Competition and cultural tour in Hue

cycling raceThose who have cycled with us know we don’t specially focus on the physical performance or on how fast we ride. Our approach is more relaxed or social. However, a little competition from time to time doesn’t harm anyone, and we all know it’s exciting. If we can combine it with something of cultural interest, we can have a cycling tour that fits anybody’s preferences. This is what we plan to do in Hue from March 25, to celebrate the 35th Sunday Bike Ride in the former imperial capital.

Here is the schedule for those who want to join:

Day 1, March 25
We will check in a hotel in Hue, enjoy some free time and spend the night there, preparing to start the fun on the bike. We suggest you try some Hue specialties like the local pancakes (banh Beo, banh Nam, banh Loc), some seafood like the baby clams with rice crackers, before having a walk along Nguyen Dien Chieu street, relax crossing the Trang Tien bridge and see the night scene in the backpackers area.

Day 2, March 26
This is the day. Get a good sleep, have a nice breakfast and be sure your legs are strong. Those who want to join can register here. It will be 42 km and the start is at 6:30 AM. If you are not into racing, you can just watch and join the afternoon ride to Than Tan hot springs, where we will have the chance to soak our whole body in the hot water to relax. At the foot of Ma Yen Mountain, these springs were discovered by French Doctor A. Sallet in 1928. Since then they have been renowned for the health benefits of submerging your body in hot mineral water. If you need to relax, this is what you need. For those in need of some action, we suggest a visit to the Waterpark, with a zipline included. After that, we will cycle back to Hue and share a nice dinner.

Day 3 March 27
Of the many culinary specialties of Hue, Bun Bo Hue is probably the most popular in the whole country. However, locals say that it’s never as goo as it is there. We will have a chance to check if it’s true over breakfast, before visiting Dong Ba Market and doing a city tour around the major sites. The citadel is one of the most interesting ones. This old residence of the Nguyen kings includes the Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa palace, Forbidden Purple City, the Emperor Temple, the Hien Lam pavilion and the nine dynastic urns. After that we will go to Thien Mu pagoda, the most ancient in the city, as it was built in 1601. Our historical tour will end with the visit to the impressive mausoleums of emperors Khai Dinh and Tu Duc, where we will appreciate Hue’s architectonic style. If time allows it, we will finish the day climbing Ngu Binh mountain.

The prices will be different depending on your accommodation choices. You can get more information on our Facebook page or contacting us here:



Tết ride: Vietnam-Laos-Thailand

2016 just started, but for Vietnamese the big New Year celebrations are coming in February, with the coming of the Lunar Year of the Monkey next February 8. And Vietnambiketours will celebrate it, you guessed it, with a bike ride. This time it will be a very special bike ride, as we will go through three countries (Vietnam-Laos-Thailand) in three days, with some vehicle support for the hardest or tedious parts of the road. If you want to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year in a different way, surrounded by nature, doing exercise, meeting people and having fun, this is for you. Here is the schedule of the trip, which will happen a few days after the traditional celebrations, in order to allow Vietnamese riders to spend time with their families.

Laos tour

Day 1 (February 13) Hue-Savannakhet (Laos)-Mukdahan (Thailand)

Have you ever been in three countries on the same day. It’s not so often that we can have the chance to cross to borders in such a short time, but that’s what we plan for the first day of this adventure. Central Vietnam is one of the nicest regions for bike riding in the whole Vietnam. The slow pace of the country side fits perfectly with Vietnambiketours philosophy of riding without pushing our bodies too hard, enjoying the nature and the kindness of villagers. We will feel mostly the same as we cross to Laos through the Lao Bao border and have lunch in Dansavan (Laos), where we will meet local riders. We’ll finish our day in Mukdahan (Thailand) after going over the Mekong River through the Friendship bridge. We will be able to visit the night market and the border between Thailand and Laos during the night,
Departure from Hue: 5:00, at 18 Dương Văn An street. Lunch in Dansavan, Laos and continue to Mukdahan (Thailand) for dinner and spend the night. 

