Phong Nha, the new gem of Vietnam

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Until 2013, Phong Nha was just a small village where some cave enthusiasts used to go and discover the wonderful caves there. It was mostly a destination for local tourists who ventured on the boat tours to Phong Nha caves or dared to go to other sites that require more adventure, like Paradise cave. Then, suddenly, foreign tourists started to flow, and two years later it had become the second most popular destination for foreigners after Halong Bay, according to Lonely Planet.

How was that possible? Well, it is no coincidence that Phong Nha is the closest village to Soon Dong, the biggest cave in the world, which was just discovered in 2009 by a team of British explorers with the indispensable help of a local man named Ho Khanh. This gave a lot of publicity to the place, and although the tours inside Soon Dong are limited and very expensive, it allowed tourists to discover the other caves around, which are also wonderful and can be trekked in one day (two or three days for more distant ones, such as Hang En or Thu Lan).

The once quiet rural village where kids died of starvation 20 years ago is now a bustling village where everyone wants a share in the tourism boom. As you walk (or better, pedal) through the main street you will go through dozens of newly born hotels and restaurants that publicize western food, pizza, beer and hamburgers, with charming spelling mistakes, seeming to be the biggest hits.

But why are we talking about this in a blog about cycling? Because aside from this tourism gold rush there is another striking fact in the country of motorbikes: most tourists move around by bicycle. All homestays and hotels offer bikes for rent and it’s common to see groups of Western boys and girls in their twenties pedaling around the town by bicycles. The sportiest ones venture into the countryside with the bikes and park them in front of some of the caves near the road. It’s difficult to find a better place for cycling: there is barely any car, you are surrounded by nature and even the climate seems to help, the mountains bringing some fresh air (except during the hottest months in the summer). If you are in central Vietnam and you like cycling, it can be a good choice. You can even try cycling there from Hue; you can rent a bike in our office there if you don’t have one with you.

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: uy.nh@hghue.com [054 3 932 789; 0914 019 177 ]; or huy@vietnambiketours.com [0974131032].

Remember you need to register before January 15! 

 

 

Robert, our man in America

3241.1The US, where biking has been steadily growing in popularity is an important market and  Robert Moore is now our representative there. In his new position Moore will try his best to find trips that suit the needs of the clients. “A trip needs to suit their riding style and let them see the part of Vietnam that interests them”, he says.

For Vietnambiketours it’s an honor to work with Robert, as he was one of the first travelers who cycled with us back in 2010. Ngo Trong Huy, our chairman, was his tourguide then and this is how their friendship started. He has travelled from Saigon to Hanoi and has also explored the Mekong Delta. After selling the Marketing and Publishing house he owned in the US for more than 30 years, he has “changed directions and never looked back”. 

Moore is  aware that Vietnam still evokes nasty memories for many Americans and he wants to assure everyone about traveling here. “The people are friendly, the food is amazing and the country is absolutely beautiful.” However, the perception of Vietnam is already changing, specially among young people, and the war is no longer the first thing that comes to their minds when they hear the world Vietnam. “I believe the people who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s still think of the war first.  They grew up seeing the war on the news every night and those memories are still with them.  For younger people, they are certainly aware of the history, but its just that history.  They see Vietnam as a new and exciting place to explore, not a history lesson.”

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These words are said by a true American, a Texan from birth who still lives in Dallas, the place he calls home. Having traveled himself through Vietnam he strongly urges anyone interested in knowing the country to consider getting on a bike “even if it is just a day tour.” “On a bike -he says- you will get much more of a sense of place, a sense of what it is like for the people who live there.” 

