senator McCain had landed in when he parachuted from his plane.  It was very large and took up a large area in the center of Hanoi.  It was surrounded by a large park an each morning there were hundreds of people doing Ti Chi or Yoga in the park.  Large groups could be seen exercising together.  Individuals were also scattered throughout the park working out.

 

After spending the day touring many interesting places in Hanoi we returned to our hotel.  

 

Today’s landscape We spent the day on the streets of Hanoi.  I saw a bustling community which may be a few years behind the west in some areas but they are  certainly on their way.  The city is suffering from a lack of infrastructure and the streets are packed.  The landscape was curb to curb pedestrians.  There was traffic of all types, cars, motor bikes and bicycles.  It was interesting just to stand and watch how it all melded together.   

 

Bicycling notes One of the main advantages that Active Journeys provides over other agencies that I have traveled with is their way of letting the group decide what they want to see or participate in.  The tour had a set agenda but if the group wanted to do something else then the agenda was changed.  

When we were touring with Active Journey's in Chile, for example, the majority decided to allow us to bicycle while they sat on the bus and followed us along the road.  The bus supported the two of us.  We appreciated their patience.  The participants they attract to their tours always seem to have that quality.  

I was setting in the lobby of the hotel when a female "backpacker" came to the front desk.  I was not paying attention and did not hear the initial conversation.  But, I did hear her inquire about the cost of staying at the hotel.  The clerk said that it cost $10 a night.  I thought wow.  What I did not know was the hotel we were staying had a small "hostel" that supported the backpackers I saw everywhere in Vietnam.  I watched as she took the woman back to a door opposite the dining area and opened it. 

From my vantage point I could see the area she described as the hostel.  It looked ok.  It had bunks and I would assume could be crowded.  One bathroom was provided to be shared by the quests but I thought what a great idea.  We had seen many young people with back packs on our bike excursion in South Vietnam and I had wondered where they stayed.  

While waiting for bike tour to begin in Saigon we met with a friend of my son's, who does business in Vietnam, for lunch.  His wife and son joined us (They arrived on a motorcycle!) and the conversation turned to education. His son was in grade school and he had brought his school work with him.  I looked at the math he was studying and it was impressive.  His father told us during the conversation that the universities in Vietnam are very weak.  He had gotten his degree at the university in Moscow.  He went on to say that the Russian schools were also very weak.  He wanted his children to go to school in the US.

Post ride activity - We were on the third floor of the hotel. The room was comfortable.  The elevator required a wait but was not frustrating.  Breakfast was provided with the room. I discovered in the days to come it was a buffet which offered a good assortment of breakfast items and one could make oneself a good breakfast.  

We were on our own for dinner.  As had been the case throughout our adventure we split into several groups and headed off to find food or to enter into some other adventure the participants had heard about and wanted to attempt.  We went out with a group that was only interested in dinner.  We found good food and we joined in a good conversation about the day's adventure.  Afterward we shopped on the way back to the hotel and then went to our room.  It had been another great day in Vietnam. 

Return

     

Temple of Literature - The "third picture" in this group shows our guide from North Vietnam explaining how the system works for children selected to go to school.  It is boys first then the girls are considered.  It is then the oldest male first followed by the remaining males by age, then the oldest woman in order. 
 



 DAY 12 -   November 14 – bus from Hanoi, boat  to Ha Long Bay

     

 ..shopping in the equivalent of a 7-11 on our the way to Ha Long Bay...

 ...our first experience living on a "small boat."  The upper deck was our living room. The room we slept in was "small" and basically used only for sleeping and a shower. We spent most of our time out of the water on the upper deck..... 

 ...we quickly adapted to the comforts of the living room...

Plan for the day – Active Journey's: We leave for the magnificent Ha Long Bay after breakfast and drive the 160 km east from Hanoi. (approximately 4 hours).  This is one of the natural wonders of the world and one of Vietnams five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Over three thousand jagged limestone islands emerge from the emerald green waters of Ha Long Bay. 

Most of the islands are clothed in thick green vegetation and singing birds can be heard everywhere.  Secluded sandy coves are everywhere and the warm waters of the bay are ideal for swimming.  Upon arrival at the coast we will transfer to a traditional deluxe junk for a cruse of Ha Long Bay.  Enjoy fresh seafood lunch onboard while the caption heads for the horizon.  There will be time to enjoy some easy kayaking in the afternoon. 

