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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Top Biking Adventures in Vietnam


As a country with every terrain imaginable, Vietnam offers a memorable bicycling adventure for any and all peddlers, regardless of experience or condition. The flat expanse of the Mekong Delta grows to rugged mountains in the central expanse and then blends into the widest variety of difficulty north near Hanoi.

Traffic and Bicycle Laws
Along with standard laws like not causing traffic problems by racing or zigzagging, Vietnam has few laws targeted specifically toward the bicyclist. It is important to remember not to carry cumbersome loads, carry children over age seven with you or ride more than two abreast. No sort of helmet or lighting is required, but bicyclists are not allowed to ride with open umbrellas. One can only guess what happened to make this law.

Common Trips
For those interested in adventure and active trips, there are some routes that will take you through and explore the backcountry while providing some modicum of modern amenities. ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA_one of the travel companies offering cycling tours in Indochina_ is received good reviews of adventure travelers.

Biking Mekong Delta

The easiest of these is around the Mekong Delta. With a terrain nearly devoid of any rise, these trips are easier, but by no means less scenic, than the others. Traveling through the expanse of rice paddies dotted with the occasional copse of trees, the rider will be joined by children cycling to or from school or women returning from the market. People in the villages will be pleasantly surprised to see a foreigner riding into town and a circuit from Ho Chi Minh to any of the surrounding villages is an easy ride. With the flat terrain and abundance of villages it is easy to take a trip of any length, whether only a day or two weeks, a rider can tour without backtracking.

Biking Mai chau, Hoa Binh province
The northern area allows for more wooded scenery while still allowing for easier trips. For the more adventurous, the northern area provides a greater degree of difficulty through the hills surrounding Hanoi. This trip offers a great opportunity to see the two area of outstanding nature beauty; the North West highlands of Mai Chau and the limestone mountains of Ninh Binh. Biking is a great way to see this fascinating and visually stunning part of Vietnam, offering both physical activity and the unique opportunity to observe a way of life that has changed little over the centuries. As we ride in Mai Chau we encounter Muong and White Thai minorities and are guests in their traditional stilt houses allowing us to see firsthand how these minority peoples live. In Ninh Binh we explore the beauty of “Halong Bay on the rice fields” on bikes.

Biking Ho Chi Minh trail
A new trip for the adventurous would be along the historical Ho Chi Minh trail. The so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail is one of the most renowned legends of the American War. The complicated road system winds along the Truong Son Range, which that facilitated movement of soldiers and war supplies from North Vietnam to battlefields in South Vietnam. Now the historic trail is being turned into a highway and hotels and towns are springing up speedily beside it. The route is incredibly beautiful with new mountain views around every corner, very little traffic, and virtually no tourists.

Weather
Weather in Southeast Asia is a big consideration and it is recommended to go from Late September to December or March to late May. The weather in the southern area of Vietnam stays warm and humid averaging 26°C with its rainy season from June to September. BE WARNED: Vietnam sees monsoonal rains starting in June, peaking in August and tapering down in September. This season varies depending on location; Hanoi in the north generally has a rainy season that peaks earlier while Ho Chi Minh City may not see its rains slack until early October. Vietnam, especially central Vietnam, often floods and can hold up a trip for a week before the waters recede.

The hot season will see temperatures averaging 30°C, with the south staying warm all year round and the north seeing winter trends averaging 15°C. Depending on the time of year, it would be advisable to take a jacket to keep off the chill, especially if riding in the highlands, and a hat to protect against the sun.

Other Considerations
Visas must be applied for at least six months prior to entry date. Tourist visas are granted for one month, but may be extended after arrival in Vietnam, and only allow one entry into the country. Tourists must fill out arrival/departure papers and declaration papers, keeping both with the passport at all times. It is also recommended having a few extra passport-size photos with you as local authorities may request these and it is always a good idea to stay on the good side of authorities.

With over two-thirds of its roads unpaved and those paved roads sporting an abundance of potholes, the road conditions almost require a mountain bike. 
The lush landscapes and warm hospitality provide anyone with a good biking tour of Vietnam. Take the time to look around and smell the proverbial “roses”.

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