Hello fellow peddlars!
My partner and I are currently cycle touring New Zealand and have met other cyclists on the road here who have toured the Mekong River so we have decided to do the same before we fly home to Canada. We are flying into Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam on August 10 and are heading north through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and China for roughly a month and a half of cycling.
Is anyone else planning on doing some cycling in any of these countries during that time? We'd love to ride with others!
Mainly right now we'd like to establish a basic route cycling on quieter roads as much as possible. Can anyone help us with this? Most of the online route info is pushing us towards guided tours and we'd rather cycle without one. Do people recommend this? How hard is it to find accommodation and food in rural areas? We aren't traveling with a stove or a tent.
Thanks for your help!
Mel & Kim
Hi Mel & Kim - weren't you a famous British pop group a few years ago - now cycling around the world? Riding the Mekong delta is OK if you can get off the main roads along the palm lined back-roads. No problem finding food & accommodation - millions of Vietnamese live there on the abundant fish & rice. I remember reading somewhere that riding on the Thai side of the Mekong is more interesting. Laos is b****y hilly in the north and SW China is just mountainous. You don't need guides / stoves / tents in SEA - as a general rule. Cycling in / out of HCMC is not a problem but you can jump on a bus (with bikes) to get out of the city if necessary. PS I bet you get sick of that Mel & Kim thing??
Hi Richard! We love Mel & Kim and never get sick of people bringing them up with us. In fact we watched one of their videos recently trying to replicate some of their dance moves, ha. Thanks for the tips and encouragement! Are there any guidebooks or backroad maps in particular that you'd recommend? We're really stumped on planning our exact route.
Hi M&K, the Mekong is a pretty long river so a lot of ground to cover, for now some general suggestions;
Maps: in the past we've used Reise "World Mapping Series" maps as they're a reasonable scale (1:600,000) and show the towns / villages but they're not good enough to show back roads. In Saigon / HCMC you can buy a good Vietnam road map book at Fahasa book shop - keep the pages you want and throw / give away the other pages. Also get Maps.me or OSMAnd on your tablet / smartphone.
Routes: Check out crazyguyonabike for journals of other people's trips - there's a lot (maybe too much) of information on that website.
Planning: Look at the big picture first; where are you starting and where do you want to finish? How much time do you have, can you cover the distance in this time? Look at some of the places in between which you might like to visit, don't overplan, if you need to make up time is public transport available, eventually a route will evolve. Some people wing it and others plan each day's ride - do what suits you.
Guides: Google seems to guide the masses nowadays, up to you. Do you want to follow the masses or take the road less travelled by?
Final thought; there's some(?) controversy over damming the Mekong - http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/nov/26/the-mekong-river-stories-from-the-heart-of-the-climate-crisis-interactive - how about making your own story on this?
Wow! Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Richard. The only cycle tour I've done is of New Zealand and it is so completely different than this trip that I was struggling with how best to plan it and your advice is much appreciated!