Vietnam - Mekong Delta Region
Cycling Southern Vietnam
This is a fascinating ride through the labyrinthine network of waterways and accompanying tracks, trails, and paths that cover an area from Cambodia to the South China Sea, offering fine relaxed cycling and an insight into lives not normally seen.
When we set out to explore the Mekong Delta Region we were looking for a cycling tour with a laid back attitude, little climbing, and comfortable accommodation. We had little idea as we left behind the teeming traffic of Saigon that we would find all of these attributes and so much more in a unique maze of inland waterways the size of Belgium. Inaccessible to those not prepared to put a little effort into their exploration this is a region that can only properly be explored by boat, by foot, or upon two wheels. If you are looking for a cycling holiday light of hills and full of the excitement of exploring a region seldom visited this could be just the adventure for you
At a Glance
Total Days: 13
Cycling Days: 9
Daily Average: 65km
Max. Alt.: 20m
2017: 17 Jun - 29 Jun: £1850.00
It was a simple design brief; create a bicycle tour exploring life on the inland waterways of Southern Vietnam. With this in mind Phong and I packed our bicycles and set out to find a flat route through a part of the country not frequented by back-packers and mainstream tourists. Fortunately along the way we found a rich culture, friendly locals, plenty of good food and comfortable air conditioned accommodation.
We put together a circular route beginning and ending in a city with one of the most recognisable names in Asia, Saigon. This cycling tour explores a fascinating part of Vietnam rarely seen by anyone other than the river people and farmers who live there. The size of Belgium, the Mekong Delta Region consists of nine main rivers, including the Upper and Lower Mekong, linked by a vast network of inland waterways that are home to some ten million people. For many of these people access to home is via these rivers and canals and the byways that follow them, and it is these rural roads - often too narrow for cars that we make much use off to explore this unique part of Asia. This is a cycling adventure that is low on climbs but high on reward as we see a part of Vietnam that guidebooks don't take you to.
In order to ensure comfortable and clean accommodation we generally ride into urban centres each evening to hotels with AC, en-suite with hot water, clean and comfortable bedding and of course post ride beers.
This is an authentic trip around the Mekong Delta. The sort of trip that is pretty hard to find these days. The route was along narrow tracks beside rivers and canals through the real Mekong. The kids we encountered were very excited as we passed by & the locals in general laughed & waved. I think they thought we were crazy! I suspect that they have not seen mad cyclists since the group rode through a year ago!
Tony Web on Vietnam - Mekong Delta Region
The exploration of a fascinating region of Asia that due to the need for a little effort to get around is almost untouched by tourism.
An insight into the lives of the Mekong boat people, fishermen, and farmers.
Finish the tour afloat as we take in the view from the river duding a half day boat journey on The Mekong.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), a city who's name conjures up images of a cosmopolitan colonial past, the ravages of war, and a bright economic future.
Enjoy the local food of the Mekong Delta Region.
IMPORTANT: Please note that only 1 night in Saigon is included at the beginning of the tour. If you wish extra time to rest after a long flight and to assemble your bicycle we are able to book an extra night for you at our joining hotel.
WARNING: Please be aware that due to the narrow tracks this tour may be unsuitable for anyone suffering from poor peripheral vision.
The best way to see a country is by bicycle and Painted Roads' tour of the Mekong Delta demonstrates this point in spades. We saw, smelled, tasted and experienced things in this amazing country that you could not otherwise experience except on a guided cycling trip, conducted by organisers who know the intricacies of the land. This trip takes you to places you would otherwise be totally unaware of. It is all about experiencing the Viet Nam that is off the beaten tourist track and what a hugely rewarding experience that turns out to be.
Bob Russel on Vietnam - Mekong Delta Region
Included in this tour
12 nights accommodation, 12 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners, snacks a drinking water whilst cycling.
1 x western tour leader and 1 x local guide.
Mekong boat trip.
Airport transfer if arriving/departing on first/last day of the tour.
The tour begins and ends in Ho Chi Minh City, still know to the locals as Saigon. If arriving and leaving by air via Saigon's Tan Son Nhat international airport on the first and last day of the tour you will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel as an inclusive part of the tour. If joining and leaving via land or on other days we will help you to arrange how where and when it is most convenient for you to join us. Typically the group will all come together early on the first evening of the tour in the hotel lobby or bar for a briefing and to get to know each other before heading out for our first meal together.
We cycled through some amazing parts of Vietnam. I'm sure parts you wouldn't normally get to see on a bus tour. The people are so friendly and excited to see some people from a different country, albeit briefly as we cruise past. but as we cycled through each town/village, cries of "hello" "hello" greeted us and even the odd high-5. All the kids would run onto the streets to get a glimpse of the tourists, wondering who was visiting their distant world. It was very humbling and we felt like movie stars. They don't have a lot but you wouldn't know it based on the big smiles and waves that came our way. An experience hard to describe and impossible to capture in a photo.