Day 2 (February 14) Mukdahan (Thailand)-Savannakhet (Laos)

For Valentine’s Day we’ll have a more relaxed schedule after a fulfilling first day. We’ll cycle around Mukdahan on the Thai side of the border before crossing the Friendship bridge again (sorry, no love bridge available for Valentine) to Laotian side, in Savannakhet. We will spend the nigh there, resting, having dinner together and maybe trying our chance in the Casino. On a Valentine’s day you can check if the saying “Unlucky in gambling, lucky in love” is true.

Day 3 (February 15) Savannakhet (Laos)-Hue (Vietnam)

This will be the end of our trip, before going back home and to work for many of the riders. We’ll have breakfast at the hotel, do a last ride around Savannakhet, eat lunch in Dansavan, then use the support vehicle for a transfer to Hue. The tour will be over then.

As usual you can use your own bike (road or MTB are fine) or rent with us, with 50% discount. All cyclists can join.

How much?

The price will depend on the number of riders. With a group of 20 to 24 persons the price will be 2,735,000 VND per person and if we get 25 to 30 riders the cost will be 2,470,000 VND per person. This is the rate with shared room. If you want a single room it will be an extra 370,000 VND. If you want more information or already decided to register you can contact us here: [054 3 932 789; 0914 019 177 ]; or [0974131032].

Remember you need to register before January 15! 



New office in Hue

Vietnam Bike Tours - hue office (12)

Vietambiketours keeps expanding in order to become the number one cycling tours company in South East Asia and last July 15th we opened our first office in Hue, the former imperial capital in central Vietnam. We had already been running our Sunday Bike Ride there for a few weeks, but now we finally have all the necessary infrastructure to satisfy all kind of riders. As in our other offices in Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, we offer the best quality cycling tours in that beautiful and quiet region.

What is so special about Hue? More than its beautiful landscapes that combine sea, mountain and charming towns, more than the rich history and traditions, Central Vietnam has a different character. Everything seems to flow at a slower pace, stress seems to be a word still undiscovered. Sit down, eat the delicious local food, drink a local Huda beer, talk to the locals… and you will fully understand what we are talking about.

Vietnam Bike Tours - hue office (2)-5

This slow pace that you will immediately feel is ideal for cyclists, you will feel that the bike is the perfect way of moving around. If you don’t have one, we can offer 15 brand new GT bicycles available for rent, the best anyone can offer in town, but we always recommend to hire our tours if you want to truly discover the secrets of the central Vietnam. Nobody better than our local guides to tell you about a land that is difficult to understand even for Vietnamese from other regions. From Hue we have tours to Hoian and Danang through the impressive Hai van Pass, visit the Phong Nha caves, near the biggest cave in the world, discover some of the most dangerous part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, that the Vietcong used to bring supplies from North to South during the war, and explore the routes towards Laos and Cambodia, that are just a few kilometers away. And of course, we can do customized tours.

Vietnam Bike Tours - hue office (5)-5

Address: 61c Ben Nghe St.,
Tel: (+84-543) 979191; (+84) 974131032
Open: Mon – Sat: 8:00-17:30; Sunday closed

Sunday Bike Ride now in Hue

11080004_911185445599500_842197272545125434_nA few months ago we were proudly announcing the beginning of Sunday Bike Ride in Nha Trang and now we can say that this Sunday we will have our third Sunday Bike Ride in the former imperial capital of Hue. This city is a well-known touristic spot, mainly known by its magnificent citadel (despite the heavy destruction during the war) and the emperors lavish mausoleums, specially Tu Duc’s tomb. Next to the Perfume River, Hue charms any visitor with its relaxed atmosphere and low pace. As we already do in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, we want the Sunday Bike Ride to help locals and foreigners discover hidden aspects of the local culture, have fun together, get to know each other, admire some of the natural beauty around, let Vietnamese and foreigners know each other and of course, enjoy the ride.

On our first ride in Hue we cycled around the ancient houses in Hue citadel, where we learnt about the traditional local architecture. In Hue old houses are traditionally surrounded by gardens following the traditional Hue style. What makes some of Hue’s houses quite unique is the use of wood structures. These houses, ofthen built on stilts, are known as nha ruong and are built near the shore of the Perfume River. Despite its similarities with other traditional wooden architectures like the ones found in Japan or China, some experts claim that Hue houses are very unique because they use a triangle measure instead of the usual square one. Now, with fast paced development, they are being threatened and vanish little by little, but they can still be saved.

