Vietnam, Hue to Saigon

We left Hue bright and early and as usual we put in a few Km before stopping for breakfast, nothing like a bowl of noodles and a coffee to give you the energy for a days ride ! Our day would end in Lap An, just at the foot of the Hai Van Pass, it would be mainly flat and most of it on main routes…..well that was until I missed a turn !! We ended up missing the turn for route 10a, a bit of a blessing though as we found a route along the coast instead. We were surprised this road was open at all after the recent storms and high water level, it got a bit wet in places but we were ok. We passed through several small villages bustling with life and commerce, amazing you can still buy mobile phones in the most remote out of the way places…incredible !!
There were a couple of small hills towards the end but nothing too testing and we arrived in Lap An in good time and looked for a guesthouse. The road is full of them and we just approached the first one that looked pleasant, the room was basic, clean and reasonably cheap. Dinner was at a local cafe and was very good, we went back for breakfast and got fried egg and chips and fresh bread….mmmmm !!
Fully fuelled we set off, ahead lay the Hai Van Pass, now Naomi had ridden this before some ten years ago but that time it was from the other direction and without panniers. This time we were on fully loaded touring bikes, but we were looking forward to the challenge. The road crosses a bridge then turns left away from the recent tunnel that now takes the majority of traffic, it seems the only traffic on the road are scooters, petrol tankers and nutters on bikes !! It meant that the road was very quiet which allowed us to stop and take photos without being in anybody’s way. The morning was already getting hot and you could see the heat haze on the road already, we stopped for our first photo by the sign and then proceeded up the hill. The gradient was not so bad and for the most part it was an easy climb, only on the hairpin bends did it get steep but a few frantic pedal strokes soon saw you back on slightly easier gradients. We were cheered, waved at and photographed on our way up and everytime it happened it spurred us on. In the end it only took an hour and a half of actual pedalling to get to the top, not bad for a 465m climb in the heat with panniers !!
Again we stopped for drinks and photos at the top before enjoying the thrill of the decent, not quite as fast as it should have been as yet again there were many opportunities to stop for photos, well why not, you normally only get to do this once !!
Here are the photos from the climb and decent !!











It’s a great climb with fantastic views and a truly wonderful decent !!
By the time we’d got to the bottom of the climb we were over half way through the days ride and the rest of it was flat and on good roads, we were soon rolling into Hoi An. We found a guesthouse and again it was cheap, clean and basic, bags stowed, bikes locked and us showered it was time to see some of Hoi An. The town is on a river and they make the most of it as a fair few restaurants, bars and coffee shops are strung out along it. They all use wonderfully colourful lanterns to decorate there shop fronts, it really is a picture at night. Hoi An is definitely for the tourists and the shops are all clean, tidy and well stocked, the town is famous for made to measure suits and shoes, neither of which interested me. There are also lots of things to see and do and as it’s a Unesco town you get to buy tickets which then allow you access to five things, more than enough for one day. We’d do that on our day off in the morning, but for now it’s a general mooch, food, beer and a few photos.







Some of the very impressive shops, boats on the river, reflections on the water and the wooden Japanese covered bridge !

We found a great little place for dinner which overlooked the river, dined well and drank a few of the local ales, it was a very nice evening 😉

The following morning we bought a ticket and selected the places we wished to visit and with map and camera in hand we joined the rest of the tourists. It was raining to start with so we entered a free place to get out of the rain, it turned out to be a Chinese temple, beautifully decorated and ornate. By the time we left it has almost stopped raining so we were able to get a move on.
Our day was then full of museums, houses, temples, Japanese covered bridge, cultural show and crafts, more temples and general mooching. We stopped for lunch of course and drank a few cold beers and when the sightseeing was over we dined well and drank a few more…thirsty work being a tourist !! We finished the day with a trip to a book shop on the other side of the river and stocked up on reading material, thanks Randy !!
Here are a few random photos from the day….

