The bicycling had ended in Hue.  We had spent yesterday moving north and touring Hanoi.  Today we head east by bus from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.  Once there we will board a boat that will take us into the rock island complex of Ha Long Bay.  The boat will drop anchor in the Bay and we will then spend the next 3 days touring the area around the boat in kayaks or enjoyong the view from the boat.

Getting started - We planned to take only enough clothes with us on our boat adventure for two days. We had brought backpacks for the purpose of transporting our clothes to the boat.  We packed everything else we had brought, including our bike clothes, helmet, gloves, etc. into our suitcases to be left at the hotel in Hanoi.  We dressed in the "street clothes" we had selected for the day and took our luggage to the desk in the lobby and they were put into for storage.    

We went to the buffett breakfast served in the back of the hotel lobby.  The hotel lobby was a long narrow space which began at the entrance and extended to the stairs at the opposite end passing by the "check in" counter on one side and a couch and the community computers along the opposite wall. The breakfast area began a few feet from the bottom of the stairs. 

At breakfast, it was community seating which means there were two long tables where everyone sat.  We made or selections from the food bar and located a couple of chairs across from one another and sat down.  The tour people who wanted breakfast arrived and found places to sit.  Seperated, we would have to wait for the bus ride to discuss today's adventure.

After breakfast the group gathered in front of the hotel and waited for the bus.  The bus arrived and we boarded.  Without the bikes there were at least a dozen new seats available to set in.  On the bus we that supported us on our South Vietnam adventure we had ridden in the front.  On the bus in North Vietnam we moved to the back to determine the difference.     

Today’s adventure After our group and our two guides had boarded the bus we began our drive to Ha Long Bay.  We would spend about 4 hours on the bus before we would reach the Bay located east of Hanoi.  We quickly learned that our decision to move to the back of the bus had left us out of the group conversation.  Maybe a better selection would be to move to the center.  Maybe only two-thirds of the way back would be a better choice.  Being on the bus for 4 hours on the drive to Ha Long Bay should give me time to enjoy the "boredom abatement kit." 

After we had exited Hanoi, which is always an exciting experience both visually and physically, our guide presented us with the itinerary for the days adventure,  Of course there would be the bus ride followed by our boarding the boat where we would spend the next three days.  But after we boarded the boat we would move into the Bay to location where we would drop anchor and go kayaking. 

 

Water sports are not my thing but in a kayak I had a good chance of staying out of the water so "game on!"  I have also learned that "the unknown" is part of the adventure and a bit of challenging oneself adds to the trip.     

 

We passed through toll roads along the route.  Our guide told us that the money was used to pay for road construction. The same is true in the US.  Building materials were stacked everywhere along the road next to houses. The curbs along the roads were being repaired or in some places being installed.  We had seen new construction and building everywhere we went in Vietnam a sign that the infrastructure of the country was being repaired.  I am an engineer and my wife gets amused by my memory of construction, buildings, road surfaces, etc. that we encounter on our trips.  To me construction illustrates how a country is progressing.  Vietnam was a surprise to me.  They are spending resources to improve the living conditions for their people in the countryside.

 

After we reached the dock in Ha Long Bay we exited our bus with our gear and followed our guide down to the dock.  We were to take a small boat to the larger boat that would be our home for the next 3 days.  The larger boat was anchored out in the Bay. 

 

After a short wait we boarded the small boat and quickly reached and boarded our home.  After we were onboard the boat began our cruse into Ha Long Bay.  The dock area was busy but we quickly reached the the open sea (bay) and headed out into the bay.  The scene was very beautiful.  There were very large rocks that came out of the sea and went hundreds of feet into the air.  I had never seen anything like it before.  It was very beautiful.  

 

The boat itself had a very pleasant upper deck with numerous lounge chairs.  It was a beautiful place to view the Bay from or just relax and read or snooze.  Active Journeys had done it again.  This was going to be very enjoyable.    

 

We reached the area where the boat planned to anchor.  We must have been moving for an hour or more but the scene had made the trip go by quickly.  Once we dropped anchor we were told that all those who wanted to kayak to get ready.  We went to our cabin and put on our "kayacking outfits" and met the others at the launching platform located on the side of the boat.  They had both single and double kayaks.  I went as a double with someone from the group.  My wife went solo.