For himself as a traveler, Vietnam is “both a history lesson and an exciting place to explore.”  After doing bike tours in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Spain, Cuba, Lebanon, and Canada, he considers Asia his favorite part of the world and he specially loves Vietnam. Although the interest for Vietnam is growing in the US, he is aware that the kind of tours Vietnambiketours offers are more focused on biking enthusiasts who had some experience in cycling tours even if they are not avid cyclists. In short, people who like exploring the world from their seatpost. “Most of my clients are cyclists who have done cycle tours in other countries and loved it.  They understand how traveling a country on a bike gets you a perspective that you simply cannot get if you are whizzing through in a car or bus.  For any one who enjoys travel outside of the tourist bubble, biking offers a great option”, explains Moore.

The numbers say many Americans could be interested in soing cycling tours in Vietnam. As Moore highlights, in 2014 about 47 million Americans went cycling in the last 12 months.  In 2014 there were 18 million new bikes sold in the US.  “It’s easy to see that cycling is popular in the US.  The states with warmer weather, in the South and the East and West coasts report higher cycling participation, but biking is popular in every state”, he tells us.

RobertMooreRobert is himself a biking enthusiast, an activity he has learned to love in the last ten years and that he enjoys couple of times a week. His love affair with biking started just for convenience reasons, but it grew into a passion. “Ten years ago I moved into a new house.  The best biking trails in the city ran right behind that house.  Several of my neighbors were cyclists and encouraged me to get a bike and join them out on the trails.  That developed into joining in on bike rallies and doing longer multi-day rides.  I love it a lot”, he recalls. Aside from biking, Robert also enjoys photography, a hobby he tries to bring to the next level by practicing and attending workshops.

If he had to choose a place in Vietnam, he wouldn’t have doubts: the Mekong Delta. Not because it’s flat but because of its human interest: “Life in the delta is different than the rest of Vietnam. Riding through the jungle and crossing the rivers on little ferries, seeing the people who live and work on their boats, its all so interesting to me”.

Vietnambiketours is now in Singapore

20150910_164433-1_resizedAs VietnamBikeTours grows, we also get more and more friends all over the world. It’s always rewarding to see how people from all over the world enjoy our cycling tours in Vietnam and go back home with good memories from our work. In some cases, cyclists who join our tours and our Sunday Bike Ride, become good friends. This is what happened with Saad Ahmad, our new man in Singapore. Saad lived for 10 years in Vietnam, five in Hanoi and five in Ho Chi Minh City, he joined several of our rides during weekends in 2013 and 2014 and became a good friend of our chairman, Ngo Trong Huy. Now retired from his work in the garment industry, this cycling enthusiast moved to Singapore and happily accepted his new position as Vietnambiketours representative in that market. As he tells us, “cycling in Singapore is becoming popular with the new PCN (park connector) built near housing estate”.

Although Singapore is becoming more and more friendly for cyclists, there is not much space left to explore, and that’s why cyclists there, who usually ride in groups several times a week, will for sure be happy to explore wild Vietnam, as they also cross sometimes the border to enjoy nature in neighbouring Malaysia. Singapore isless than four hours away from Saigon by airplane and you don’t even need to bring your bike with you, you can rent it from us.

Mr Ahmad thinks Singaporeans will be interested in any kind of cycling, enjoying the real Vietnam. If any tourist is interested, he can tell his own experience, as he joined a cycling tour last November from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue. When he is not cycling, he also likes playing tennis or enjoying a motorcycle ride (legs need some rest sometimes). If you are in Singapore and are thinking of doing a cycling tour in Vietnam, you can contact him by email: singapore@vietnambiketours.com. You won’t regret it.