We had a great time in Hoi An and again we’d be sorry to leave this lovely place but leave we must. Our journey continues south to Quang Ngai in the morning and we’d be up early as per usual.
The journey to Quang Ngai was a fairly long ride for us, at 127km it may not sound to bad but in this heat and with heavy bikes it’s long enough. There were a few good things though, it was flat and despite it being on busy roads there were shoulders most of the way. Paddy fields lined the roads and stretched away into the distance with the water shimmering under the pale blue sky and the emerald greens of the fields seemed so vibrant, it’s hard to believe this country was so recently at war !
It’s amazing how well the people and country has recovered in the intervening years, most are incredibly friendly, hospitable and pleased to see tourists, it just proves there doing something right !!
We arrived in Quang Ngai and quickly located a guesthouse just down the road from the train station, we’d be on a train to Saigon the following day. First we needed tickets for our bikes ! They would travel on a different train as there’s no parcel car on the night passenger train, we’d pick them up when we arrived in Saigon. We didn’t get up to much except eat, drink, catch up on email and FB and sort kit ready to travel. The coffee shop next door became a mini refuge due to the owner having some English and being prepared to supply hot water for our Nescafé sachets 😉
Late the next day we boarded the train, a four birth cabin with clean sheets and good size beds, we were impressed. One other passenger was a Vietnam guy called Tuan, he was from Quang Ngai but worked in Saigon. Tuan had good English and had managed to do some travelling for his employers, we chatted and drank coffee which he generously bought, until it was time to sleep.
We woke to the sound of the announcer telling us we were half an hour out of Saigon, at least that’s what Tuan told us he’d said !!
We disembarked then went in search of coffee while we waited for our bikes to arrive, two hours later they finally arrived, slightly scratched but in one piece at least !! With our kit attached and our very simple route firmly in our heads we set off into the mayhem that is Saigon.
For anyone who’s been to Saigon you’ll know just how manic the traffic is here, I’ve never seen so many scooters in one place anywhere else ! Our route worked like this, out of the station to the right, at the first roundabout take the fourth exit, continue straight to the next roundabout and take the third exit, continue straight then take the second right turn, so all you had to remember was 4,3,2 that way if we got separated we should both be able to get to the road we wanted. Well it worked, despite the huge volume of traffic and the lack of traffic lights or rules, well rules that they follow anyway !!



Saigon train station, steam loco now an ornament and Naomi in the mayhem on the way to the hotel !!

We found a great little place called Eco Backpacker Hostel, it had double bed bunk beds, took up so little space…..brilliant and the bathroom was very clean with lashings of hot water add to that great staff and good Wi Fi and you can see why we were happy.
As we’d arrived early due to being on the train we still had the day to go sightseeing, after that before we’d be moving on again.
We started with a trip to the Skydeck, expensive but how else can you get photos of the city like this…..







I do love a good vantage point, fabulous views over this exciting city !!

We shunned transport and carried on walking, our next stop would be the Notre Dame Cathedral and the main post office, but first a few photos from our walk across the city….




Just a small sample of my photos from our walk.

Unfortunately we couldn’t go in the cathedral but it was pretty nice from outside and the post office is such an amazing building, it really has that wonderful nostalgic feel about it….






The first three of the cathedral and three of the post office, great isn’t it ?

After this we found a fantastic little restaurant and had lunch before tackling the monster that is the Presidential Palace, I say monster because it’s huge. It has four floors above ground and two below and you get to wander around at you leisure, there are in fact very few places you can’t go and although you can’t actually go in the rooms or touch the furniture it still seems that access is pretty good for a palace !! Of course like everything else it’s not free so we bought a ticket and armed with cameras which they surprisingly allow, we entered this huge place, I’ll let the photos tell the story…..
















Well what a place, still can’t believe how much access you get to this place when you consider where you are and what it is, very impressed !!
We’d seen a lot already but we weren’t finished yet, we still had the war museum to go and see. I have to be honest that I’m not a great fan of war related museums but they are a great way of reminding people and especially me of the atrocities that are dealt out in the name of war. It never fails to amaze me at just how vicious one man can be to another and seem to take such great pleasure in his torment, pain and suffering. In the museum we looked at a mock up of a prison and on the wall were these descriptions of the brutality inflicted on the inmates, I’m putting the photos in here large enough that hopefully you’ll be able to read them. I hope I never have to see the like of them again….







Shocking, brutal, terrifying, this is what I think of this, we found it hard to continue after this !!

I’m sure there are some people that think I have no heart or feelings, well you may be surprised to learn that I have both and after seeing these photos I was very distressed and although we continued the tour we stopped shortly after and went back to the hotel. The images and descriptions are so brutal that I still think of them several weeks later.

Putting such hatred behind us for the evening was made even harder when a passing scooter and pillion tried to snatch my camera, luckily I had two fingers in the strap and almost unseated the rider, it put a dark pallor on an already distressing day !!

Despite everything we saw I still think that Saigon is worth visiting, it’s a huge city with much to offer but beware of your belongings and be prepared to be shocked by some of the things there are to see, history is not always palatable !!

Tomorrow we cycle through this mayhem towards Cambodia, another country with a brutal history !
Take care


About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
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