 

We headed out away from the boat toward one of the large rock formations near by.  The Bay was calm and there were no waves to speak of.  It was possible to move along with little effort.  We were lead by a guide from the boat.  My companion and I followed the others toward our target,  Once at the rocks we found them to be huge.  As we paddled among the rock formations near the boat we found that some had small land areas in places and others were simply rocks that shot skyward.

 

It took us about an hour and a half to visit the rocks located nearest to the location were the boat was anchored.  After a visual investigation of the last one we headed back to the boat.  Once there I found exiting the kayak at the dock at the boat was not trival.  The dock floated in the water beside the boat.  The height of kayak and the dock were the same and i found that the best way for me to exit was to roll from the kayak onto the dock.  It looked a bit akward and my clothes absorbed some of the water from earlier kayak participant exits.  I did not observe what the others did but to have stood up on the kayak and step to the dock would require extremely good balance. 

 

 

Today’s landscape - The terrain around Hanoi was rolling at most and I would say there were no hills to speak of as we exited the city.  After about 30 miles hills began to appear on the horizon. Nothing major to the eye but on a bike they would have been noticed.

 

The hills were very green with heavy growth which I would assume was the result of the heavy rainfall that we had read about on the web before our trip began.  The lush green environment wedrove through outside of Hanoi was a testment to the rainfall as well.  We had experienced heavy rain in Cambodia that had changed the tour days there. 

 

Our first few days at the start of our Vietnam adventure had been wet as well.  But maybe Vietnam is always green and rain is a normal expectation in November.  We had heard that it was raining hard in the south between Hue and Saigon.  This is where we were bicycling just two days before. 

 

The weather was cool not overcast but the ski was not clear.  In Hanoi there was a haze or maybe smog over the city.  I a not sure which but my wife identified it as smog.  I had noticed the smog in Saigon but it appeared to be worse in Hanoi.  Some of the motorcyclist and pedestrians in both cities wore "face masks."  I never asked our guide why and I did not find out the reason for the masks. 

 

There was a lot more paper and trash on the streets in Hanoi.  More than I had noticed in Saigon. The people in the north seemed less friendly than the south.  More smiles in the south and a bit more serious in Hanoi, but we could be getting tired and grumpy ourselves. Maybe we are less friendly!

 

Maybe the tour avoided the poorer parts of Vietnam but I did not see misery in Vietnam. There was very little begging. It looked very much like a population on the move.  I saw poverty in Cambodia and it felt like the country was poor.  

 

Bicycling notes After the bicycling stopped the group struggled to get into the "tourist routine." The troops did not appear to me to be as gung-ho as they had been.  There was even talk of missing the cycling.  

 

Riding on a bus can get tedious.  We learned early on our bus experiences that a strategy was needed to keep oneself from becoming very bored between "entertaining" activities. We had developed a "kit" to make our two hour subway rides in Los Angeles bearable. We called it our "boredom abatement kit." Our "kit" contains Sudoku, crossword puzzles, books, newspapers, etc.  We carry the "kit" on all trips now that envolve flying or buses.  

 

The group we were travelling with in Vietnam was fun to travel with.  There were always lively discussions that one could join. And the people wanted to experience everything.  They would rather participate than watch.  I agree.

 

There is no way to be excited about the countryside looking out the window of a moving vehicle.  It is why I enjoy bicycling through the countryside.  People will stop to talk with you, they are interested in what you are doing, and a climb can be a challenge and wake one up. Every activity along the road can be experienced at bicycle speed.  I believe that ninety-five percent of what is happening in the surroundings are lost when one is in a moving motor vehicle.    

 

Post ride activity - After exiting my kayak I headed off to our room and changed out of my damp "kayak outfit." I headed back upstairs to the top deck to watch the others return and check out where we had been.  Everyone gathered on the top deck and an interesting conversation followed about our first outing on a kayak.  We were interrupted by a call to dinner.    

       

We returned to the dining area to eat.  We sat at a long table that ran the full length of the room.  It was very pleasant and the conversation with the group was very interesting as usual.  Dinner was very good.  There were many choices, lots of fish.  Vietnamese food was better in the north or I was getting more and more into Vietnamese food.

