Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cycling in Vietnam

By Mike Spradbery

Travelling by bicycle has to be one of the most interesting and rewarding ways to see any country - and Vietnam is certainly no exception. There is something for everyone, from rugged mountain biking in the Northern mountains to much gentler touring through the Mekong flood plains in the South. And to see as much of the country as possible, the inevitable ride along Route 1 (which runs the length of the country between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh) will take you on the most varied journey through a diverse country.

Biking Vietnam
GETTING THERE
I flew to Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines. If you are lucky they may decide to let your bike fly free, however, be prepared to pay up to $100 if they decide to weigh it and charge you for excess baggage. Whether or not you box your bike is a matter of personal preference, at the very least you will need to deflate the tyres, remove the pedals and twist the handlebars parallel to the bike frame.

If you are planning on cycling into Vietnam from a neighboring country, you can enter via any of the standard land border crossings.

Biking Vietnam
WHAT TO TAKE
Cycling in Vietnam is very safe, however, it is strongly recommended that you wear a helmet. Roads can be busy and you will not necessarily have the rights of way that you are used to. As a general rule, the largest vehicle has right of way - this is very unlikely to be you! It is also recommended that you take a comprehensive first aid kit in-case of an unexpected dismounting.

Think about what the weather is likely to be doing when you travel and take suitable clothes. Pack some good sun cream as it is very easy to get badly sunburned if you are cycling through the hottest part of the day. Also make sure you carry plenty of drinking water with you as it can be difficult to buy between towns. If the weather is very dry it can become quite dusty, so sunglasses or cycling shades are a good idea.

Biking Vietnam

WHAT TO EXPECT
Expect to have a brilliant, if sometimes difficult, time. There are times when roads are dusty, noisy and congested; times when it's hard to find good food; times when the locals seem intimidating; times when it is hot, humid and you are cycling up hill.

Remember that the sight of a foreigner, let alone a foreigner on a bike, is unusual in the smaller villages in Vietnam. Locals are often inquisitive and may well gather round you to squeeze your brake levers, hold your handle-grips, touch your tyres or simply stare.  

Be careful of people riding alongside you on their bikes or mopeds. Having someone trying to practice their English whilst riding two or three abreast on a busy road can be a bit hair-raising. Large groups of school children can be even more dangerous - you can outrun them (on their one-speed bikes) at about 30 km/h, but they love the chase! Occasionally you may even get young kids throwing stones or people extending a hand into your path as you cycle by.

Be careful of the road surface. While roads are generally fine, potholes or rocks can be hard to see, especially if the locals are drying their crops on the sides of the road.

BIKE AT NIGHT
Security can be a problem if you have an expensive bike, so take good locks. Generally though, hotels will let you take your bike into your room at night at no extra cost.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend West to East Biking Exploration tour.Our unique biking trip in northern Vietnam takes place against a backdrop of endless lush green paddy fields and irregular tree-covered limestone mountains. Providing a fleeting insight into the traditional lives, friendly tribes and exotic landscapes of north-west and north-east Vietnam, our trip also delivers surprisingly good riding across the mountainous area of northern Vietnam. There are technical sections, easy hills, huge flowing descents and some glorious singletracks.

Highlights: 
  • Colorful tribes
  • Stunning scenery
  • Glorious single tracks of Sapa and Bac Ha
  • Homestay among friendly tribesmen

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