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Sunday Bike Ride second birthday: gifts, shirts and new bikes

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It feels like it was yesterday, but two years already passed since our chairman Ngo Trong Huy joined a friend in front of Ben Thanh Market on the first Sunday of November and had a beautiful ride in Can Guioc, south of Saigon. That was the first Sunday Bike Ride, an event that started slowly but has steadily gained popularity to become the most recognizable Sunday Biking group in town. Vietnamese and foreigners join every Sunday to do some exercise, discover new places around the city and have a good time together. As Huy says, “the goal is also to make Vietnamese people and foreigners know each other and spend more time together”.
And those who have been more consistent in joining over the 43 rides we had in the last year will be rewarded in our birthday party this coming Sunday. As usual, the meeting point will be Ben Thanh Market at 6:30 AM on Sunday November 8th. The ride won’t be too strenuous, we will visit the bike store of one of our two main sponsors, Xe Dap Vietnam (the other one is Phi An Welding machines), we’ll cross over the Saigon bridge to reach district 2, then reach Cat Lai before crossing the Phu My Bridge and ending our ride in Phu My Hung. All riders are welcome the party at 36 Star Hills, Phú Mỹ Hưng, district 7. Food and drinks are provided by our sponsors.
If you are one of the top five riders of the year, you will get on Sunday Bike Ride shirt for free. If not, don’t worry, you can buy one at a good price. If you joined us one or two times over the last year you can get one for 400,000 VND, if you rode 3 to five Sundays, it’s 300,000 VND and only 100,000VND if you caame 6 to 9 times. You never joined us? No worries, the birthday party is a perfect time to get started, get to know the people on the bike and sharing some food and drinks with them. And you can also get a shirt for 700,000 VND. Mr Ngo Nhat Bao can help whoever wants to get one (tel: 01214514250). You can make the order here.
As usual, not having a bike is not a problem. You can rent one from us. And now it’s even a better time to do so, since we have brand new bikes at our offices in Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. Don’t miss our birthday, it only happens once a year!

The second SBR anniversary approaches

Sunday bike Ride flag

It seems like it was yesterday, but it has almost been two years since when VietnamBikeTours chairman Ngo Trong Huy and one of his friends friend met in front of Ben Thanh market and rode their bicycles to Can Guioc in what was the first Sunday Bike Ride in Ho Chi Minh City. On the first Sunday f November, which this year happens to be November 1st, we will celebrate the second anniversary of the Sunday Bike Ride. We still have to carefully prepare that ride, we can already say that we are offering some gifts to celebrate our birthday, but you have to apply in advance. In this Google doc you can  give your basic data and say the number of times you have participated in the Sunday Bike ride during the last year, also telling anything about your experience. The original document is in Vietnamese, but you can easily understand it with Google Translate. If we want to get some of the gifts offered with the help of our sponsors (Phi An welding machine, xedapvietnam.com.vn and VietnamBikeTours) you have to fill in the form before our deadline on dfs October 18 at 5pm.

Through these two years we have seen how more and more riders, both Vietnamese and foreigners, joined us for our Sunday adventures. We have also seen how the idea expanded in our branches in Nha Trang and Hue. And we will see many more good things in the future. We’re just starting. Let’s keep pushing the pedals!

The privilege of being picked up by bicycle

As an occasional bike tourer, I used to bring my bike with me in the plane, take it from the luggage belt, check that everything was all right (not always the case) and reassemble what needed to be reassembled. The bike used to be fine, but there was always a tiny minor damage, nothing important, some scratch, or some problem with the gear because of the trip. I remember this as being very tiring and the last thing I wanted to do after a flight. All this trouble was left behind as soon as I finally attached my bags and rode my bike out of the airport. I felt so free to be able to explore a new city or a new country, by bike from the beginning. Not relying on bus or taxis, not having to wait or to find out where to buy a ticket. Just pedal freely.

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Now, if you want to have that feeling when you travel to Vietnam, you don’t need to bring your own bike and expose it to possible damage on the plane. From September, Vietnambiketours will offer a very unique service: bike pick up at the airport in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang, Dalat and Nha Trang. You will feel all the good things of bringing your own bike, the freedom to be on a bike from the beginning and get rid of the tedious bike assembling and repairing process. Our bike with our guide will be ready to pick you up and start pushing the pedals without you having to worry about finding your way. That said, we also bring a van in case you need us to carry your luggage or for travel companions who don’t wish to cycle.