11079031_915183545199690_2730981721822999989_nOn our second Hue ride, we conquered Bạch Mã National Park with our bicycles. 40 kilometers away form Hue, in an area of 22,030 hectares and with peaks as high as 1,450 meters over sea level, this natural marvel is often overlooked by visitors who travel to the area. From the top we could admire a wonderful panoramic sight of Hai Van Pass, Thuy Van Mountain and the city of Hue.11090847_915181808533197_5826915308285693070_o

And for the upcoming third ride this Sunday, we will put the stress again on the cultural aspect by visiting hước Tích Ancient Village. This is one of the oldest sites in Vietnam, founded in the 15th century. Those who join will have the chance to see some of these characteristic nha ruong built on stilts. Out of the 117 houses, 27 share this characteristic. It is the second most ancient village in Vietnam, just after the village of Duong Lam, near Hanoi. It is not very common in Vietnam to see such ancient structures, so you shouldn’t miss the chance!

3 mountain passes you can’t miss in Vietnam

Author: Tuabiht Rellahcs
Author: Tuabiht Rellahcs

Hai Van: the star

Probably the most popular mountain pass in Vietnam, the bike ride through the “clouds ocean pass” gathers almost all the elements that make cycling in Vietnam so enjoyable. The route from Hoi An to Hue (or vice-versa) has a beautiful coast road, a charming winding road uphill (but there is always a downhill at the end), a little bit of challenge for those who like climbing but nothing unfeasible if you are used to riding a bike. And it has something no other pass has, two different climates, as the weather changes a lot if you are on the northern or the southern part of the pass. Towards the south, there are only two seasons, the rainy and the dry, towards the north, there are three or four (depending on who you ask), but it never gets extremely cold during the winter. If you choose to go from Hoi An to Hue (South to North) you will have time to warm up during 50 gentle kilometers following the coast, passing by the central city of Danang, pedaling along the bay where both French and American military ships first arrived, and be prepared for the start of the climb. It is the longest and highest mountain pass in the famous road number 1 (which is mostly flat) with a length of 21km. From its summit (496m above sea level)  you will have stunning views of the coast in Da Nang and Thua Thien Province.

O Quy Ho: the longest

If you want big mountains in Vietnam, you should go to the north. And if you are not scared by big challenges, you can try the O Quy Ho pass between the provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau. People know it as the  “cloudy mountain pass” because its top is always cloudy, but its real name is much more poetic: the cry of the phoenix bird. According to the legend, in those mountains there was a couple of lovers who couldn’t marry. The girl became sick because of this and died, but turned into a phoenix bird which still cries in the forrest every night. True or not, this breathtaking and tough road that stands over 2,000 meters above the sea level goes through the Hoang Lien mountains, where stands the majestic Fan Si Pan, the highest mountain in Indochina. Only for expert cyclists.

P1050589Ma Pi Leng: the king

It is not the longest, it is not the highest, it is not the most popular, but Ma Pi Len (over 1,500 meters over sea level), in the northern province of Ha Giang, is probably the most legendary mountain pass in Vietnam. What makes it so special is not the toughness (yes, hard climb, but never too steep) but its beautiful, surreal cliff road at the top, surrounded by peaks that seem to pierce the sky. It was built during the sixties, mainly by workers from the Hmong ethnic minority. You will see dozens of members of this ethnic group as you go through this winding road. It is when you reach the top that the fun starts, you will feel like you are flying in the descent towards Meo Vac.  If you are fit, adventurous, you really like mountains and you can only do a short and different ride in Vietnam, go north and cycle those mountains, cross the Ma Pi Leng and feel like you are the king of the world. Usually it is cloudy, which makes it charming and mysterious, but if you get a sunny day, the views might even be better.


Lang Co Beach –getaway for citizens

By My Tran in HCMC
The 10 kilometer-long, Lang Co Beach, bordered on a section of the 1A National Highway near Hai Van Pass, is renowned for as a wild picturesque sea view and is an ideal location for a summer vacation.