 

After dinner we went to the living room (the upper deck) and sat around reading or talking.  We stayed long enough to get a feel for Ha Long Bay after dark.  We retired to our cabin and I put on my "running suit" and we went to bed.  It had been another "Active Journey" in Vietnam. 

 

return 



 DAY 13 -  November 15 – day on Ha Long Bay

     

 ...the food onboard was quite good or I have become a fan of Viernamese food... 

 ...hard at work before the next kayaking adventure begins....

 ..each of the rocks rising from the ocean floor is an island and they are everywhere...  

Plan for the day – Active Journeys:  After breakfast we transfer to a taxi boat for a full day cruise and kayak.  Following the boat cruise to Man's Head Island and Tortoise Island we paddle to the Cua Van fishing village and explore the the spectular rock formations of Halong Bay.  Enjoy a scrumpious lunch then cruise to unusal Ba Hum Lake, a crater like lagoon in two sections.  The afternoon will be spent at Three Peach Breach a stunning swimming spot.  Return to the junk boat for the night where we have dinner.  There is also an optional night paddle. 

The only thing that I know about todays' adventure is that we will be back in the kayaks.  The remainder of the activites for the day will be a surprise.    

Getting started -A rooster in the kitchen crowed in the morning and woke us up.  Or at least it woke me up.  The first night on the boat had had gone well.   I had  good nights sleep.  There were no wave activity in the Bay during the night to interrupt my sleep.  I have no idea what time it was which is typical on a trip but we got up and dressed for the day.  We assumed we would be paddling around the bay after beakfast and our wardrobe was small so we dressed to kayak and headed for breakfast.     

Breakfast was a "basic" smorgsborg.  There were no omelets and little fruit.   A fried egg placed on each plate, toast piled on a plate which was cold by the time we got to it.  We ran out of jam.  Juice was provided in cartons.  Coffee and tea were provided.   OUr attitude was that we are here to see Halong Bay.  Peanut butter and jelly would be fine we can have the "special" breakfast in LA.  I need coffee however and we had coffee. 

As we consumed our breakfast we engaged in a lively discussion with the group.  We were located in beatiful sourrounding and our first kayak experience had provided us with that feeling that we wanted more on the water activity.   

Today’s adventure - Two tunnels lead into an area completely surrounded by large hills.  The only way in and the only way out is by using the tunnels.  On the way in I could not stay away from the walls of the cave and found out from the guide that that is because the tide is coming in.  As it moves through the cave it pushes the boats to the wall.

To make things worse I could not see the end of the tunnel.  It turned to the left on the way in which meant that I found my self in the dark bouncing off the walls.  To add to the confusion there were rocks sticking down from the ceiling of the cave which made it difficult to select a path through and the tide pushed the Kayak under the tight spots.  My paddle would hit the wall, my kayak would be into the wall and to make things worst there were several of us running into each other.       

 

I cut my hand by pushing against a wall with my hand.  I finally turned the corner and saw the exit and worked my way out of the tunnel into the large lake surrounded by large hills that went straight up.

 

We paddled around the lake and then through a shorter tunnel into an adjoining lake,  the shorter tunnel was much shorter and a bit difficult because I did not understand how to negotiate in a kayak.  We paddled around the second lake and back through the smaller tunnel.  I was getting better navigating through the tunnels.

 

Our guide did not want to chance getting through a third channel because the water had risen because of the tide coming in.  back through the tunnel that had the curve and obstacles.  I had more confidence this time and was determined to succeed.  The guide said the tide would push us through this timw so just keep the kayak in the center or on path and let then tide do the work.  I paddled into the tunnel.  Immediately I was heading toward the wall and would up against another of our fellow travels against the wall.  Then without notice my kayak tipped over and I was in the water.  

 

My vest did not have a strap between my legs so it floated up around my head so I could not see.  We were again in the dark.  A woman in the boat I was holding onto yelled at me to take her hand.  I reached across the back of the capsized kayak and took her hand but she wanted me to take a stronger hold so I moved my hand up her arm and she did the same to me and we held on.

