Early morning boat trip to Cai Rang floating market & cruise in natural waterways before turning up a quiet canal and mounting our bikes along small canals and in countryside road, enjoying the beautiful Delta scenery and meeting the locals (many on bicycle too). We have lunch on the way at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, we continue and finish cycling near Long Xuyen. The private van will transfer you from Long Xuyen to Chau Doc. Dinner and overnight in Nui Sam Lodge
Cycling distance: 85km
Boat trip: 1 hr
I nearly had a complete night sleep but having left my phone on silent it started buzzing at 3:30am. I thought it was the alarm but when I got up to switch it off I realised it was a phone call from someone I didn’t recognise.
I still wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up and think the sun and heat yesterday really got to me. I thought I had been drinking enough but will do my best to drink more today. I will also get something to cover my head and neck under my helmet. (I asked Thai if I could buy anything near here but he had something on the coach like a tube of material to put over my head and it flaps down my neck too. Perfect!)
Our hotel was right on the river front of one of the Mekong’s tributaries and only a short walk through the hotel grounds to the jetty where we got on a small boat (a sampan) to take us along the river to see the floating market.
The riverside was as fascinating as the roadside. People’s homes and businesses lined the riverbank, with the sophistication of construction ranging from regular buildings to a few sticks supporting a makeshift roof. Some live on their boats.
The market was a wholesale fruit and vegetable market and not one where locals would buy anything. It was fascinating to see the different types of boats and their produce stacked up on the decks. Some smaller boats were supplying locals and tourists with drinks, coffee and even breakfast. The way to steer the smaller boat seem to be done by putting the steering mechanism between their legs but still steering the same mechanism with their hand, which seems rather odd to us but the locals looked like they were enjoying it!
We pulled up alongside a pineapple market-boat and went on board to have a look. We all had some fresh pineapple which was absolutely delicious.
After floating around the boats for a little bit more we eventually docked and walked through a riverside shop where our bikes were ready and waiting for us.
Today we were mainly cycling along canals and river fronts. In a way it was very similar to the previous few days, cycling along a variety of roads and paths of various widths and surfaces. Again, there were more bridges to ride over, many with overhanging leaves and trees to avoid and the constant flow of cycles and scooters to avoid.
We pass by lots of young children playing in their homes and a constant calling out of “hello, hello” and waving from the cute Vietnamese kids. It would be rude not to say hello and wave back but this happens so frequently that even though it is very nice ,it does get a bit wearing. I think I have become somewhat expert at waving whilst avoiding potholes, people and vehicles!
The younger kids and teenagers seem to wear a lot of football shirts and shorts, except when they go to school where they have to wear uniform. At one of our stops three kids of about 10 to 12 years old came to check us and our bikes out and were generally being inquisitive. Each of them had a football shirt on and when Richard P started to explain to the kids the teams were rubbish, Thai informed us that the kids had no idea what the shirts were about as they did not really get involved in football and the teams until they were in their mid-teenage years. That seems a bit strange because there are just so many football shirts around. It was quite funny that at one stage today small kids in orange football shirts seem to be appearing every few hundred metres and we wondered how the same kid managed to keep getting ahead of us.
I have been asked to say a bit more about each of us and how we are getting on. Well there isn’t really much to say because we are all generally doing very well. The cycling is well within our abilities and even though we were worried about fitness levels before we came out that doesn’t really seem to be an issue. The land here is really very, very flat and the only time we go up any kind of hill is when we cycle over a bridge. That said, we have all noticed that even when we are on a nice stretch of road and can get into a good cycling rhythm, we don’t cover as much ground as on a road bike. This is due to the fact that we are using mountain bikes which require more energy input for the same speed output as a road bike. On road bikes we would average around 15 mph and frequently more. But because of the combination of the bikes and types of roads we have been cycling on, we are only averaging about 10 or 11 mph. It seems that we are putting in similar effort to do that as we would on road bikes, except for the hills.
As I said above the hardest thing to cope with is the heat. We are being supplied with as much water and snacks as we need and are stopping every 45 minutes or so or whenever any of us feel like we need to. The heat of the sun is really quite extreme (forgive me for the repetition, but it just is!!!) and sometimes feels like you can’t get away from it or get any respite. Fortunately today it clouded over after lunch and made the last part of the ride all that more enjoyable. There have been times the last few days we wish there would be a downpour like on the first day, just to cool us down a bit.
