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 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.
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
- 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!