 

We were progressing through the cave being pulled along by the tide.  I was in the front of the kayak holding onto it as we moved toward the mouth of the cave.  Our guide was paddling in front of me and I told Liesa that I should grab onto the back of  his kayak.  It would mean I am being pulled out rather than pushed out plus my shoulder was being twisted in the current configuration.  As we moved toward the exit to the cave I turned to Lisa who was in her kayak near by and told her that I was worried I would loose my crocks.  I did this as a joke but in the situation I am not sure my humor was appreciated. 

 

We got the guide to slow and I grabbed onto back of this kayak for the remainder of the trip out of the cave.  When we exited the cave I asked the guide how I was to get back into the kayak to return to the boat.  He said it was easy.  I would jump up across the back of this kayak and then turn clockwise bringing my leg over the kayak so I would be straddling it again.  I did as he said and it was quite easy.

 

Next I had to move to my kayak for the return trip to the boat.  The kayak was brought along side and I performed a balancing number to get back into the kayak and we were off.  Again it was straightforward.  Having had enough excitement we padded back to the boat and retired to the deck.

Today’s landscape - Ha Long Bay is beautiful. Rock formations pushed skyward out of the green pearl water and climbed hundreds of feet into the air.  The multiple colored rock formations of brown to black coupled with the bright green foliage that grew in places along the rocks produced a beautiful scene. 

We could lounge on the boat deck and be treated to a 360 degree wonderland of color or kayak with our comrades through the caves created by the ocean under the rocks. 

Bicycling notes The weather was perfect.  Clear skis, no wind and the bay was "very" calm.  The temperature allowed us to comfortably be on the deck dressed in our kayaking clothes.  Since I tested the temperature of the Bay by getting "up close and personal" with the water I can also say the water was warm.  There were no insects milling around to haunt the partisipants either.  

The adventure in the Bay made me love my stay on the boat but our room on the boat required patirnce.  The room was small.  The room was for only for sleeping and taking a shower.  One person could move about in the room.  If there were two, one must use the bed to stay out of the way of the other.  My bed had a bow in it which made it a bit difficult to sleep in. 

When we got up the first morning there was a foul smell in the room.   We complained and when our guide came to the room she said our room had to be changed.  There were no extra rooms!  The problem was traced to the kitchen onboard and a pipe to  a bathroom tank. The problem was solved and the smell did not come back for the rest of our stay.  As someone said "I came to visit Ha Long Bay and I can have superior living quarters when I am back home were the main source of entertainment is TV.  now the goal is to stay out of the room and enjoy the wonders of the Bay     

Post ride activity - When we returned to the boat from a kayaking adventure we dropped by our cabin to pick up reading material, change into comfortable clothes as required and retire to the top deck of the boat.  The others in the group usually gathered there as well and we discussed the days adventure, read or fell asleep.  The discussions were always interesting and enjoyable. 

After our second and last kayak adventure of the day in the afternoon we lounged on the upper deck for about an hour before we were called to dinner.  The food was very good on the boat.  Breakfast was a bit disappointing but the rest of the world does not eat what we eat for breakfast but they try to accomodate.  The conversation was lively and interesting and after dinner we again retired to the upper deck to continue our conversation and relax before bed.   I should add the group was kind and did not bring up my "kayak exit adventure" during the relax time on the boat.        

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......scenes from Ha Long Bay.........

     

 

 



 DAY 14 -  November 16 – boat back to Ha Long City, bus to Hanoi 

     

 ...we said goodbye to the scenes on Ha Long Bay on our morning kayakung run...

 ...the only way to describe the views in Ha Long Bay "is fantastic".....

...communicating with the folks in the States from the hotel in Hanoi....

Plan for the day – Active Journey's Description: After breakfast we continue kayaking to further explore Ha Long Bay.  Then we cruise back to Ha Long City passing by Tho Mountain and Chopstick Inlet.  Enjoy the last delicious lunch on board.  Arrive in Ha Long around 12 pm and transfer back to Hanoi.  In the evening we are off to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre for the performance that captures the traditional life of Vietnam.  Enjoy a celebratory dinner in Seasons of Hanoi restaurant.  Overnight in Hanoi. 

The plan for the day is to continue the kayaking around the Bay with the goal of being back on board to leave by noon to return to the port where we had boarded.  From there we would take the tour bus back to Hanoi.  We would be treated to dinner by Active Journey's to discuss our trip and say our goodbye's because our group would start returning to the States or Canada tomorrow.  We would be staying in the same hotel as before in Hanoi for the evening.