The beach in Thua Thien – Hue Province is a popular stop for tourists on the Hue-Danang route. Strategically situated inside the zone of three world heritage conservation centers of Hue ancient citadel, Hoi An old town, and My Son holy land, Lang Co is only 30 kilometers from Danang and 70 kilometers from Hue. Seen from above, Lang Co beach is a picture of beautiful pristine nature surrounded by mountains, tropical jungles, and the boundless blue sea, absorbing thousands of tourists. For those fond of sea entertainment, this is actually a good choice thanks to the sloping sea, fine and clean sand, great moderate waves and games of swimming, diving, sailing or more simply, relaxation. The impression of Lang Co on travelers must be the stunning views of the encircling mountains and the quiet and tranquil ambiance. Lang Co Beach is the destination for those who want to get away from the crowd and who want to have a private holiday. Once touring to Lang Co, do not forget to enjoy various kinds of seafood such as shrimp, lobster, sea shrimp, crab, butter-fish, mackerel fish and oysters. Not far from the beach, there is Chan May scenery and Lang Co fishing village which is worth exploring.


The hidden side of ancient Hue

When you talk about tourism in the ancient city of Hue, many people will think about the mausoleums of the Vietnamese kings.

Once those sites have been checked off the list, there is nothing left to see and no need to return. That is the established thinking, anyway.

To me, however, it is very different. I am fascinated by this small and historic city and its surroundings, and I am struck by a great happiness every time I return. There is far more to Hue than meets the eye.

I love the cuisine, the beautiful scenery and the slow pace, and it is easily among one of my favourite destinations.

My love for Hue has been enriched even more after a recent visit to Suoi Voi (Elephant Spring), which is hidden away in Loc Tien Commune in Phu Loc District. In this place, my friend and I swam in the springs, played in the forest and ate delicious local chicken. It was a wonderful day.

Suoi Voi is about 60km from the centre of Hue, and 40km from Da Nang City. Its location between these two cities makes it a popular pit-stop for people making the journey between the two.

While people call it a spring, it would be more accurate to say that it is a network of pure springs, boulders, mountains and jungle which come together to create a truly stunning landscape.

The journey there is unremarkable, and the road ismade of cement. We parked the car when we could go no further and clambered up high steps with some uncertainty. Then the spring appeared.

It was breathtaking. Suddenly I became very aware of an incredibly fresh atmosphere caused by the pure and cool pool of water and the green of the surrounding forestry.

Bamboo huts built by local people lined the two sides of the stream, with the water bubbling past creating a natural soundtrack to the idyllic scene.

Visitors here are able to hire a hut, take a rest and enjoy the local cuisine.

We did exactly this, and lay back with our feet dangling into the cool flow of water.

Talking to the hut’s owner, I was informed that Suoi Voi was once called Suoi Me (Me Spring – me meaning large elephant in the ancient language).

In spring, she explained while preparing a meal for us, when the weather was warm hundreds of elephants from Bach Ma Mountain would come to the forest and this particular stream to find cassava shrubs and other food.

Oddly, they only came to this one region, and then after some time – just as mysteriously – they left for the last time and never came back.

The elephants left their marks in the shape of large holes surrounding the spring, which over time filled with water to become small pools.

These are clear and cool and instantly attractive to visitors who want to jump in and swim as soon as seeing them. Signposts clearly label which ones are safe for them to do so.

My friend, who comes from northern region of Viet Nam, said that he has visited many places like Suoi Voi in the north, such as Suoi Tien, Khoang Sanh and Ao Vua, but he loved this experience the most.

“They all have the combination of natural fountains, forests, and rocks, but the ones in the north are less beautiful. Here it is clean and safe for swimming,” he said.

To make absolutely sure we were safe, my friend hired a lifebuoy to swim for just VND10,000.

Suoi Voi soon proved to be an equally perfect destination for sunbathing, with visitors tired from their swim able to rest at full stretch on the large rocks to enjoy the sun as it radiated through the canopy of trees above.

While my friend swam, I took the chance to gaze out at the surrounding landscape.

I noticed a big rock shaped like an elephant with a long trunk, and the hut’s owner told me that it was artificial, made to memorise the real elephants that gave the site its name.

This elephant marks the nearby Elephant Lagoon, which is perhaps the most beautiful pool as it lies between two waterfalls and is completely translucent.

