As EBTC members, just returning from cycling in Vietnam, we were asked to submit a short synopsis of our trip. We hope you enjoy it and we encourage other members to submit tales of their adventures!
We started with a short stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia where for 4 days and nights we acclimatized and overcame mild jet lag. The main focus, however, was to tour the extensive Angkor temples including Angkor Wat (see photo), Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raiders was filmed), Bayon, and others.
From there we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where our cycling adventures began. We toured with a company called Spice Roads, who are headquartered in Thailand and suffice it to say we would highly recommend them.
Through small cities and villages, over mountain passes, along country backroads and stunning coastal roads, our group of 11 cyclists (5 Canadians, 3 New Zealanders, 2 Americans and 1 Brit) along with 2 local tour guides explored Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Over 17 days our senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch were tantalized while travelling by bike, bus, plane, overnight train, hovercraft, traditional boats and of course, by foot.
From the beautiful sandy beaches, bright green rice paddies, incredible limestone karst formations and panoramic mountain top views to the many historical sites (Cu Chi tunnels, museums, temples, pagodas, mausoleums), our eyes witnessed the beauty of Vietnam.
Our ears heard Vietnam through the constant horn honking warning of passing scooters/motorcycles/buses/trucks (on the left or the right!!!); the beautiful birds singing in the trees; the children greeting us with a loud and fond “Hello” while they were riding to or from school or from the doorways of their homes; the South China Sea waves crashing on the beaches and the gibbons gently calling in the Primate Rescue Centre.
Our taste buds were enticed by the amazing food in Vietnam – fresh seafood, rice, noodles, soups, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables –(so many types of greens to enjoy) and fresh fruit (pineapple, watermelon, bananas) along with all the flavourings – mint, cilantro, fish sauce, chilies, lemongrass, garlic, onions, peanuts.
Our noses were met with smells that were both enjoyable (street food vendors set up curbside, the saltwater of the South China Sea, fresh rain, fresh baguettes) and not-so-pleasant (fresh fish markets at 7:30 in the morning – typically, not what we land lubbers like to smell in the morning J).
We felt the hot sun on our heads and winter white skin (thankfully protected by sunhats, sunscreen and clothing); the heavy humid air that had us sweating even while at rest; the refreshing cool water (while snorkeling or taking a dip in the ocean or pools); the wind cooling us as we descended for 30 km from the central highlands near Dalat into the tropical coastal area of Nha Trang; and the gritty mud that covered us from head to toe after each of the two days of cycling in the rain in the Cuc Phong National Park area.
We also felt the emotional satisfaction, yes, even exhilaration; you get after completing a challenging day of cycling. Whether the challenge was due to distance, mountain climbs, heat, humidity or route conditions (gravel, dust/dirt, slimy mud mixed with water buffalo splattering, broken tarmac, muddy berms between the rice paddies, etc.), we loved it all!
We are convinced, yet again, that: YOU CAN’T BEAT EXPERIENCING A COUNTRY FROM THE SADDLE! YOU JUST CANNOT!
Submitted by: Sonja and Freeman Taylor
(Proudly wearing our EBTC 35th anniversary and 2014TDA jerseys – en route to the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City).