Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City with a bicycle

Gulf of Thailand, the end of my Vietnam-trip

I’ll write this summary in English since it might help people outside Finland.

I traveled about 2100 km in 32 days (including resting days). I was a little bit ahead of my schedule so I had time to fly to Phu Quoc, which was the perfect ending for a tough trip. I just laid on the beach for four days.

I have never traveled more than 100 kms with a bike so it was my first long trip. I bike around the year so i had a decent background condition. The heat and the mountains in the south were a bit though for me but I got used to them surprisingly well. All it takes is some planning and and time.

I became a Gate Spotter in Vietnam. Now I have hundreds of pictures with gates which I don’t know what to do with.

I traveled zig zag-style using both Highway One and Ho Chi Minh Highway. There is nothing to see on the Highway one, so after a few days there I tried to avoid it when possible. HCM Highway was much more pleasant though the roadside is not so wide as on HW1. But I had no close calls during my trip and actually after getting used to the dynamics of the traffic I felt a lot safer driving in Vietnam than in Finland.

Biking the country was fun but a little bit boring in the end. I was hoping to meet some locals, which I of course did, but their English skills are not so fluent, so decent conversations were very rare in the countryside. It made me feel sometimes a bit lonely: all the people around me and I just couldn’t get to speak to them. In the end I had most fun in the cities when I could talk to somebody, usually other travelers.

I met only three people on the road doing the same thing as me. And one in Ho Chi Minh City accidentally. So it is not very popular thing. Usually I was the only guest in the guesthouses along the road.

Everything is cheap. The Banh Mi, vegetable and egg filled bread was 0,40-1 euros, Pho soup with a drink 1,50-2. Cheapest guesthouse rooms were 4 euros including hot water. Of course it is a bit more expensive in the cities but one must work hard to get bankrupt in Vietnam.

Ready to go back to Helsinki! I just need some cardboard to wrap it in…

My bike weighted for about 10 kgs. And with the luggage it would hit about 20 kgs. I had some stuff i could have lived without, e.g. my own flip-flops – no use, every hotel has their own to offer. Here’s what i had on the trip:

  • 2 panniers
  • 1 small bag on top of the trunk for fast removal (i had my valuables there)
  • 4 set of underwear, including 2 sport shirts
  • lockpedal shoes
  • normal shoes
  • biking shorts
  • normal shorts (light)
  • long pants (i ditched them in the halfway)
  • a sweater
  • a nice shirt
  • a swimming shorts
  • a travel towel
  • rain coat
  • biking gloves
  • helmet
  • first aid kit
  • small repair kit: a 2-piece bike tool, a patching kit, cable ties, tape, oil
  • u-lock with a wire cable
  • lights in front and back
  • 2 small usb-backup-batteries and a charger
  • a small sound recorder
  • two books

Lock pedals are a must. They help so much in the mountain area. I had my cyclocross 32mm tires but if I would have known that the roads were in that excellent condition, I would have brought my 28mm road tires. There was literally only one 100m part of gravel in the whole 2100 km trip!

My lock was way too sturdy. Only a wire cable-lock would’ve been enough. I think they don’t care that much for the bicycles because they think that only poor people use bicycles.

I had no maps, only a GPS on my mobile phone. I bought the local sim with unlimited data for 3 euros per month (!) so I only needed to preload the maps in the mountain area where the reception is not good.  The data connection worked amazingly well! I used mainly these apps in my Motorola Moto 3G (Android):

I compared the routes between Google Maps and Maps.me but in the end I only used google maps since it seemed to be a little bit more accurate. I noticed at some point that it even shows the guest houses when you put ”Nha Nghi” in the search field. This helped a lot the planning. I also figured out that elevation planning was very crucial in the mountain area!

My daily routine was something like:

  • wakeup at 6h00 or 7h00
  • breakfast, usually Banh mi -bread and coffee
  • biking with small breaks every 1-1,5 hour
  • 12h00 lunch, usually a Pho-soup
  • biking with small breaks until destination
  • check in guesthouse
  • wash clothes and hope they dry
  • dinner, whatever-you-can-find-and-dare-to-try
  • books, meditation, videos, blog writing etc.
  • 10h00 sleep

I think my average speed was something like 15-18km per hour. Sometimes i hit over 20 but that was pretty rough considering the luggage.

The nutrition was a bit of a problem. The food hardly covered the energy loss i had and I lost some kilos on the way. I had to even buy a belt for my pants. 🙂 There wasn’t so much mineral water around so it was mainly plain water and sometimes coke or a red bull. At first I bought my own bottles of water but after a while I used the refill tanks the local people have because it was the same water. More ecological and cheaper. I didn’t drink any water that i didn’t know where it came from but the tea was exception because the water is boiled.

I had a great trip through the country and I met some great people along the way! . I would probably do it different way now and skip some of the boring parts in the north and middle and also the part Da Lat – Ho Chi Minh. All in all I think Vietnam is a beautiful country with the friendliest people I have met.

If you have questions about the trip feel free to contact me in viljami døt sakarias ät gmail.com!

After 2100kms this felt pretty nice. Photo by Paul Flanders.


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