Generally I have been feeling like I have enough energy but as always on these rides there are times when legs feel pretty empty and everything becomes a big effort. That certainly was the case for me first thing today but after half an hour or so I was feeling a lot more energised. I have had a few energy tablets today and a gel which I find helps to get through the dips easier.
We are all finding that our hands are a little bit sore because the handlebar set up on these bikes is different to the road bike. We are just holding them in one position and it’s difficult to get comfortable sometimes.
As for the rest of the team here is a quick rundown.
David seems to be fine.
Richard R is suffering with a bit of a cough, bad back, bad shoulder and recovering from a hamstring injury, but he doesn’t complain about anything, ever!
Kate. Honestly, I am dictating this into my iPad and said Keith, but it put in Kate. Honest!!! (I’ve just recovered from a good few minutes laughing about this , it is completely true and so very funny). If you’re not sure why this is quite so funny please refer to the Day 1 blog where Thai, our guide, met us at the airport.
Keith, hurray it got it right this time, is also doing very well and doesn’t seem to have any major problems.
Richard P is generally okay but suffering a few bruises from when he came off on the slippery path yesterday. He has a bruised hand possibly from that but also possibly from the handlebars.
Alan had a little bit of a painful knee today and we stopped to get some ice for it and that seemed to do the trick for the rest of the day.
There have been a variety of discussions about sore backsides and the use of various creams both before and after cycling, but this is all quite normal. There are probably various other aches and pains but we are all such heroic soldiers that no-one makes much fuss!! Actually the point is there is no point in making any fuss whatsoever, because no one gives you any sympathy and everyone just takes the mickey if you do!
Anyway today we saw some amazing scenery once again. There was some enormous paddy fields stretching as far as one could see and in a variety of stages of being dry, flooded and newly seeded to being ready for harvest. We saw some motorised ploughing of the fields but most of the planting is still manual . There are quite a few workers in the fields up to their waists in mud waiting around and working at whatever needed doing. All of the rivers, both large and small, that we went along were busy with boats of all shapes and sizes chugging along and the river banks, which, as I have said before, were always full on both sides with houses and people working.
I forgot to mention that another hazard on the paths and roads as we ride along is that outside the houses along the way, the residents put wood of various shapes and sizes out to dry. As the area outside their front door is actually the road we also have to negotiate our way around those too. It’s not only wood they put out, but sometimes an area of crops such as rice laid out on a mat to dry or anything else that the household may be producing.
Some of the major roads we were on today have only been built 12 years ago and some of the concrete paths going through the riverside villages have only been built for four years. The change these roads must’ve brought to the communities is immense, and it is amazing that development has only happened relatively recently. But that is a large part of this country and its recent development.
We have now finished cycling in Vietnam and transfer by boat to Cambodia tomorrow. It is an early start as we have to leave the hotel by 6:30am and be on the ferry by 7am. We have said goodbye to the cycling team over here who were all very good. Thanks to our guides Thai and Viet plus the two drivers who were both strangely called Mr Long! The whole trip so far has been very well organised and I can’t think of anything I would’ve changed.
I do have some more facts and details to add but will hopefully do so tomorrow which is a shorter cycling day and so hopefully I will have more time in the evening to do this. It is now 11pm and once I get to sleep I hope to go all the way through to 5.30am.
I’m pleased to report that I have worked out the air-conditioning in this room and it seems to be a good temperature rather than like a fridge. Yesterday I broke the habit of a life-time and asked someone for some help to sort out the air-conditioning system in my room which had been so frustrating.
Fortunately, so far we haven’t come across many mosquitoes but there seem to be quite a few in this hotel. It may be a bit of a giveaway that there is a mosquito net around the bed and I hope the mixture of that and covering myself with anti-mosquito spray will keep them at bay.
Stats to follow.
Good night all.
Thank you Alan for allowing the blog editor to add these excerpts.
(*) Excerpts from Alan’s blog.
I asked Thai to re calibrate my speedo as yesterday it reported that I’d ridden 62.6 miles instead of the 53 we’d actually ridden. He duly obliged and I’m pleased to report it no longer works at all!! It’s almost as if I’d “fixed” it myself.
I made do initially with calculating my mileage based on our average speed for the last few days but due to the heat, we were stopping regularly for water and energy snacks and I lost count ……..so I resorted to pestering Neil who’s phone has a GPS tracker. Mine has Sky Sports!