Ride day 31: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) to My Tho
19 July 2016
After a few days in Saigon, it’s time to head South once again, and in to the Mekong. A quick breakfast in the hotel, and then time to gather up the excess items we’ve decided to ship home. The ride from the backpacker district in D1 to the grand old Eiffel designed post office is a hectic one at this time in the morning. Navigating safely around the huge central roundabout and then up a few busy side streets before arriving at the cathedral and post office. We manage to find an on pavement motorbike parking area, and squeeze in amongst all the scooters and bikes.
The post office itself is stunning architecture inside and out. Painted maps of Vietnam and a huge portrait of HCM himself decorate the walls. We head to the counter at the end with our bag of stuff, in the hope they will assist with boxing and shipping. Sure enough, a very helpful lady calls us over and has us start to fill out paperwork whilst she packs up the box of stuff. Once packing was complete, we were handed a form and sent to a seperate counter to pay. In total for packaging and shipping from Vietnam to the UK, it cost us 1,100,000VND for 7.4kg in a wine box sized container.
As we head out of the post office, we post our post cards and head for the cathedral for a quick visit. Our timing was impeccable, as at 10:50 a quick visit was all there was time for before the cathedral closed for two hours at 11am.
In need of a refreshing cold drink and a snack in the already super hot and humid morning, we unapologetically head over and in to the McDonald’s located next to the post office. One of only two McDonald’s we have seen in the whole of Vietnam.
Moving the bikes out of the parking (no mean feat with a steady flow of bikes coming in on the 1 metre wide narrow track), pay our 5,000 VND a bike, and then ride back to the hotel to load up.
We set off out of the backpacker area and is narrow streets and on to the main road alongside the river. The road here is very busy with trucks and local bike traffic, and an area you need to pay attention to the constant lane changing and junctions. Red lights are merely a suggestion, as riders weave through the traffic.
As we turned off the QL1 on to the even bigger motorway, a coach driver aggressively beeps his horn and keeps waving at us to turn around. Ignoring his aggression and insistent waving we keep riding down the road behind a local motorbike rider. Then, as a toll gate looms in front of us on this 6 lane highway, it becomes apparent that motorbikes aren’t allowed and the driver was just trying to warn us. After a very sketchy U turn across a motorway, we had to back track 1-2 kilometres to turn in to a small track that ran alongside the main road. After the initial 200 metres or so of potholes, the road smoothed out considerably. It was obvious too that a lot of locals used this both for bikes and trucks to avoid the tolls. As long as the road follows the highway, then we are ok. No sooner had this thought entered my head, than the track ceased, and our options were turn left or right. This was the general course of the next 20 or so kilometres as we kept guessing and navigating by sight as opposed to having a route in mind. This haphazard way of riding did however lead us past some beautiful rural areas off the beaten track.
Around the village of Huyen Ben Luc, our back road guessing got too much, and with rain approaching we opted for plotting a map in to the phones and following it. This route took us on to the TL824 heading south. A decent road with minimal traffic that reconnected us to the far busier (but bike friendly) QL1. Bike friendly only referring to the fact motorbikes are allowed. The road itself was exceptionally busy with huge trucks passing far too close to us. We stopped off for a sugarcane juice at the side of the road, opposite a strange looking house constructed to look like a pile of rocks.
As we set off again, there were a series of major intersections with traffic lights. As we pulled up at one of these we were mobbed by beggar children. Something we have not seen on the entire route through Vietnam before this, and quite a confronting sight. The parents were nearby, encouraging their kids. We ride in and in to My Tho. Having read a few guides and blogs on the area, we knew we wanted to stay near the waterfront so we could arrange a boat tour the following day. We pull up alongside the river with views of houses on stilts and lots of working boats and fishing boats. A quick map check and we head round the corner and 2 km along the front and choose our hotel.
The check in process became one of the most convoluted of the trip to date, as the man in reception insisted we talk to someone on the phone in English. Arrangements made, we hand the phone back, only to find that the other person has hung up. Another quick call and it is all sorted. Also, miraculously, the man now understands and speaks English.
Whilst we are getting settled and showered I notice the sky change colour and darken up. A huge storm hit, so I ran downstairs to get the bikes inside before they are completely drenched.
We let the storm pass by, taking in the views across the Mekong. Then as the sun starts going down we decide to walk to find food. The walk along the water front past the large blue and red fishing boats is awesome. But tonight was even better as it was a huge full moon hanging in the sky.
We make our way past the boats and on to the street we rode in on. We’d seen a large restaurant with table bbq’s and extractor fans, similar to one we’d visited in Hue with Andy and Janice. We stop in here for a great bbq meal, self bbq’ed on the table in front of us, all washed down with Saigon Red beer, whilst the storm once again kicked off around us (leading to all restaurant patrons having to quickly run for cover whilst the roof was pulled closed over us). A great night.
Full days route here: