It was good to be able to get on the bus to skip a section of the day's ride when it was very hot or an uninteresting bit along the tar road.
The back roads through villages and countryside were excellent, very interesting. The guides were all terrific, also the drivers.
Vietnambackroads did a great job returning our luggage that was lost by Malaysian Airlines.
Colin & Joanne Burke,
November 10, 2013
Hi Vietnam Backroads team,
What a great holiday! As a family group, parents in their late 50’s and two kids in late 20’s, this was a great experience for all of us. After 14 days, 10 days on bikes, 650 kilometres of cycling, we weren’t ready for it to end. That is the strongest endorsement you can get.
Vietnam Backroads does an amazing job of providing a varied agenda of sightseeing, boat trips and cycling. The cycling itself is varied and just so much fun that each day was a new treat for all the senses. We traveled dirt paths, narrow cement roads, dikes and irrigation bridges in rice paddies, secondary highways with deep potholes and lovely rolling terrain on smooth new pavement. We traveled through villages, where daily life was happening at our fingertips. Dogs slept in the sun, chickens crossed our path, elderly women cycled along with incredible loads, cows were herded, food and laundry dried as we pedalled past doorsteps. We rode over the straw that was laid out to dry on the road, as did all the other traffic as well. We rode by many weddings, a funeral and a murder trial.
My favourite areas were what I called the HelloHello trail. The kids all ride bikes, adult size, to school. If we went by the kids on their way to or from school, they would call out Hello. As we got strung out, me at the end, I would hear the Hello – Hello – Hello – Hello echoing along the way as school kids called out from their bikes, and younger kids ran towards the road to say Hello. In one town, again with me at the back, I happened to look down a side road to see a 3-year old boy running towards me, but still 50 metres back. I debated stopping and turning around, but it was just one of many roadside vignettes that a person could stop and suddenly be totally off track and way behind. Instead, this little boy and I called back and forth for a good 4 or 5 rounds. Our son, 26 years old and 6’3”, was who he really wanted to see.
Adults engaged as well, some of them obviously thinking that we were crazy – why ride a bike when you are a rich foreigner? When we rode by the older generation, I called out xin chao, hello in Vietnamese. This always raised a smile or a glance and sometimes a hello back. Several times we had motorbikes come up beside us and join our pace, while they and their passengers checked us out. We were on mountain bikes and the villagers were on the gearless regular “old fashioned low tech” bikes, resulting in us moving faster than the local bikes and slower than the motorbikes. Several times some of the pre-teen boys would try to keep up. During one attempt the kid’s two bikes knocked into each other, but balance was maintained and all carried on – lesson learned.
Several days of the trip we did not see any other tourists until we arrived at our hotel. The routes were diverse and through very rural areas, and occasionally in more populated zones. Riding down the center of a busy market with no open pavement visible, was a bit nerve racking, until we were right in the midst of the chaos – then it was fun and energizing. Tackling a busy intersection with a traffic circle was intimidating, but we could see that the locals were aware that we were beginners. The respect shown all other traffic is quite amazing and allows the traffic to flow in magical ways. Our daughter rides in Vancouver and reported feeling safer in Vietnam.
We generally avoid “tours” but I have to say that Mr. Van may change our future travel. Backroads supplies new bikes, with shocks (better than my own bike) breaks every 15 kilometers or so with water, energy drinks, fruit and junk food according to tastes. We tried many different fruits from local markets, custom cut as we waited – all we had to do was eat. Mangos have never tasted this great. After Harry, our guide, found out that we were hooked on banana fritters, he would show up at the snack stop with a bag of fresh fritters. I have never eaten or craved so much great greasy food! We always felt very well cared for.
Breakfasts are all hotel buffets of varying greatness, all far better than any buffet I have ever had included in a Canadian hotel stay. Lunch was sometimes in a tiny local restaurant, and other times in the huge, built for bus tours establishments. We enjoyed the tiny local, and had some great pho soup at one. Another one served up squid, a bit too complete in its anatomy for my squeamish western taste, but again, all part of the experience. Dinners were sometimes included and for the others we tried to find something local. We enjoyed many very good meals. As other folks have noted, you probably won’t be losing weight on this trip! Our guides were always wanting to make sure that we ate enough at lunch on our big kilometre days. When we ordered our own off the menu, they were always encouraging us to add another dish. The “set menus” usually had spring rolls, one squid, one shrimp, one beef, one chicken, one pork, one vegetable dish, rice and sometime dessert. We were then waddling back to the bikes.
