Monday, 5 June 2017

Cycle Saigon to Hanoi with Explore! Day Two & Three The Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta.

EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi. Day 2 and 3 .

For the next two days the group would be taken out of Saigon by bus then cycle to various sights. Today we were taken by an AC bus to the town of Cu Chi, here we met our 'back up' team, this was two local men with a van, in the van was a constant supply of water. The van also held our bikes. I was very please with mine, it was quite new and all in working order. All the bikes had Panniers on them, good for storing the camera and water.  I had brought my own saddle and the team fitted it for me, other riders had brought peddles, saddles and other bits. Once every one was sorted we set off on the 30KM ride to the Cu Chi tunnels. 

Once we had our tickets we had to sit down to a film about the tunnels and the vital part they played  during the Vietnam conflict. The tunnels were dug by locals and had living spaces, kitchens, and even an underwater entrance.
The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

The tour of the complex also included going down the tunnels if you wanted to, they were very small and claustrophobic. But members of the group did go down.

The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam



The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
There were also weapon's and booby traps on display.
The Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
There were displays of the clothes worn by the Viet Congs as well as a man making 'Uncle Hoes Sandals' from old car tyres - as in Africa-. All in all if you could get past the propaganda it was a worthwhile visit.
It was during this visit that Tran Van Hoan first displayed a bit of irritation. When arriving at the tunnels one of the group needed the toilet, or 'Happy Room' as Hoan called it. He was quite dismissive stating the facilities were just inside the gate. This was not true, the toilets were in the middle of the complex so the person who needed them had a rather long and painful wait. Hoan was really quite annoyed about the request.
Next we went down by the river for lunch, this had been pre arranged by the guide - as a set meal- and was not as nice as the street food we had been having; the food was more Chinese that Vietnamese, this was to be the way of lunch for the rest of the tour.  I asked for some extra spring roles but Hoan informed me there was no more! OK !!!!!
Back on the bikes for another 20KM, it was very hot, we cycles through more villages, many growing Black Pepper, it scented the air. The route was allegedly flat, it didn't feel it. We met the bus at a Viet Cong War Grave, sadly it was so hot and we were exhausted we didn't have the energy to walk around the cemetery, but it was very well kept and a very sobering place.



It was good to get back to the Huong Sen Hotel have a swim and a beer on the roof top.
We ate out at The Barbecue Garden Restaurant, a roof top venue where you cooked the food in the centre of the table- good fun- then went down stairs for some Fanny Ice cream!!!

Fanny Ice Cream Saigon
Fanny Ice Cream Saigon
 
Fanny Ice Cream Saigon




We also went to the roof top bar of the Rex Hotel for an expensive cocktail. The Rex Hotel was used for the press briefings during The War.
The next day it was an early start and another bus ride; we kept the same bus and driver all the way to Hoi An, This time it was a drive out to the town of My Tho, from here we cycled through the Mekong Delta. The road was busy, we passed vendors selling Snakes, Eels, Rats Chickens and Ducks all for sale to eat. We had a fresh coconut drink at a place where the road was no longer assessable to cars and hoped the road conditions would improve from this point and our vision of the lush Mekong Delta would start.



While it was a little better and the roads a lot calmer, it really was not the lush rural idyll we had been expecting. We turned off the road and peddled through small winding lanes towards the river. The river frontage was lined with houses and we called in at a pre arranged tourist trap where Hoan talked as we watched Rise Wrappers being made, Coconut Sweets produced and Rice wine infused with snakes being offered as a drink! All the products were for sale and the place was a good fun despite it being an obvious set up for tourists.

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017





EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
We got a bit lost trying to find the location for lunch as a new road had been put in and blocked the way. When we did get to The Mekong Lodge, it was a tranquil place and we had a delightful lunch that included Mekong River fish, it is served to look like its swimming in the reeds.

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017 . Lunch


EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017
After lunch we crossed the river at the location of the Cai Be river market but it was late in the day and I had read that it is not what it was and has faded as few vendors use it now, I think it is a little busier, it was a waste of time really.  

Far more interesting was the next stop at Mr Kiets Ancient Wooden House, a traditional wooden house on the banks of the river. Most tourists were arriving by boat, we were the only group arriving by a land route.


EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017

EXPLORE! The Mekong Delta Cycle tour 2017


The cycle ended at the river in the town of My Tho where we met the bus and drove back to Saigon. We had done 51 KM today and it was flat!


Once again following a quick shower, we went into Saigon to the market for a street food feast.
Saigon Street Food
I had been worrying about the food in Vietnam but the worry was unfounded, all the food we had had so far had been delicious. And the good thing about the cycling was all the food was Sin free as we peddled it off.

Tonight was our last night in Saigon and I was sad to leave its a great place.