When we last updated you guys on the status of Quesnel Bikers – Good Neighbour Tour of SE Asia, we were on our way to Da Nang Vietnam via bus. From the start, this tour has used other modes of transportation, and this bus ride was no different. It would help us free up some time we wanted for our adventure in Vietnam.
Little did we know how rich an experience this would be.
After five weeks in this incredible country, we have to say the people here are the most open and friendly of our journey so far. After Korea, Thailand and Laos, these folks optimize the concept of Good Neighbours around the world.
Once we got our bearings in Da Nang, we solidified our plans for our time in Vietnam. We wanted to see as much as possible, and that involved our first excursion — flying to Hanoi. The incredible old city was our home for a few days as we prepared for a boat cruise to Hai Long Bay, were the ocean is filled with limestone “karst” pillars that seem to jump out of the water, headed for the sky. Our visit to this UNESCO site was well worth the time and investment to see these stunning geological landforms. Back in Hanoi, we enjoyed staying in the “Old Quarter” of the city, where the streets absolutely buzz with activity — not the least of which is the thousands of motorcycles and scooters vying for their whereabouts on the road.
South of Da Nang, we decided to stay in once place over the New Year’s holiday called TeT. We wished to experience the local ambiance of the most important holiday of the year in Vietnam, and we chose the historical town of Hoi An. It was a phenomenal few days with fireworks, lantern boats on the river and thousands of people from around the world celebrating in this little town. Afterwards, we started our cycling portion of our Vietnam tour in Nha Trang, south of Hoi An on the east coast. After taking an overnight sleeper bus to this busy touristy city, we were ready to hit the road. We noticed it was significantly warmer there than Hanoi where we had our jackets on!
Cycling south along the coast involves main highways and secondary roads. It’s very scenic, with the East Vietnam sea on your left, or rice paddies and farms when you’re inland. No question, the TeT holiday took some time to fade, and the traffic on all the roads was heavy. It was here we started to develop our deeper understanding of the rules of the road. For us, it meant discarding most of the driving/riding habits from home, replacing them with these: The golden rule is to keep your speed and direction constant, so that everyone else knows roughly where you’re going. Never stop. Never hesitate. Never turn suddenly. Know what’s approaching 360 degrees around you. Size is the next parameter. Trucks, buses and cars have the right of way. No kidding! Traffic lights and road signs are only suggestions. Be calm and enjoy — it can be enjoyable once you get with the program.
As we said earlier, the people of Vietnam are super friendly. Daily, we’d meet wonderful, friendly and loving people. Here’s an example … South of Nha Trang, we had pulled into a roadside restaurant for lunch. It was hot and breezy — time for a break. We found a table, sat down and ordered lunch, and just as we got settled, a man with his wife and two children came over and sat down next to us. His name was Phuong, and he introduced us to his wife The, daughter Hanh and son Minh. They spoke English and were most interested in what we were up to. The children spoke better English than Mum and Dad, so we carried on a conversation with them as well! We learned about their aspirations for future education, and we answered their questions about where we lived, like did it snow there? Really. We had a nice lunch and said our goodbyes, and Phuong said, “If you come to Ho Chi Minh city, you must contact us. We would love to take you on a tour of our city.”
We were honoured, but at this point, we had no desire to go there because cycling into a place that big would be life changing. We said thanks and pedaled down the road waving goodbye! Well … weeks later, our plans DID change, and we ended up in Ho Chi Minh city by taking a ferry from the coastal town of Vung Tau. We had been in touch with Phuong — he loved to be called a Good Neighbour. Over two days, we had a tour of the historic Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong battled the American forces, and we had meals with them. The last dinner was at their apartment in the city — he picked us up from our hotel, and we enjoyed a fabulous homemade Vietnamese dinner. He also invited his best friends, Truong and Quyen and their daughter. We were very humbled by the generosity, friendship and love we were receiving. At the end of the evening, we had invitations to come back and stay with these folks whenever we could. We developed what felt like the early days of a lasting friendship, just in those few hours. What a dream come true. Murray Boal would be happy to hear Good Neighbours has gone global!
Since that wonderful evening, we’ve continued to meet so many friendly people, it’s going to be hard to leave here. We’ve ridden all the way along the southern coastline of Vietnam, and now, we are just finishing up a week crossing the Mekong Delta. In the next couple of days, we’ll find ourselves in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Our plan is to cycle up to the world-renowned site of Angkor Wat and experience the wonder of this massive historical site. After that, we’re heading back to Thailand, where we’ll catch our plane home on March 20. It’s been a fantastic adventure and one we’ll continue to share with you until the end.
We’d like to thank the Quesnel Cariboo Observer for encouraging us share our stories with you. If you’d like to see more photos and read some daily stories, please visit our blog at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/quesnelbikers2019. Till next time!
— Chris and Heather Hartridge
Quesnel residents Chris and Heather Hartridge are spending five and a half months cycle touring around South Korea and Southeast Asia on their Good Neighbour Tour. The Quesnel Bikers, as they are known, will be sharing their journey with the community by sending periodic articles and photos to the Observer.