The hut’s owner suggested that I explore further inside the forest – packed with rare animals and plants – in order to discover more beautiful hidden scenes and enjoy many new experiences such as fishing in some pools and picking local vegetable to cook soup. I wholeheartedly approved of this idea, and went for a long walk.

I think that Suoi Voi is a special place not just for its natural beauty but also for the things that it brings to the local people.

Since first opened as a tourist destination in 1994, it has brought jobs to many residents, despite only being open throughout the summer. It is estimated that each household can earn about VND12-15 million (US$600-750) per season from offering services to visitors.

At the end of the day – capped off with a delicious chicken noodle dish – I was extremely reluctant to leave. It had been a truly memorable experience, and one that I am sure I will relive in the future. For me, the beauty and cuisine of Hue and its surroundings are sure to entice me back again and again. — VNS. by Le Minh

Outstanding: Tourists cool off in the splendid natural swimming pool in Suoi Voi. — File Photos

Only a memory: Located between two cities of Hue and Da Nang, Suoi Voi has ancient links with elephants. It is becoming popular with tourists.

Visit to Hue’s ‘hell on earth’ prison reminder of man’s inhumanity

by Vu Lan Dung

Reading A Perfect Spy, a book on Viet Nam’s greatest undercover operative, Pham Xuan An, by American historian Larry Berman, one detail drew my attention: the 1958 imprisonment in Chin Ham (Nine Bunkers) Prison of Tran Quoc Huong, alias Muoi Huong – the man responsible for recruiting An into a network of intelligence agents.

Curious about the prison, I decided to set off to the central city of Hue to visit the place, known as “hell on the earth” under the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Viet Nam in 1955-63.

The site, situated on a hill in An Tay District, is 6km northwest of the city centre. In 1941, French colonialists built nine rectangular bunkers to store munitions. When the Japanese invaded in March 1945, they took control of the Chin Ham area and seized most of weaponry.

After the success of the August Revolution in 1945, these munition storehouses were left vacant until 1955, when Diem’s younger brother Ngo Dinh Can converted them into a prison facility. Each storehouse was built of steel-reinforced concrete with a ceiling thickness of half-a-metre. A number of patriots were confined there for long periods, but the existence of the prison wasn’t publicly known until Diem’s regime was overthrown in November 1963.

Visiting the site today, I walk around the hill to view the storehouses under the guidance of Phan Hanh, a manager of the site. He stops in front of a small area with heavy grass cover and rubble and says, “This was the first prison house, which was for newcomers.”

“The second was for businessmen; the third and fourth imprisoned foreigners; the fifth detained monks, students, women and workers; and the sixth was a place where prisoners were tortured,” Hanh says. “The seventh was for activists who opposed Diem’s dictatorship, while the eighth was used to detain spies and communists, and the ninth was used as a watchtower.”

North Vietnamese forces would later treated wounded soldiers in these storehouses during the Tet Offensive in 1968, he added. The Americans bombed the facility, leaving them in the ruins seen today.

Beside building a commemorative house and a monument to soldiers who died in the war, Huong Giang Travel, with the support of the People’s Committee of Thua Thien-Hue Province, restored the eighth storehouse with 20 small rooms in 2008. Each room measures 0.8m wide, 1.75m long and 1.75m high. Stepping inside, I feel a chill and sense of panic at the site of mannequins imitating guards pushing a prisoner into a detention room. Glancing into one room, I see a statue wounded man with clothes in tatters lying on the floor. The renovators put such scenes in every room, depicting the hard lives of prisoners based on the stories of survivors.

Tran An Huy of Huong Giang Travel says only Vietnamese visitors have booked tours to the site. “Only veteran and military delegations have booked our tour to this place,” he said. “Tourists also have an opportunity to visit neighbouring destinations such as Princess Huyen Tran Temple and Can’s villa.”

“On average, the site welcomes hundreds of visitors a day, most of whom are veterans,” affirms Hanh. “Foreign tourists account for only about five per cent. People who used to be imprisoned here still visit the site. For example, Col Nguyen Minh Van of Ha Noi and Sr Lt Col Bach Ngoc Phach of Bac Ninh Province often return, such as on War Invalids and Martyrs’ Day on July 27 or People’s Army Day on December 22.”

The two-storey Can’s villa is about a kilometre away. Around the house is a floating pavilion, a semicircular lake and an orchard.