Getting started - We got up and put on our clothes for the morning's kayak adventure.  The door of our room opened out onto the eating area which meant that getting to breakfast in the morning was easy.  Breakfast was light I assume because we were to leaving the boat today.  I have no idea.  Since the breakfast served on the boat was not that interesting it made no difference to me. 

During breakfast the group discussed kayaking.  Several of group (8) wanted to kayak. Most of the group were discussing another adventure that would take them through a mountain cave under the rocks as we had done the day before.  I had had my experience with "cave kayaking" and decided that a cruse along the shore was my "cup of tea." 

The boat crew was scheduled to pick up another group at the dock and go back out into the Bay.  They wanted to start back toward the dock after breakfast.  The Active Journey’s people told them that our group wanted to go kayaking once more.  The boat people said ok but they insisted that we be ready to leave by noon!

Today’s adventure The group left for the "mountain with a cave through it."  I headed toward the cliffs for a tour of the near by rock formations.  I rowed my kayak from the boat to the cliffs and then turned and continued in front of them until I had satisfied my need for adventure and turned back toward the boat.  At the boat I rolled out of my kayak onto the floating deck.  Once on deck I continued to the top deck to watch the others return and view Ha Long Bay.   

The "cave dwellers" returned to the boat in a group and boarded but 2 of the group were missing.  We were told that one of the "cave adventure group" wanted to swim back to the boat and one of the kayaks had stayed behind for support.  It was getting close to noon and the decision was made to move the boat toward the swimmer and pick them up from the water.  The boat moved some distance through the Bay and still no swimmer.  

The boat people and our guide were getting anxious.  Finally the swimmer and support kayak were spotted on the horizon.  The boat turned and moved to their location.  As we approached the swimmer was along side the kayak and it was clear they did not recognize the boat as we approached.  We stood on deck calling to them but they continued unconcerned.  Finally they were close enough that they could hear the yelling and after a bit of arm waving recognized us and understood they were to board.  The boat stopped and they swam and paddled to the dock that had been lowered to the water and got onboard.  With all onboard we were off to the port.

The decision by one of the group to swim to the boat was typical of this group of people.  They were always coming up with adventures to try which added to everyone's enjoyment.  I tried to convince them that falling out of my kayak was an overt act to stimulate excitement but no one bought it.     

Lots of good conversation on the way back to the boat dock on the upper deck.  It was a beautiful scene.  When we reached the dock we exited our boat and got back onto the bus.  Soon we were on our way back to Hanoi.  It would be three plus hours of travel to Hanoi.  Being on the bus along the same route for another three hours can be boring.  Thank goodness for our "boredom abatement kit."  The conversations with the tour group helped as well.  This was a very interesting group of people. 

 

The "Tour" was not over.  There were still plans to visit places of interest in Hanoi by bus.  After we arrived at the hotel and checked in we returned to the bus and headed out again.  We went to the museum of “the people who settled Vietnam.” We went through the museum which contained ancient artifacts of Vietnam.  We walked through the grounds of the museum where old buildings of Hanoi had been placed.  A burial house had carving that looked very much "to me" like pornography.  Our guide told us that the carvings represented religious beliefs. Interesting!!!   After the museum we returned to our hotel.

 

Today’s landscape - Ha Long Bay was beautiful and very relaxing to visit in a kayak and cruse through  on a boat while relaxing on a lounge chair on its upper deck.  The trek back to the dock was beautiful. 

 

The bus return to Hanoi was through interesting terrain which could be appreciated more if viewed from a bicycle.  And we had been here before.

 

Soon we would be back in Hanoi were the traffic on the streets was the "scene" one carries with them.  As we stood near the "freeway" in Hanoi waiting for our tour bus that evening a guy walked pass on the freeway driving four cows in front of him in bumper to bumper traffic.  Only in Vietnam!   

 

Bicycling notes The weather continued to support us on our northern visit.  The sun was out all day.  The temperature was very pleasant on the Bay but the water was warm enough for swimming or supporting an exit from one's kayak. 

I did not take notice the congestion returning to Hanoi or on the streets after we returned to the city.  I am becoming so Vietnamese!

Post ride activity - I crashed at the hotel after returning from the museum.  The rest of the group went to shop.  At 4 0’clock, "Vietnamese Time" we were taken to the water puppet show before dinner.  Of course we were late because of a slow assembly of the group and the place was packed.  We sat in the last available seats some distance from the stage. 

