Friday, October 14, 2011

1-Day Bike Tour of the Mekong Delta (Part 2)

At the My Tho ferry terminal, we boarded a motorized wooden boat to cross the Mekong River (also known as "Song Cuu Long" or River of Nine Dragons).
My folding bike didn't know whether to sit on the chair or behind it. Hehe
That's Ria, Tiger and Floren
The Mekong Delta is vast and wide. It looked 10 times wider than the Pasig River. There are boats of all shapes and sizes that traverse this river. We saw barges carrying containers, fuel and seafood, as well as big ferries with cars and people. The water was brown but did not stink.
The river boat first took us to one of the islands in between My Tho and Ben Tre, Tortoise Island (Con Qui).
Brommie Skywalker getting ready to disembark from the Vietnamese Wooden River Boat.
We had lunch in Du Lich Xanh Con Qui. It's an open air restaurant located on a fish pond, surrounded by waterlilies. I think its a tourist stopover because most of the people I saw eating there were foreigners.
We had a sumptuous Vietnamese lunch (all the food we ate was inclusive in the tour package). We ate fresh spring rolls with fried fish inside. The shrimp was plump and juicy. Then there was fried calamari and crepe with bean sprouts inside. Yum. 
After lunch, Tiger, Floren, Ria and I returned to the river boat and proceeded to Ben Tre, an island province south of My Tho famous for its coconut industry.
Ria calls this photo, "The Wife with the Mistress"
From the pier, we walked to a small factory that makes coconut candy (Keo Dua).
There, we watched the coconut candy production process. We observed how the female workers cut sections of the processed sticky coconut mixture, wrap them in rice paper, and then pack the candies into clear plastic packages. I ate a piece of Keo Dua and it tasted like nougat. They sell their products to passing tourists, the rest they ship abroad.
From the factory, we boarded a horse-drawn carriage (a kalesa with no roof) and rode through Quoi An Village.
When we got off the carriage, Tiger, Floren and Ria walked to a bee-keeping farm (They left their bikes in the motorized boat). I brought along my Brompton, so I biked my way to the farm.
At the bee-keeping farm, we had merienda (again!). We drank honey wine and ate fruits like rambutan, longgan, pineapple and dragon fruit. Seriously, hindi ka magugutom sa bike tour na ito. 
Afterwards, the group boarded a traditional Vietnamese rowboat and we navigated a canal heading for the Mekong River. The ride was serene, peaceful and relaxing. Parang Loboc River Cruise minus the singing cooks and waiters. Ria and I enjoyed this part of the tour.
When we got out to the mouth of the canal, where it joined the river, the group transferred from the rowboat to the bigger motorized boat. The river boat dropped us off at another part of Ben Tre island. Ria stayed with the boat and they returned to the VBT Van in My Tho ferry terminal. (This is another reason why I like Vietnam Bike Tours, they are sensitive to the needs of their customers. Ria was tired of cycling and wanted to rest. No problem! Tiger just called the driver to wait for ria at the My Tho ferry terminal, and I didn't have to worry! Now that's customer service!)
Bye, Hon! See you on the other side!
Tiger led Floren and I to bike the rural roads of Ben Tre. It continued to drizzle throughout the afternoon, but that didn't bother us. The terrain was mostly flat kaya hindi nakakapagod pumadyak. 
Me following Tiger.
And that's Floren behind me.
The bike ride was fun until we reached a muddy portion of a trail. Tiger, I believe, thought the mud was only superficial and for a short distance. But it was really, really muddy. Di nakayanan ng slick tires ng Brompton. At one point I had to walk and carry the bike, for about 300 meters.

Rows of red pepper seedlings
I may look happy here, but I wasn't. Iniisip ko na lang, part of the adventure.
Grabe yung putik. Di na kumakapit yung slick tires ng Brompton.
When we finally got out of the trail and into the cement road, I noticed my shoes and bike were completely covered with mud. I had to ride over puddles just to get rid of some chunks.
After about 40 minutes of biking, we ended the bike tour somewhere on a highway in Ben Tre. Ria was there with the driver at our pit stop.  There was water, Pepsi, Wet Ones and watermelon waiting for us.  Solb!
We covered at distance of 12 kilometers in the afternoon, which brings the total to 40 kilometers for the whole bike tour. Not bad... Not bad at all.
This is the part of the Mekong Delta we crossed.
We cleaned up our bikes, loaded them in the van, and then drove back to Ho Chi Minh City. Got back at our hotel at 6:15pm.
Had to clean up the Brompton before loading it in the VBT Van.
I enjoyed this bike tour. I got to explore a country on a different level. Believe me, magkaiba yung nakikita mo pag nasa loob ka ng tour bus sa nakikita mo kung nakasakay ka ng bisikleta. You get to appreciate the landscape, the people, and the culture and much more. 

It was a bit expensive (paid $71 per person), yes, but it was worth it. The tour guide spoke conversational English. There was a back-up/support van that was always there. The bikes and helmets were decent (not those cheap China-made knock-offs). I didn't have to worry about boat and ferry fees. And food and water were overflowing.

I wish we had something like this in the Philippines. I believe there's a market for this. I asked Tiger who were their customers and he said mostly Europeans and Australians. These bike tourists fly all the way from their country to Vietnam just to bike. Some bike for 2 days, others for 7 days. There's a bike tour from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh that's 14 days. Tiger even mentioned a bike tour he led that lasted for 40 days!

We can do this in the Philippines!  Sure, it's an archipelago, but there's RORO naman. Imagine organizing an "Islands Bike Tour" from Pagudpud in North Luzon all the way down to Davao in Mindanao! Oh my god, I'm sure madaming foreigners ang kakagat niyan. Tapos may stop over sa Sagada at sa Boracay.

And I don't think its capital intensive. Tiger is not a permanent employee of VBT. He's a freelancer. He just gets called when there's a tour. So is the driver and his van. They're just sub-contractors. Bale, ang puhunan mo lang talaga ay yung bikes. We can probably start out by borrowing the bikes from friends.

Anyway, I digress.

This bike tour was really bonding time with the wifey. She does not bike. In fact, prior to this bike tour, she hasn't biked outside our village. So when she agreed to do this with me, and in a foreign country for that matter, I was so happy. Thanks, hon, for humoring me. You're the best! Next time, promise, I'll make sure you have a softer saddle. : ) Happy 3rd Wedding Anniversary! 


  1. congrats on your vietnam trip kris! thank you for taking us with you through your pictures! good job din sa wife mo. from your story, she was such a trooper. till next brompton adventure!

  2. Thanks, John! I look forward to riding with you in Davao!