Ideas for trips are often hatched decades ago while sitting in Geography class in school. While the teacher droned on, in my mind I was already in the Masai Mara or Serengeti or Steppes or Mekong Delta. My childhood desire actually came true this month.
I wanted it to be a special trip, so I planned a solo trip, and to make it even more unique, decided on a motor-bike trip, which would allow me get a far closer view of the Mekong Delta than I would get by means of a standard package tour. Since I have not ridden bikes in years, and not being familiar with road and traffic conditions in Vietnam, I decided on a back of a bike trip.
Itinerary: HCMC to My Tho to Ben Tre to Can Tho to Chau Doc. My bike trip would end in Chau Doc, and I would hop on the Speed boat to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While I had been wondering about making it further down the coast to Rach Gia, we modified the route along the way as we went along, to allow for a more relaxed trip.
Rider-guide: Nam was my rider guide, arranged while I was back home barely a week before the trip. The trip was planned at short notice, however, Visa and Rider arrangements all went very well. Having decided on a skeleton route and duration, I transferred an advance amount to Nam and paid him the balance when we met in HCMC.
Route: Nam took me along back roads most of the time, as I had wished. The experience was amazing, which included the effect of heavy monsoon downpours, The roads were often mud tracks, and we slipped and slid along. It was exciting. Moreover, Nam rarely got lost. I was impressed that Nam knew so many main roads and back roads around the Delta rather well.
Speed and Safety: Not being keen to tick boxes, I had indicated that we need not rush along, we would stop for coffee along the way, relax and take it easy. Nam rode at a very comfortable pace, usually in the 40-50 kmph range. Very comfortable. It turned out that it isn't easy to sustain a range of 100 to 150 km on an average day while riding along back roads. Overall, I felt very safe with the pace of the trip.
Local experiences: We stopped at random coffee shops, tiny unmarked restaurants and villages where the residents welcomed us. It was heartening to experience such warmth and happiness during my one week of wandering around. I did not micro manage my trip, so we ended up changing plans very often. Nam knew people in the area, so it was easy to find neat little local places to stay. The best part was - you guessed it - not a tourist in sight (except a few in Can Tho and Chau Doc).
Protection: I had brought along thick, cotton pants and a thick jacket, while Nam had asked for my helmet size in advance and had bought a new helmet along with rain jacket and pants. We used the rain jacket quite often, It was part of the fun dealing with sudden downpours.
Summary: An amazing experience, one that dreams are made of. Highly recommended for solo travelers who want to experience the real country. Not micro managing schedules in advance adds to the mystery and excitement. That's the beauty of a motor bike trip, the flexibility to change plans as you go along. And the infinite variety of local experiences, full of warmth and smiles.
For Nam, my rider guide: Thank you so much for making my trip such a special one and for riding carefully without taking any risks. I wish you the very best.
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