This service can be used by people who plan to do a biking tour in Vietnam but also for those who arrive to a city for a short time and want to maximize the time. Instead of dealing with taxi drivers and waste one hour of their stay inside a taxi, stuck in the traffic, they can enjoy from the beginning and discover these cities from the seatpost, enjoying it thanks to the deep knowledge of our guides. If you get tired, no problem, the van is there to pick you up anytime.

Beach cycling for the summer

Vinh Hy

Every few months we like to do a longest trip with the Sunday Bike Ride and for this August we thought nothing could be better than cycling along the coast and enjoy Vietnamese beaches. From August 14, we organize a trip to Phan Rang and Vin Hy Bay. Anyone is more than welcome to join. The more we are, the cheaper it will be, with a limit of 28 persons.

We will depart by bus from Xe Dap Vietnam bike shop, in 126 Dinh Bo Linh, in Binh Thanh district (Ho Chi Minh City) at 8pm on August 14. We will try to get a good rest in the bus, as we plan to arrive to Pham Rang at 6AM the next day. A good breakfast will give is the power to do our first ride, 40 km to Vinh Hy Bay. Phan Rang, the capital of Ninh Tuan Province can offer much more than its beautiful beaches, as it is one of the big centers of Cham culture in Vietnam. Around this quiet town it is possible to admire some of the most valuable vestiges of this culture that expanded through different parts of Vietnam between the second and 15th centuries. Two kilometers west of the railway station there is excellent hilltop Cham tower complex dedicated to Po Klong Garai, the last reigning king. A second tower is located about 20 km south west.

But we will leave that for the last day, as we first plan to cycle to Vinh Hy Bay, one of the still unspoiled beaches in the country, near the Nui Chua National Park. One of the best parts of the bay is getting there through the spectacular coastal road, which will make you forget about the heat and make your legs keep pushing. Once there, we will enjoy the local food (seafood is amazing), swim, relax, and visit the bay by boat. We’ll spend the night in a local hotel and try to wake up early to enjoy the sunrise.

On August 16, we’ll get back to our bikes and take the beautiful coast road to visit the mountain of God, 20 km from Nha Trang city, one of the most important Cham sanctuaries. We will learn a bit more about this ancient culture at the Poklong Giarai tower before going back into the bus and ride back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we expect to arrive before midnight.

Schedule
August 14:
8:00 PM. Departure from Xe Dap Vietnam bike shop, in 126 Dinh Bo Linh, in Binh Thanh district (Ho Chi Minh City) to Phan Rang.

August 15
6:00. Arrive in Phan Rang. Breakfast and cycle 40 km toe Vinh Hy Bay. Lunch, swimming and visiting the bay by boat in the afternoon.

August 16
6:00. Sunrise, breakfast and ride to the Mountain of God, 20 km from Nha Trang. Visit Poklong Giarai tower. Return to Ho Chi Minh City and arrive there before midnight.

Price
The cost is shared by the participants.
Hotel: 270,000 per room for two persons, not including breakfast.
Depending on the number of participants, we might hire a Van or a bus. here are the prices that will be shared by the participants.
Van 1 seats + truck: 11,980,000 VND (maximum 15 people and 15 bicycles)
Bus 29 seats+ large truck: 14,900,000 VND (maximum of 28 people and 28 bicycles)

Boat tour: 1,000,000 per boat

The final price will be announced on our facebook page on August 4, depending on the number of participants. You can register until August 10 at 5pm by paying a deposit of 500,000 VND. For more details, you can contact Ngo Nhat Bao (mobile: 01214514250, email: marketing@vietnambiketours.com). You can make the deposit in this bank account:Vietnam Bike Tours Co.,Ltd.; 007-1000-608-534(VND), VietcomBank Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; swift code: BFTV VNVX 007

Don’t miss your chance!

