A Guest Post from Lauren at Never Ending Footsteps
Earlier this year while traveling through Vietnam, I decided to road trip around the Mekong Delta for 10 days. Renting bikes in Saigon, my friends and I journeyed south in a vaguely clockwise direction until we reached the southernmost point of Vietnam. From there, we looped around and took a different route back to Saigon.
It was a wonderful trip, filled with dozens of bowls of pho, hundreds of iced Vietnamese coffees and thousands of river crossings on unsafe-looking ferries.
Here are some of my highlights:
Spotting precariously loaded bikes
Carrying a door by motorcycle
Before arriving in Vietnam I had seen ridiculous photos online of Vietnamese locals carrying all manner of things but I wasn’t expecting to witness any of this madness myself. How wrong I was!
Within minutes of setting out from Saigon, I was extremely excited to race past a man carrying an entire door on his scooter! Over the next ten days, I was delighted to spot people carrying ladders, fences, 500 bananas, Santa costumes, skateboards, feather dusters, babies and more.
Keeping an eye out for what the locals were carrying on their bikes soon became my favorite pastime on the road trip – with the added bonus of keeping me awake on those long 12-hour rides.
Crossing the Mekong on dozens of river ferries
The first river ferry I took was an exciting, magical experience and I couldn’t stop grinning. The 4000th river ferry I took was tedious and I was no longer thrilled by the experience.
The geography of this region of Vietnam doesn’t lend itself for huge stretches of riding. Multiple times a day we’d find ourselves reaching the end of the road, faced with a 30 minute wait for a river ferry to turn up and transport us across the water. At first a novelty, this soon became tiresome – especially on our final day, when we had a 12-hour ride ahead of us.
When we just had a short day of riding, however? The river crossings were a fun way to see what the locals were carrying, to take a rest and stretch our legs, and to take some photos now that we finally had our hands free.
Reaching the Southernmost Point of Vietnam
Reaching the southernmost point of Vietnam turned out to be a bit of an ordeal, and made for a much longer day than we were expecting.
Research online showed that it was possible to take a speedboat from where we were staying.
Little did we know that said speedboat would take three hours to get there.
It wasn’t possible to be bored on this journey, however. We would stop every so often to pick up more passengers – some of them even carrying roosters on board with them! My favorite part of the boat journey came towards the end, when we chugged down tiny river channels, with thick, lush jungle creeping down from either side.
The actual southernmost point was much like most “furthest points” around the world – there was a statue, a lookout and, well, not much more. One of the highlights was cramming three people on a single motorbike to tour the area – we were riding Vietnamese style!
This was one of those times when it was far more about the journey than the destination.
U Ming Thuong National Park
U Ming Thuong National Park, Mekong Delta
Unsurprisingly, I’d never heard of U Ming Thuong national park before arriving there – and it seemed like I wasn’t the only one. Arriving at a derelict hut, the park staff seemed more surprised to see us than you’d expect.
U Ming Thuong national park is the last remaining wetland in Vietnam and plays host to a huge selection of birds and mammals. Our local guide put us on a rickety old speedboat, where we struggled to balance on bendy plastic chairs as we raced through the peat-black river.
Health and safety was non-existent here, as our guide encouraged us to climb a rusty, ramshackle metal tower in order to get panoramic views of the entire park. It was on this climb that I suddenly developed a fear of heights and a fear of contracting tetanus.
U Ming Thuong was so much prettier than I was expecting, full of birds and bats and reeds and rivers. It was one of my highlights from my time in Mekong Delta.
The Buffalo and the Bridge
Buffalo on a boat, Mekong Delta
Our second to final day on the road trip was one of my favorites. Leaving the tarmac and smog behind, we found ourselves racing along tiny tracks of mud, through glistening rice paddies and over bridges that were far too narrow to cross safely.
The best part was crossing one of these bridges and spotting a giant buffalo balancing nervously on the end of a far-too-small boat.
And that just about sums up my incredible ten days in the Mekong Delta. It was a wonderful trip, full of rice paddies, river crossings and really bad roads.