I wasn’t sure it was necessary, but I feel the need to reflect on my trip before the memory fades too much. Thankfully, I have my blogs and my photos.
When I got back from my Vietnam cycling vacation, I was asked by all the people work with and all of the student who knew I had been on vacation how my trip was. I answered with words like amazing, incredible and fantastic. Since they had seen my somewhat dour and haggard look before the trip, they might not have been ready for my enthusiastic response. The fact remains that it was true.
Before the trip
I had some reservations about taking a group tour. I had been intrigued by the variety of trips in the Exodus Travels catalogue, but I was a little hesitant, I had never done anything like that before. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had taken an ill advised group bus tour to Mount Fuji during Obon about 23 years ago. That had been poor organized and overly ambitious. (We only had time to climb a couple of stages and did not get to stay in a mountain hut.) All I can say about this trip is that it exceeded my expectations on every level.
I shouldn’t have worried about this. While I have met some less than friendly people on my bike, the vast majority of cyclists are like minded people. They are usually friendly, encouraging and down to earth people. My group in Vietnam was exactly that. They were great. In fact, I would go on record as saying that I made some friends that I want to keep for life.
This tour ran like clockwork. During rest breaks, while we were eating the snacks and drinking liquids the water bottles were being refilled and the bikes were being checked. When we came to dangerous intersections, where there were no traffic lights, the crew was out warning traffic of our arrival. When the riding was done the bikes were loaded with care and the bus was prepared for our departure. While we checked into our hotels the bikes were also being maintained and seen to, unnoticed by us.
Our hotels were amazing. I don’t know what they are like on other tours in other countries, but in Vietnam, these 4 star hotels were great. They were welcoming too. When we showed sweaty and covered in road dirt, they handed us drinks and took great care of us.
Wow! It was so beautiful. The colours were vibrant and varied. We cycled through farmland, mountains, urban and rural areas. We cycled with the coast and ventured inland. The fact that every cycling day was sunny and warm was fantastic. I comfortably forgot about the Canadian winter I had left behind. Honestly, with so much to see (and eat) I wish the tour had been about 3 weeks long. By the third or fourth day I was smiling so much that my face hurt.
Vietnamese people were friendly and funny. I never had a negative experience. I did have some aggressive salespeople, but not angry aggressive. They just wanted to make a sale.
The food was awesome, and very affordable. They had a good range of sweet to spicy to savoury. Additionally, I have never eaten so much delicious fruit in my life. I already miss the mangos and the dragon fruit.
The hotel breakfasts were fantastic. They had a nice mix of western and Asian. I had nice omelettes alongside rice porridge, and some delicious yoghurt. And when you talk about breakfast, I have to explain that the coffee was the most delicious coffee I have ever had. I drank more cups than I normally would (especially since I was going to ride a bike) but I didn’t regret it for a minute. In fact, coffee was one of the souvenirs I brought back for myself.
What I would do different next time
First and foremost, I would get my own room. While sharing wasn’t horrible (and would have been good if I had taken someone with me) I didn’t like being on anyone else’s schedule. On a cycling trip, you’ve got to clean your gear and clean yourself and it would have been better if I could do it without worrying that I was taking someone else’s time or soap.
Secondly, I loved my sandals. They were the perfect choice. However, I have since found out that I could get the same sandals with cleats for the bike. That would have been awesome, especially for some of those long climbs.
I should have packed more jerseys and most of my riding kit could use an upgrade. I don’t think I need to wear the full water backpack, but some quick drying shirts, a better helmet would have been welcome additions to those sandals I am now craving.
From a tech perspective, it would have been nice to have a Garmin to map my ride and provide me with lots of interesting stats. Also, blogging on a phone was less than ideal I would probably need to pack a netbook rather than a laptop. Space is at a premium after all. And if were going to venture into the dream budget, a Sony Action Cam would also be pretty awesome to capture some of those views for my readers.
Vietnam is a fantastic place. It took a long time to get there, but it was definitely worth it. Choosing to travel by bike in a group tour was fantastic. I might have had some reservations about the trip before going, but they were quickly swept away. I got to see the country from ground level and that was amazing. Exodus Travels who arranged/booked the tours were great. Most of the people on the trip had already done one or more of the trips and they were back for more. In fact, one of my fellow Vietnam travelers has already booked his next cycling trip in Cambodia through Exodus. Maybe if I can raise the funds, I will join him. I am planning on taking another trip with them this year. I can’t decide between the already mentioned Cambodia, Based on my blog traffic, both reviews and daily blogs about traveling seem to attract a lot of attention.Chile, Iceland, India or hiking with them to Machu Pichu. Only time will tell.