This is where Can spent holidays while still keeping a close watch on the prisoners. The site has fallen into disrepair, with rubbish everywhere and rainwater stagnating in corridors. Huy says that it would be restored in a project recently approved to attract more tourists.

The Chin Ham and villa sites were recognised as national historic sites in 1993 by the Government. — VNS

House of horrors: Ngo Dinh Can’s villa has fallen into disrepair with rubbish everywhere and rainwater stagnating in corridors. — VNS Photos Lan Dung

Lifelike: In the restored eighth bunker, tourists are shocked by mannequins imitating guards torturing a prisoner.

Underground history: The sixth bunker, covered with heavy grass and rubble, can be only recognised thanks to its nameplate. It was used as a torture chamber.

Hue Royal Citadel offer oriental medical services

Several traditional Eastern style medical services became available to tourists visiting Binh An Duong, one of relics within the Hue Ancient Imperial Citadel on March 20.

The medical exams and treatments are being offered by the Hue Relics Preservation Center in cooperation with the Thua Thien Hue Pharmaceutical Company.

Located in the northeast corner of the citadel built in the early 19th century, the Binh An Duong building was used as a health care facility and morgue for royal palace maids.

Now in addition to the medical services, the Binh An Duong exhibits artifacts related to the daily lives of Nguyen Dynasty maids.

whereas, the relic’s outer area is being used as coffee and tea shops for tourists.

Binh An Duong, built under the reign of 3rd Nguyen Dynasty Minh Mang, locates on 1 Dang Thai Than Street, Hue town.

Reported by Bui Ngoc Long, Thanh Nien News
A corner of Binh An Duong, which was used as health care area and dead bodies of royal palace maids

A heavenly dish from Hue

The central town of Hue often provokes people into asking about its cuisine, which not only boasts many exotic delicacies ,but also some weird names.

And names do not come any weirder than cơm âm phủ (hell rice). The name causes curiosity, even a feeling of anxiety, among visitors who nevertheless always order for it when they see it on the menu.

It is actually a simple dish, made from ingredients like pork, shrimp, egg, and vegetables.

There are various stories about the origin of the name.

The most vivid is about the rice being served at “Hell Restaurant” in Hue more than 80 years ago. The eatery was situated in a large field and opened only at night. The simple place had just oil lamps to dispel the pitch dark, the wind blew from all sides, causing an eerie, somber atmosphere. Its clientele was mainly workers, prostitutes, and their clients.

In the past, hell rice was a simple but tasty dish combining hot rice and ingredients such as braised fish, pickled bean sprout, shrimp, and pork.

Am Phu (Hell) Restaurant is now located at 35 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street opposite the stadium in Hue, but is not the apocryphal place with bamboo tables and oil lamp. It is a restaurant with electrical bulbs and reasonable tables and chairs.

The dish has become more elaborate than in the past. It still has hot rice, but also contains many items that are cut into thin strips to give it an attractive look.

Cơm âm phủ requires delicious and fragrant rice made in a rice cooker. To make the rice soft and prevent it from becoming dry, it needs to be soaked in water for two hours before cooking.

Customer can enjoy cơm âm phủin Ho Chi Minh City at the following address:Truong Nguyen Restaurant
66/5 Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 3

La Thom Restaurant
778/45 Nguyen Kiem Street, Phu Nhuan District

Next, thin omelets are made from duck eggs without the addition of any condiments, and cut into strips.

Some prawns are peeled and pounded with a mortar and pestle after their heads are removed. A pan is heated, some oil added to it, and the prawn paste is put in. The paste is stirred over medium low heat until the shrimp turns color, indicating it is dried and done.

Depending on the taste of a customer, one can add other ingredients like pork sausage, barbecued pork, boiled chicken, or lean pork paste, which are cut into thin strips.

One can also add vegetables such as cucumber and pickled carrot radish, and scallion heads, again all sliced into thin strips.

Cơm âm phủ is eaten with a dipping sauce made by mixing fish sauce with lime, chili, garlic, and sugar.

The result is an explosion of colors and flavors.

By Nguyet Anh, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the February 24th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)
Cơm âm phủ (hell rice) sold at the Am Phu Restaurant on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hue