 

It was not Hollywood but it was very interesting and well done.  “I understood” puppet shows had a history from earlier times in Vietnam that started in the rice fields, hence “water puppets.”   The show was performed in a pond surrounded by a path which made the stage. The puppets and actors performed in the pond and the performers performed routines along the path alone or with puppets in the water at the same time.  The music was quite good and I had not appreciated the Vietnamese music I had heard up until this performance 

 

Around seven we went to the farewell dinner. We gave our guides a tip.  Active Journey’s presented each couple or single a gift while desert was being served.  I received a bicycle which I love.  I am sure that I received it was because I had provided the best entertainment during the tour by falling out of my kayak.  I am assuming that a kayak ornament could not be found so a bicycle was substituted. 

 

The food we were served at dinner was excellent and we had a caramel goodie for desert.  The conversation with the group was as lively as ever. Afterward we returned to the hotel and said our goodbyes to our crew.  Tomorrow we would be on our own! It had been a great trip.

 

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 DAY 15 -  November 16 - Our extra day to explore Hanoi 

  mingling with the people in Hanoi

 
 

Plan for the day – Active Journey's farewell:  The morning is free for last minute shopping or sightseeing.  In the afternoon we will arrange airport transfers for anyone who needs them.  This is the end of or services, and we will be happy to extend your holiday in Asia.    

Our Active Journey's adventure ended the night before with a great farewell dinner.  Today our "air-miles" adventure began.  We are flying using air-miles.  To avoid a expensive return flight to Saigon or an ugly return schedule to the States (waiting for hours at various airports around Asia) we opted to stay one extra day in Hanoi and only wait 5 hours in Sol Korea the following day on our way home to Los Angeles.   "Day 15" was a free day to explore Hanoi on our own and "Day 16" would be our exit day.   The "free" day would be us making it up as we went.  The flight home day would be totally out of our hands so we would just have to keep calm and hope for the best.     

Getting started - The group is staying in the same hotel we were in before Ha Long Bay.  We are staying one extra night due to air-miles.  We would loose most of our group who were returning to the States and Canada. Many people had other trips planned.  We leave tomorrow at 11 PM which means we have to entertain ourselves for about 24 hours.  But we had found Vietnam to be very interesting and enjoyable and another day should go by quickly. 

We got up and went down to breakfast and joined the others.  Some were leaving immediately after breakfast.  Another couple was to catch a plane for the States at 11PM.  Several others left later in the day for the American continent (US or Canada).  Others were hanging around Hanoi for an extra day as we were.  

Some of the tour group would be continuing their Asian adventure.  One couple was to leave at 8 0’clock on train to explore northern Vietnam.   Others were headed for a post adventure to Thailand.  I was especially impressed with one of our Canadian members who would be staying with a family in North Korea for a while.  That would be quite an adventure.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes and spent some time on the computer in the lobby communicating with the world.  When boredom set in e retreated to our room and prepared for another day of exploring Hanoi.  

Today’s adventure - We decided that we would visit the Museum where Ho Chi Min’s body could be viewed.  We no longer had the luxury of the tour bus so we asked at the desk if they would please call a cab for us and waited in the lobby until it arrived.   A cab ride in Hanoi is exciting.  We were now up close and personal with the traffic and the driver used the Hanoi learning to get through.  And there are no seat belts!

We had asked at the hotel what the fee for the taxi would be and they checked with the driver when he arrived so there would be no misunderstanding when we exited the cab. 

We arrived at the museum, paid our fare and went inside.  Paying the entrance few in a foreign currency is always exciting.  We stood in line waiting for a chance to view the body.  His body was under glass with lighting near his resting place.  His resting place was located on a raised marble platform with an isle running along each side for people to walk by.  

 

After we viewed Ho Chi Min's body we went into the museum.  The museum contains pictures, papers and artifacts that record his leadership before the French were driven out of North Vietnam and then through the American occupation.  We spent about an hour and a half looking and reading before we left.

 

We exited the museum and went shopping.

 

Today’s landscape - Today's landscape was traffic filled streets with pedestrians, motorcycles and automobiles moving together like a well rehearsed ballet.  I was amazed that hundreds did not go to the hospital daily from the streets.  It was amazing to watch.

