Being a newbie to Asia I was keen to explore the region as much as possible. I had contacted a few travelling buddies but discovered every single one was away the October long weekend……so it looked like I was going to be travelling solo.
Where to explore?
I searched the SpiceRoads cycle tour website and found that the Vietnam adventure “Red River Delta bicycle tour” was guaranteed to depart. It was a 3-day cycle tour starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday afternoon – just perfect for the long weekend away.
Getting read to go!
The day of my overseas travel adventure arrived! I was packed,
visa stamped firmly in my passport,
a few Vietnamese Dong in hand and my boarding pass checked in and ready to go! The flight was a short one and before I knew it I was in a cab and arriving at my guesthouse. It was quite late by this stage so I went straight to bed in preparation for the 7am pick-up.
I woke early and headed down for breakfast of the most delicious French baguette, a cup of steaming Vietnamese coffee and lots of fresh fruit. Binh, our guide, arrived shortly after to pick me up. Driver Chu was waiting outside, we both jumped in and then we were off to pick up Simon and Susan the only others on the tour.
Simon and Susan, like me are English and had recently moved to Asia. They were keen to make the most of their time there. Cycling is their preferred method of travel.
Day 1 – From Hanoi to the countryside
We swapped the hectic of Hanoi for the peace and quiet of the traditional pottery village of Bat Trang where we watched local potters carefully hand-making delicate crockery ready for distribution in the city and overseas – it was mesmerizing. We were then on our bikes and heading into the heart of the delta, through many traditional villages and rice fields.
We didn’t see another tourist all day; we met local snail farmers, dined in local cafes and visited the Keo Temple, built in 1061 under the Ly Dynasty – one of the most revered temples in the Red River Delta! Binh our guide was always smiley, cheerful and very informed on the history and the culture of the area.
The next morning we woke up to spectacular views of Karst Peaks in Ninh Binh! Out of the three days this one was the most impressive – we cycled along narrow country lanes, single farm tracks and gravel paths and all around lush green rice with a backdrop of these magnificent karst peaks – it was truly awe-inspiring. A land version of the world-renowned Halong Bay but less touristy!
We climbed the Bich Dong Pagoda, built on three levels on the edge of a limestone cliff, explored natural caves by boat and visited Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of the Dinh and Ly dynasties.
We stayed overnight at lovely basic guest house in the lush forest of Cuc Phuong National Park – Vietnam’s first national park.
Day 3 – Getting close to nature
We woke up early to the sound of birds. After a hearty breakfast we cycled through the dense tropical forest, habitats of some of Asia’s rarest animals and exotic plant species. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre with its variety of native monkeys and gibbons, including the critically endangered langurs, these were all saved from wildlife smugglers and are being rehabilitated before being re-introduced to the wild.
Exhausted, but happy – we met our van and were whisked back to Hanoi. It was the perfect long weekend away and I got the break I needed. Cycle touring really is the best way to explore a country!