Tour de Vietnam


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2009 Cycling Trip (Coastal Lowlands and Central Highlands)

November 16, 2009.  “Xe Dap Xuyen Viet” 2009 bike ride kickstarted with three members (Minh, Persephone, Anh) and a tour guide (Pham Ngoc Hiep).  Two other members (Ham Nguyen, Tan Dinh) started at later legs due to visa problems that delayed them from getting into Vietnam on time for the ride.  Ham joined the bike group on the second leg, Ba Ria-La Gi, and Tan joined on the fourth leg (Hon Rom-Lien Huong).  Bikes used on this ride include one road bike, four touring bike, and one motor bike.

This year’s bike ride explored the vast sea coast region east of Saigon and the mountainous region of Vietnam’s Central Highlands.  Though the area is vast and hilly, a successful ride is one that focused on safety first.  Starting from the very first moment of the ride at Thu Thiem ferry crossing in Saigon to the end of the ride at Binh Phuoc intersection in Saigon, we are constantly mindful and attentive to the dangers on the road.  Roads that are being fixed and/or covered with gravels, we find ourselves pushing the bike rather than riding through and risk falling.  In wind laden conditions that forces us to pedal and fight against strong head winds, we are constantly keeping an eye on the road and making sure we don’t inadvertently venture too far from the curb or into the middle of the road.  Riding after sunset, we follow behind those in front with headlights to prevent head on collisions with on-coming motorists that might not be able to see us through the dark.  This 2009 ride would not have been successful if we did not kept safety in mind first.

Aside from safety, a major part of this year’s bike ride success was that we did not ran into any major bicycle problems, such as broken spokes and/or warped rims while on the road.  From past experience, we have learned that “touring bikes” are the best types of bike for traveling on roads in Vietnam.  They are built to withstand heavy pannier loads and their large rugged tires can outlast the poor road conditions, especially when riding long distances on roads in Vietnam.  Most members used touring bikes in this 2009 bike ride.

Without a doubt, this year’s bike ride biggest challenge is riding against the prevailing head wind along the coast of Vietnam.  In a decade of bike touring Vietnam, we have yet encountered head winds of the magnitude found along this stretch of coast in Vietnam.  Here, the wind is so strong that it slows our pace down to a mere 4-7 miles per hour.  At times, in extreme conditions, the wind pushes a bike off the road into a ditch or into the middle of the road facing head on traffic.  Riding in this condition is haphazard and dangerous if you are not constantly alert.  It also makes one easily tired and worn out.  To compensate, we ended up taking more breaks, riding closer together, and eating more to build up energy.  We also rode shorter distances through this wind laden stretch of coast.

Be careful of maps and advice from motorists in regions that are not known for bike travelling in Vietnam.   On this ride, most of us have little experience and understanding of the towns and roads that we have to cross, especially in the mountain areas.  Although, we researched the area as best we could before the ride, there are a lot of uncertainties in the maps and in the information given by people.  In once instance, we understood from maps that the distance to the next town is within a day’s riding distance.  Half way there, we encountered sunset and ended up staying at a town half way from our planned end point.  It turns out the town is twice the distance given on the map.  Also, what is experience on a motor vehicle is very different on a bicycle.  Many times, motorists and locals would tell us the stretch of the road is not mountainous and long, only to find just the opposite, that the road when biking through it is indeed steep and long.  Be careful when researching data for travelling on mountainous roads in Vietnam.

Overall, Xuyen Viet 2009 was an indelible experience.  The information mentioned above is given to share our experience on this stretch of roads along the seacoast east of Saigon and into the central highlands of Vietnam.  Biking along the roads of Vietnam, conversing with the locals along the way, and sightseeing the sceneries of Vietnamare always an enjoyable as well as a rewarding experience for us.  On this ride, we experience the majestic stretches of Vietnam’s seacoast and the grandeur of the mountain regions.  Along the way, we tasted the strength of mother nature winds and the vast stretches of road between towns in the central highlands.  Like so many rides before, Xuyen Viet 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of Xuyen Viet bike ride and is an experience that has left a lasting impression upon us.

Date
(dd-mm-yyyy)

Itinerary

Distance

Terrain

16-11-2009

Sài Gòn-Bà Rịa

80 km (49.7 miles)

flat + rolling

17-11-2009

Bà Rịa-La Gi

88 km (54.9 miles)

rolling coastal region

18-11-2009

La Gi-Hòn Rơm (Mũi Né)

96 km (59.7 miles)

rolling coastal region

19-11-2009

Hòn Rơm-Liên Hương

86 km (53.6 miles)

rolling coastal region

20-11-2009

Liên Hương-Tân Sơn

89 km (55.3 miles)

rolling coastal region

21-11-2009

Tân Sơn-Đà Lạt

74 km (46 miles)

mountainous, gaining elevation

22-11-2009

Rest day at Đà Lạt



23-11-2009

Đà Lạt-Xã Krông Nô (H. Lăk)

119 km (74 miles)

rolling hills, decreasing elevation

24-11-2009

Krông Nô-Buôn Ma Thuột

94 km (58.4 miles)

rolling hills, decreasing elevation

25-11-2009

Buôn Ma Thuột-Gia Nghĩa

132 km (82 miles)

rolling hills, decreasing elevation

26-11-2009

Gia Nghĩa-Đồng Xoài

117 km (72.7 miles)

rolling hills, decreasing elevation

27-11-2009

Đồng Xoài-Sài Gòn

108 km (67.1 miles)

 rolling hills, decreasing elevation to flat area

The Coastal Lowlands and Central Highlands bike ride is about 1083 km (673 miles).  Divided into 11 legs.  Completed in 12 days..