Mekong Delta Bicycle Tour

Trip Start Feb 18, 2009
Trip End Aug 10, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Sunday morning I went to SinhBalo Travel (which specializes in adventure travel) to begin my four day bicycle tour of the Mekong Delta ( Our group consisted of seven of us (Steve and Grace from Tazmania, Chris and Michelle from Australia, Fiona from Dublin/London and Laurie from New York). Our guide was Tao. We road the bus for a couple hours watching traffic and city life turn into rural life... the highlight was a HUGE pig being carted off... possibly to market??? We arrived in MyTho where we took a small boat along the Mekong to a tiny island. We trekked into the jungle where we found this beautiful house... a little oasis... where we were served tea with honey, crispy rice wafers and an abundance of fresh fruit (green berries, lychee berries, dragon fruit, pineapple, watermelon and pomelo). We left the oasis and trekked to a small canal where three small boats were waiting to take us on a tour through the canals. At lunch we stopped at a restaurant where we enjoyed some beautiful fresh fish. Near the restaurant we saw some crocodiles and a coconut candy factory. We took the boat back to the bus at MyTho, drove for a while and then hopped on the bikes. We started on a small paved road surrounded with lush green rice fields. We passed cows, ducks, and many people walking. There were motorbikes on the road, a few cars and many local people on bicycles. Local children would always stop and smile and say hello. We stopped at a 'monkey bridge' that a few people tried to cross (I did try but did not get very far at all!). And I finally saw a banana flower... it's hard to appreciate their beauty as they are most unusual but I have a very soft spot for them. We turned off the road and travelled down a narrow gravel path along a small canal. Often when passing houses we'd hear 'hello' from small voices within the home or yard and children would trample out to the path and wave at those behind those in the front. That evening we took a boat to CaiBe Island where we spent the night at a homestay. We slept on army-type cots covered in mosquito nets... the three of us ladies in one 'room' (which was really just a curtain enclosure) and the two couples in two other 'rooms'. That night we went to bed quite early (9pm-ish) and shortly after we had settled in I witnessed something incredible. My first fireflies!!! I was SO excited! There were about three that slowly lit up one at a time and then flew around the room... one landing on the top of my mosquito net! The three of us giggled like schoolgirls!!

The following morning (27 April 09) after breakfast we cycled around the island... I fell in love with it and decided I wanted to move there and become a recluse... or maybe a famous author or artist! The island was lovely... simple and friendly. After our ride we took a large ferry to VinhLong. We cycled along a road to the outskirts of CanTho and got rained on... it was very refreshing! We stopped just outside CanTho for a great lunch (fish, wontons, pork ribs, noodles/veggies, rice, etc.). After travelling by bus into CanTho we settled into our hotel and had a bit of time to look around. I wandered down to the central market and explored the stalls. Supper that evening was at a restaurant by the river... I thoroughly enjoyed a dark beer that is hard to find in Vietnam and was such a nice change!

On Tuesday we were all awoken very early (4 or 5am) by a marching band procession on the street in front of the hotel! After breakfast we got on a boat and visited the Cai Rang Floating Market. It was different that the other floating markets I had seen... the canal was larger and the boats were much bigger. There were piles and piles of watermelon and pineapple... both of which we enjoyed on our boat. The item for sale on the boat is indicated by hanging one (ie. a pineapple) off of the pole at the front of the boat. I loved the weigh scales sitting on top of the piles and the small shrines just inside the cabin at the front of the boat where smoke from insense would faintly billow. We left the large canal and travelled down a smaller one passing homes with people going about their daily routines. After docking, we got on the bikes and happily road for a good part of the day. The terrain kept changing... from small trails in a 'jungle-like' setting to small roads along a canal that then changed to rice fields with mountains in the distance. On the approach to Chau Doc I noticed a change in the economic status as well... the homes were more ramshackle, the children not as well dressed or as clean and the people smiled less... evidence of a harder struggle for existance... and evidence that we were now at the border of Cambodia.

We had such an incredible day and some of my favorite moments were:
* the three little girls that were dropped off at the 'bus stop'... the 'bus' just happened to be a boat!
* Tao telling jokes on the bus.
* the little girl who was SO excited to see us that she was jumping up and down!
* the looks that Laurie got... people would stop and stare unmercilessly at her dreadlocks!
* the nun who proudly took off her headscarf and let us take her photo of her nearly bald head.
* the wonderful fellow cyclists I met on the tour... whom I hope to keep in touch with... we've even planned a reuion tour!
* the many, many 'hellos' we got from the children as we passed by and how we felt like celebrites. As one of us would pass in our bright yellow shirt, kids would come out to the street to greet the rest of us with smiles and hand slaps. The women would stand along the side of the road with one child on their hip, the other at their side waving frantically. And the children that would gather around us everytime we stopped to take a break and beg to have their photo taken. 'Hello' will never sound as sweet as it did on that day.
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