Fight the heat in Giang Dien waterfalls

waterfalls giang dien 2The last two or three months have been extremely hot in Ho Chi Minh City and around. Not that we are not used to hot, but this has been exceptional, people who have lived their whole lives in Saigon said they never experienced such a hot time for so long. With these temperatures, we are all waiting for the rainy season, but it’s taking a while for it to come and stay. To refresh yourself, you can wait for the rain, lock yourself up inside an aircon room or enjoy nature and freedom and discover one of the ecotourism gems around Ho Chi Minh City: Giang Dien Waterfalls.

Located just 50 km away from the city, in Dong Nai province, this is a perfect getaway for the Sunday and a way of having a good and refreshing time for cyclists. This coming Sunday june 14th, the Sunday Bike ride is organizing a trip there, and as usual it will be free for anyone bringing their own bike (for those who don’t, a cheap rental can be arranged). As you dip your feet in the Buong river, in front of the waterfalls, you will feel like you are so far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. You could even believe you are in Dalat, if not for the temperature (no, it’s not as cool).

waterfalls giang dienAfter a relaxing bike ride which will start at 6:30 from Ben Thanh market, you can just rest, enjoy the nature, have lunch in some of the restaurants around or even do your own barbecue. If you still have enough energy, you can explore the rocky paths around the area, have a look at the plantations, or go for a swim. As it often happens with beautiful natural sites in Vietnam, there is a legend to make two of these waterfalls more mysterious. It is a love story, a sad one about two young people from the Ma ethnic group who were in love with each other and were not allowed to get married. In dramatic fashion, they decided to die together for their love in that same spot and thus created the twins waterfalls (Doi), one named Chang (Boy) and the other Nang (girl).

For the ones who would like to enjoy this place longer, there are two hotels in the area. It’s never a bad time to relax and enjoy nature.

Meet Xuyen, our man in Nha Trang

When he was a child, Nguyen Tu Xuyen already knew he wanted to become a tour guide. He probably didn’t think he would do his job on a bicycle. This 33 year-old young man can now combine his passion for tour guiding with his other passions like cycling and the culture and history of his country. Xuyen is the manager of Vietnambiketours office in Nha Trang, the first expansion of the company after several years with a great experience in Ho Chi Minh City. He is the man for everything: he manages the office, he sells bike tours, thinks of how to develop the business and he fulfills his passion as a tour guide.

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Beyond its wonderful beach and its buzzing nightlife, there are many aspects of Nha Trang that are often overlooked . Xuyen likes to challenge the common perception of Nha Trang  and talk about the multiple attractions this coastal city and its surroundings offer for bike lovers: “It is located in a favorable location along the coastline, with fishing villages, islands, beautiful beaches combined with waterfalls, countryside…”. This is why he insists that the region is perfect for bicycle tours, with many new spots and aspects of the local culture that are waiting to be discovered. “I believe that in combination with the type of discovery, diving, sightseeing activities, the bike will make guests have more new options”, he says.

He looks for clients who share with him the passion for cycling, for outdoors, and who are willing to learn about the local culture, the history and the traditions. He started working for Vietnambiketours as a tour guide in central Vietnam and the more he learnt about the job, the more he wanted to know. He has no doubt that working for Vietnambiketours, he has found the right job for his passion and his forte. “That’s why I strive to become a good manager for my main passion. To inspire as well as the benefits from biking to friends and relatives”.

Being someone so passionate, his friends and relatives often hear from him and his encouragements to try cycling, to join the tour, to cycle at least once a week and discover places they didn’t know before. “Every week we regularly organize trips combining cycling and the learning of cultural aspects of the areas where we live. These are significant activities not only for me but for my friends and for people who love cycling in general”, says Xuyen.

His love for his job is so great that even in his spare time he likes riding his bike and go around to find new spots around the region. He offers something new and he hopes that his passion will be passed on to tourists who can pay attention to the new attractions he can offer them in Nha Trang.