Our group of four did not have any others join in, so we ended up truly spoiled. Mr. Van also joined the group to assist Harry with some route changes. Mr. Van is a true guide and host and manages to take on the tasks that make a difference on a trip. Our son brought a GoPro camera; Mr. Van procured the necessary items to attach it to his own helmet, because it worked better with his, and then gave our son his helmet for the duration of the trip. As we were transferring into a town, I mentioned that I needed to try to get a picture of one of the bicycles with the little cooking fires on the side. He spoke to the driver, took my camera, jumped out and ran after the bike crouching down as he did so the fire would show. It is a great picture, all 4 of them, with the bike rider looking back and laughing at crazy Mr. Van.
The van is new and very comfortable and the driver very skilled. I am one of those folks who kind of worries about the drives on holidays, and that was never an issue with our driver. He also orchestrated our cycle breaks and was often the person custom cutting our fruit. He also acted as bike tech, water man and navigator. We were dissuaded from assisting in the morning set up; the guides and driver had a system all figured out. His amazing driving skill really showed itself when we drove into Saigon. We entered a huge intersection, with at least 50 trucks and probably 100 motorcycles and undoubtedly a few bikes. The entire time we traversed the intersection our view was blocked by other vehicles larger than the van. We were flanked on all sides by other vehicles, never more than 6 inches away. I fully expected a crunch or scrape or a full and complete grid lock. Nothing but slow gradual flow. This is driving you have to be born into.
Wondering if it is for you? You do not need to be a cyclist to enjoy this trip. It helps if you love bikes, but the summer before the trip, I was doing a couple of 30 or 40 kilometre days per week. I switched to a stationary bike when fall set in, but seldom did more than 45 minutes. I was able to enjoyably bike 600 kms, stopping a bit short on some of the longer days and skipping a hill that was reported to be 1500 metres and 17 kms. It was actually 1500 feet and 17 kms. That was fine though, I went with the van and was able to enjoy the great downhill glide. Harry and Mr. Van were always keeping track of me, at the back of the line, letting the rest of my family fly ahead as they are want to do. If you do the full distance, I suggest some hill climbing practice. There were plenty of lowest gear hills, some of them long. There was always so much going on and so much to look at and contemplate that the kilometres flew by quickly. I just saw on the Backroads website that Mr. Van has another route mapped out to try – it is tempting!
On top of this the pre-trip emails and question response is not only very prompt but fun and encouraging. No worries! The trip information was great, and the itinerary matched our days very closely. (I have been on trips where this is not the case.)
Dear Ms Hue,
This was a wonderful experience which enabled us to see Vietnam in a way we never could have alone.
Dat was an intelligent, diligent, caring, truly fantastic guide.
Thank you thank you thank you!
Thank you for a fantastic trip. Dat an Cuong looked after us both very well and I feel like I have seen a lot of Vietnam that would not have been accessible to me otherwise.
I will certainly recommend Vietnam Backroads to my friends. Dat has been an excellent host throughout.
Thank you and I hope to come back soon! Nov 1st - 5th, 2013
Mr. Van, I wanted to send a note to tell you how much we enjoyed our Mekong Bike Tour. It exceeded our expectations! Our guide, Thang, was excellent. He really made us feel like we were a local. His knowledge and love for Vietnam is apparent, and he shared so much information with us. This was more than a bike trip, it was a cultural trip though the Mekong Delta that happened to be on bikes. Thang quickly found out that we love food and he made sure we tried everything. We have never had such good food on a trip! Thang also arranged stops along the way to learn about Temples, coconut farming, brick making, rice paper production, coconut palm leaf roofs, water hyacinth weaving and so much more. Cycling Vietnam Tours
Our driver, was also very good. He was prompt and helpful.
Thank you so much!
Kris, RJ and Bella Prescott
Hi Vietnam Backroads Bicycle Tours,
Mr Nghi is an excellent guide. He meets us every day with a smile and was available at all times. He’s an excellent cyclist and always ready for a hard & challenging ride. He was attentive to our needs and accommodating to special requests. Our driver Thao is also a very good driver, very safe and always prompt. He also kept the van very clean and supplied with drinks. The quality of the food choice overall was excellent. Some of our very best meals were arranged by Mr Nghi in small villages for our lunches and gave us a great insight into the culture. If we had any constructive feedback, maybe the van could sometimes be closer on long rides and maybe the guides could be supplied with modem mapping technology like GPS or smart phones, for the most efferent routing and use of time. This is one of the best trip we have ever taken and our first bike tour, and we are extremely happy with experience. We have many wonderful memories and photos. We would highly recommend Vietnam Backroads to our friends. We are already looking forward to our next trip with Vietnam Backroads. 24 Dec 2012 - 04 Jan 2013. Cycling Vietnam Tours