    

Bicycling notes – I planned my own bike trips in Europe.  But when we began to discuss trips to other parts of the world I was squeamish.  I felt I knew what to expect in Europe.  I was ignorant of what to expect in the rest of the world.  We had signed on with Active Journeys a Canadian tour company for our adventure in Chile.  Vietnam would be our second non-European cycling adventure.  We selected Active Journeys for Vietnam.  It worked out quite well.

I was surprised by the number of young people that I saw though out our trip backpacking.  Many carried very large backpacks which looked like they had everything they owned inside.  After seeing a backpacker at the desk of one of the hotels where we stayed I inquired about the cost.  I learned that the hotel had a “barracks” arrangement in one of the downstairs rooms that opened out onto the lobby which cost 15 dollars a night.  Not a bad way to support a visit to Vietnam.

 

The people in Hanoi were very different from Saigon.  I would say that Hanoi was like New York.  It is very business like.  They were in a hurry.  They do not have a lot of patience with stupidity.  Saigon was like New Orleans.  People were very friendly.  They were looking for a good time.  They appreciated a good joke.  They were interested in what you were doing.

 

There were a few lessons learned on our "exit day" experience.  We took a cab to the airport,  paid the fair and headed into the airport to locate our flight.  We checked in to verify that our tickets were valid and to check our luggage.  We were told that our luggage could not be checked through to LA because we were flying through China and everything had to be checked in a second time when we arrived in China.  During the check-in process in Hanoi the computer the woman was using developed a problem while the luggage tags were being printed.   I did not realize anything was wrong because the computer failure was corrected and I assumed my lugggae was tagged. 

 

We sat down and waited until our flight was called and we were herded onboard and after a short delay we were on our way to Korea.  We arrived in Sol and we checked in again for our flight to Ho Kong.  During check-in we were asked how many bags we had and we told the clerk three.  She said you only have two on record.  We told her about the problem at the airport in Hanoi and she said she would inquire.  After a long wait we were called to the counter and told that only two bags had made it. 

 

We went to the gate were we were to wait for our flight.  I tried to think what had been packed in the missing bag (did I care if it were lost in Asia) and remembered that it had our souvenirs from the trip in it.  I can replace my "cotton" clothes which had not served me well in Vietnam but my souvenirs!  What a bummer!

 

Another side story is our 6 hour wait in Sol.  The gate area was empty when we arrived.  The seats did not have arms between the seats. they were benches, so we lay down and were asleep quickly. I am not sure how long we were out but I awoke to a lot of conversation and looking around the area realized it was packed with people who were standing. The ugly, rude Americans had taken two of the benches away.  I attempted to speak French!

 

We sat up and waited until our flight was called and got on board and flew to China.  At the airport we picked up our bags and my wife suggested that we remain at the luggage carousel and see if by chance our bag had been checked through but the computer bug and been the cause of no message sent along.  We waited until everything had been unloaded and a guy was collecting bags that had not been taken.  Suddenly the missing bag appeared.  I walked over and tried to be unnoticed as I pulled the bag off the carousel because it was untagged and I my Chinese is non-existent and I did not want to alert the guy collecting "left luggage" that my bag was untagged.

 

Post ride activity- We completed our shopping and returned to the hotel.  We located ice cream down the block from the hotel.  I went back to do a little computer while my wife did a bit more shopping near the hotel.  

 

After my wife returned we met up with one of the tour people from the States and went to dinner.  We had looked at a place near the hotel which looked good but had not gone there.  We went to the restaurant, ordered and it was great food.  After the meal our dinner companion pulled me aside and told me that my wife had told her about a piece of jewelry she had looked at in Saigon and was disappointed she had not bought the piece. Did I want her to buy it and I could pay her back when we reached the States?  Was this some sort of female collusion?  I said sure and she made the purchase. 

 

My wife and I returned to the hotel with our tour companion, said goodbye and went to bed.  We had successfully entertained ourselves during our extra day and now it was time to hit the sack and prepare our bodies to fly all over Asia before flying back to the US tomorrow.  We packed our luggage for the trip and went to bed.      

 

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...Vietnam return..bordom abatemant kit in use...comfortable 2 seat combo rear of 747...

     



"car free adventure"