Cycling in Vietnam, crossing the Mekong Delta: Long Xuyen to Ha Tien
I left the hotel by 5:40am before the heat of the day struck. The roads at this time are slightly less busy, but still busy by my standards.
My plan was to leave the city to the northwest, following the river, then head directly west on the main road to Tri Ton, after which I would have a little time off the main road around Vinh Hoa, before riding the final 20km to Ha Tien. It was set to be a big day (my biggest yet), but there was no way of breaking it up, and I was keen to get to the coast anyway.
As I reached the outskirts of Long Xuyen, the sun rose behind me as I past a heavily-laden motorbike carrying palm trees very slowly.
On Google maps, there was a fork in the road at around 18km, both of which were yellow, so I assumed would be of a similar style. I took the left turning towards Tri Ton and the road soon deteriorated into a loose gravel track. Ah, the unpredictability of roads in Vietnam. I thanked my new bike for being so amazing, and carried on, avoiding potholes for a good few miles.
The road improved and I spotted an attractive cafe overlooking the river on the other side of the road so crossed on a rickety bridge.
I was the in-house comedy act for a group of young men who probably took great delight in seeing how sweaty and flustered I was looking.
After an iced coffee and some iced Vietnamese tea, I got back on the road, my hosts laughing with (at) me as I left. I stopped to take photos of some incense sticks drying in the sun.
Feeling a little peckish, I stopped off to buy some bananas from a friendly elderly woman. When I motioned to her to split the large bunch of fruit, she sniggered (I was used to being laughed at by now) and her friends and family joined in. So, after eating four, I left with a week’s worth of bananas.
In Tri Ton, the market was in full flow, with snails and live fish in large bowls.
I stopped for some delicious oranges on the side of the road before pushing on through beautiful rice paddies.
I stopped briefly for a few photos in a bright yellow temple just off the main road.
Workers were returning from adjacent fields with arm fulls of grass and loading them onto their motorbikes.
I stopped in for an egg roll from a guy who refused to take off his helmet, then decided to take a small detour off the D1 main road. I headed along a beautiful back road that was paved, with only the occasional scooter passing by. To my left lay beautiful rice paddies and blue skies.
I had a number of rickety bridges to cross.
Workers in the rice paddies looked up in amusement as I passed by.
The paved section soon came to an end and I had two choices…turn left and continue on for a further four miles on the lumpy bumpy stuff, or retreat to the road. I pulled into a shack for some refreshment to think about it. Over the road I heard children in a large concrete school shouting and screaming to their friends that a sweaty Englishman was sat in the local shop eating several ice creams. A few of them came across to practice their English.
I decided to give the track a shot but it soon became clear that either myself or my bike would not last the remaining few miles, so turned back past the shack (much to the delight of the owners), and got back on the main road.
This was definitely the wise thing to do, although heading north someone had decided to line the track with sand, which made riding quite difficult.
Back on the main road, I knew I just needed to put my head down and pedal. There weren’t many views and it was a hot and long final few kilometres, but I was soon stood overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, where the sea lapped a long crescent-shaped beach.
I had made it, I had crossed the Mekong Delta and reached the sea! I was pretty exhausted by this stage, the sun had been relentless all day and I’d drunk around 8 litres of fluid. The final kilometre up and over the bridge was pretty touch, but the end was in sight, the Ha Tien Restaurant, where a couple of cold beers after 87 miles really soothed the soul.
Once I’d checked into my hotel (with a balcony view!), I ate a decidedly average fish dish overlooking the Song Giang Thanh, as groups of locals drank beer under the glittering fairy lights.