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Bicycling in Vietnam

by Marko Matilainen (Sweden)


This was the third day on my bike trip in Vietnam. Barbara (at Barbara’s Kiwi Connection in Quy Nhon, the Guest House where I had stayed for two nights.) had given me instructions how to go on a scenic route along the coast.

In Nha Trang
In Nha Trang

I started before the sunrise and biked away. I like to ride in the morning, I always thought that there’s something special about a town when it wakes up. I like the sunrise, the light in the wee hours and it’s cooler.

The road was fantastic. It was very little traffic, NO buses or trucks, the scenery was the most beautiful I’ve seen so far in Vietnam. Along the road I had the ocean on my right hand side and there was a nice and cool breeze.

Around lunch time (I don’t know what time it was, I don’t wear a watch, but my stomach started to rumble) I looked for a place where I could have a meal but there were no places to find. Finally I saw a place with tables that were set for lunch and I pulled in. The people didn’t speak any English and my sign language obviously wasn’t doing as they all shaked their hands in the air, which means “I don’t understand”!

Vietnam countryside

Finally I brought up my guide book and found the word for ‘Restaurant’, “aaaahhhhh, ok come in!” They showed me to the men’s section and told me to sit down. Tea was served and a glass of alcohol. I don’t drink alcohol and politely I managed to steer away from that!

Suddenly the men stood up and waived to me to follow them to the table. There we were served a fantastic lunch with several dishes.

The lunch was great and after the food we went back to the table and had more tea (and alcohol). When I said that I had to move on they all thought I was an idiot, it was to hot and it was better for me to stay with them and drink. But I got back on my bike and cycled away with a big smile on my face. This is something you only hear others experience and now it happened to me! When I tried to pay everyone said “no, no” and wouldn’t take my money! This was a taste of Asian hospitality, I am so fortunate!

Who am I? In a non philosophical sense I am a Swedish man at the age of 46 and I’m on a slow trip (I try to limit the flights) around the world. I’ve been on the road for 10 months and for a good week on a bicycle.

vietnam streetsceneIn Lahore I met three great Americans who had cycled through China and Pakistan. When I heard about their story I was inspired and it dawned on me that I also should cycle.

The first idea was to buy a bicycle when I arrive in the U.S., but during the trip I altered the plan and bought my bicycle in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).

During my research about cycling I came across this web site and Peter’s been a very good support and source of information, thanks again Peter.

I have planned to cycle in Vietnam for a couple of weeks. I have no illusion that I’ll manage to cycle through the whole country, so I won’t even try!

I need to go easy in the beginning before my muscles have built up and the pain in my rear end had disappeared! So I went by bus to Nha Trang and biked from there. One day I finished the last bit in a bus since my legs were a bit sore. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, I’m doing this to enjoy myself.

After Vietnam I’ll cycle a small portion in China before I’ll go to Taiwan. Then I’ll go back to China and then to Korea.

On April 26 I’ll depart Busan (Pusan) in southern South Korea on the Container Freighter M/V Hanjin Madrid (Maris Freighter Cruises and Freighter Travel Club Int'l. http://www.freightercruises.com) and 12 days later I’ll arrive in Long Beach (Los Angeles), California, USA.

Then the plan is to cycle up along the coast to Oregon, where I’ll turn right and head east across the USA and Canada. I have no idea how long time the U.S. part of the trip will take, but I expect it to be around three months.

I wish you all a great time.

Have a good one//M.
Marko Matilainen,
A Swedish man going home, on a bicycle.)

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