Chris and Gabs provide their Vietnamese January update, as they continue on their World Cycling Tour in aid of Prevent Breast Cancer
Author: Gabs – February 03 2020
Cycling for… 584 days
Pedaling over… 18,636km
Through… 25 countries
Currently… in Vietnam!
Raising so far… £10, 619.00!
This month we’ve visited
The whole of January we have continued our challenge of cycling the full length of Vietnam following the coastline, and embracing everything Vietnamese. After the New Year, we left Ho Ani and headed to Nha Trang before turning in-land to arrive at Saigon for the Tet holidays. Vietnam’s Lunar New Year started on 25th December and continued for a week, and so all the Vietnamese go home to their villages to be with their families for a week of celebrations.
One of the Vietnamese traditions is to have many yellow and red flowering plants outside their homes, and so weeks before we saw flowers being sold everywhere. There were a lot of unusual flowers and colours. From Saigon we cycled along the Mekong River to Ra Gai where we boarded the ferry to go to Phú Quoc Island, which was our last part of Vietnam before we head back to the mainland Ha Tien.
The most beautiful area has been
Whilst continuing up and over the mountains, along the coast, we had spectacular views of the sea. We love sleeping on the beach under palm trees and swimming in the sea early morning and watching great sunsets in the evening. Another great area was when we were really off the beaten track and cycling along the numerous water ways. Here we passed through hidden Vietnamese villages with many people living alongside the riverbed. We really enjoy being with the locals and crossing each river by a small boat which takes scooters and people a few meters to the other side of the river as there are no bridges. Their houses are built on wooden stilts in the river among the trees and brambles, with many fishing boats bobbing up and down in the water. Their traditional fishing equipment they carry is all locally handmade. We were lucky enough to see three guys building a large boat, all hand carved out of wood with just simple hand tools. Watching people creating things by their own hands is inspiring to watch.
Our most bizarre Vietnamese experience this month
The great thing with travelling by bicycle is that you get to go through many villages and see the many different ways people live – especially how they live so differently to the western world. You would not experience this or see these things if you were travelling by a vehicle. We seem to see bizarre things every day. This month was the lady who had cages and cages of animals – rats, chickens, ducks, snakes and rabbits. I thought it was a pet store at first, but the longer we were there, we realised it was the local butchers! Locals just pull up on their scooters and pick what animal they want and the lady will kill it, skin it and chop it up for them! She puts their product into a plastic carry a bag and off they go on their scooter. One guy picked out six chickens whilst we were there, so the lady just put the chickens into a big pan of boiling water and she pushed them down and put a lid on! Then after a few minutes she then pulled them out and put them half alive in a big steel drum with black rubber spikes in and she then turned the handle which made the drum spin. This spinning took the feathers off the birds. The feathers were spat out of the machine onto the floor. The chickens were then gutted, chopped up and put in the bag and sold. We were there a while as Chris was filming, so we saw many of the animals being sold. As gruesome as it was, it was very interesting as this is the Vietnamese way of life.
The most challenging part
We try and stay off the main road as much as possible here in Vietnam and we head for the quieter local village routes as the drivers here are not the best. They’re very dangerous, especially the scooters. There are more scooters than cars as only the very wealthy have a car. There are no road rules or any Highway Code. It is just a free for all and nobody stops at junctions to look if it is safe to turn or cross, they just carry on motoring. Nobody turns their head to see if it is safe to manoeuvre either. It is like they cannot move their heads. They overtake on any side and even drive up the road the opposite way. It is like the wacky races! You have to be on your guard at all times as you don’t know what the drivers around you are going to do next. As for the traffic lights…well they don’t mean anything!!! We have seen many a scooter under the front of a truck. The drivers speed along just blasting their horns to warn you they are coming and to move out of their way, as they are not going to slow down. Out of the twenty-five countries we have cycled, Vietnam has the craziest roads, and as for trying to cross a road here – that’s a whole new skill!
A special Vietnamese highlight this month
Our special highlights always seem to be meeting interesting people. After leaving Qui Nhon we met two lovely cyclists on route. They were Mike (67) and Jo (65) from Poland. They now live in Vancouver Canada where their children and grandchildren live. We spent three fun days cycling, camping, eating and drinking with them. They had so many stories to share. When Jo retired, they rented their house and decided to go off cycling wherever they wished. They have been on the road for two and a half years, going back and forth to Canada and Poland to visit family. Mike has been road cycling all his life and Jo was a runner and swimmer, so they were both powerful cyclist. Chris had a good few days sprinting and racing along the roads with them. We sadly had to go our separate ways as Mike and Jo only had a thirty-day visa for Vietnam, so they needed to get to the border quickly as their visa was running out. We keep in touch with them and hopefully we will see them somewhere in Thailand or Canada when we make it there.
Next, we are heading to
From Phú Quoc Island we will cycle to the ferry that will take us back to the mainland of Vietnam – a place called Ha Tien, which is only six kilometres from the border of Cambodia. This will be our 26th country and we only have a thirty-day visa for Cambodia, so no messing around. On our way we will have to stop in Phnom Penh to get our visa for Thailand as we will need a three-month visa because we plan to cycle the whole coast of Thailand, all the way down to Malaysia. We have cycled Cambodia before about four years ago so it will be interesting to see any changes and also, we know what a challenging place it is. When we were there last, it had very remote villages, bad dusty roads and limited food until we reached the Capital Phnom Penh. So, my last few days in Vietnam I will be stocking up on food and eating anything western I can find. We are looking forward to revisiting Siem Reap and then getting into Thailand to be back on the coast again as we enjoy cycling by the coast, as it is so easy to camp and go swimming.
Thoughts and feelings
As I am writing this newsletter today February 3rd, my older sister Fiona is at the Wythenshawe Hospital undergoing prevention and reconstruction surgery for breast cancer. Thanks to the money raised and research that Prevent Breast Cancer supports and the opening of The Nightingale Centre, this has given my sister the opportunity to consider having prevention surgery and other options for preventing herself from getting breast cancer. Both my sisters have been attending The Nightingale Centre for many years with ongoing screenings, check-ups, support and prevention answers. After what happened to me, Fiona started to think very seriously about prevention surgery. This was a big decision and I wish her well and a speedy recovery. So, a huge THANK YOU to everyone at Wythenshawe Hospital, The Nightingale Centre and Prevent Breast Cancer. Thank you for all the hard work that you all continue to do.
Remember you can watch all Chris’ wonderful ﬁlms he has made about our adventures on our website.
Read last month’s newsletter here.