David Sulivan on Vietnam - Mekong Delta Region
Physically this is probably our easiest cycling tour. The biggest climb is the suspension bridge on day 2, all other climbs are short steep hump back bridges just a few metres across. Some of these bridges have no fence or wall at their edges and so some riders may feel more comfortable pushing across them. Many of the tracks we ride on are narrow and require care and concentration when passing on coming motorcycles. Some rougher tracks and distances between 45KMS and 100KMS combined with temperatures in the mid 30s are the physical challenges of the tour. Total cycling distance is 680KMS. Average daily distance is 76KMS. Please be aware however that some of the narrow trails we cycle along on this tour may be unsuitable for anyone suffering from poor peripheral vision.
Saigon and The Mekong Delta region are firmly in the tropics and are at sea level. This means year round temperatures of high 20s to mid 30s. December to May is the dry season and the summer months from May to November are the wet season. Despite their descriptive monikers we must expect some rain in the dry season, and blue sky and dry days are not at all uncommon in the wet season. Many people actually prefer the cloud cover and occasional showers of the “wet” season as this makes for cooler cycling days.
Most kinds of bicycle, except for light weight racing bikes are suitable for this tour: touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes, even single-speed are all fine. Road conditions vary from smooth asphalt to relatively smooth hard-packed dirt. Tyres from 28C in width upwards will be fine although a minimum of 35mm is recomended. South East Asia is generally a warm place so the ability to carry one or preferably two water bottles is essential (either on your bike or in a backpack). Our back-up vehicle carries tools and basic spares – inner tubes etc although you can bring your own pump and puncture patches of course. You should bring spares that are relevant to your bike; a few spokes of the correct length for your wheels, perhaps a little fluid and bleed kit for disc brakes and pads etc. A means of carrying your camera, sunblock etc is also useful – either an on-bike bag – handlebar or saddlebag for example, or a lightweight day-pack.
ESSENTIAL.! Please ensure that your bicycle is in perfect working condition. If you are in any doubt please consult your local bicycle shop for a a full service.
Hire bikes are available for this tour. Typically these will be Trek or Giant mountain bikes with 24 or 27 gears. Please request a hire bike at the time of booking, fields to do so are on the booking form. Payment for hire bikes can be made with the balance of the tour payment or in cash on arrival.
Rental Bicycle Recommendation. Although hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them at home.
(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner; S = snacks)
Day 1: Saigon
If arriving by air you will be met at Saigon's international airport and transferred to our hotel in the heart of the city. A tour briefing will be followed by our first evening meal together when we can get to know each other and discuss the adventure ahead.
Day 2: My Tho
This morning we board or AC support vehicle and head out of the hustle and bustle of city traffic to the tranquility of the countryside. After lunch we mount or steads for our first experience of cycling in The Delta region. Rice grows as do spices and fruit, whilst laid-back tropical folk swinging lazily in hammocks wave as we cycle through this beautiful scene to our first of many small ferry crossings.
This evening we have a beautiful riverside setting for both sleeping and alfresco dining, A splendid end to our first day on the road.
Day 3: Tra Vinh.
Leaving town on a bigger road this morning we cross a mammoth suspension bridge spanning nearly three kilometres of tropical inland water.
Before long we leave the bigger road behind as we return to rural Vietnam and trace a route through beautiful countryside along narrow lanes sometimes just a few feet wide. These lanes that at times are surfaced with compact red earth take us past provincial homesteads and lead us to ferries across two of the nine mighty rivers of the Delta Region.
Day 4: Soc Trang.
Leaving Tra Vinh the road is rural though a little busier for the first half an hour until we turn off to explore more of the narrow lanes that navigate a route through fields or rice and groves of coconut and banana. The people here are unused to foreigners passing along their narrow trails; their greetings are sometimes shy and sometimes excited, smiles and friendly waves are never far away.
Our two river crossings today are broken by Cu Lao Dung Island where the main highway traversing the length of the island is for the main part only wide enough for two motorbikes to pass, rural for sure
Day 5: Bac Lieu.
Leaving Soc Trang we soon find ourselves in a Pastoral scene. Once again the roads are more akin to bicycle paths than highways meaning little chance of meeting cars. We cross small waterways and observe rural life passing by as we pedal south towards the coast.
The tone of the day changes in the afternoon as we exchange agriculture for fishing. Out of view of the sea but within easy reach via the many little waterways we cross over we now witness a Chinese influence in the first sea fairing folk of our journey.
We end the day 10KMS north of the coast in the bustling town of Bac Lieu
Day 6: Ca Mau
We head out of Bac Lieu on narrow and quiet riverside paths that lead us to a short stint on Highway 1 before lunch in the small town of Ho Phong. The afternoon’s ride is an altogether smoother affair on wider, but still traffic light roads as we head for the regional centre of Ca Mau.
Day 7: Rach Gia.
The essence of today is the Trem River. After a relaxed 11KMS riding away from Ca Mau we reach this fascinating river and for the next sixty kilometres we follow the narrow riverside lanes that gives us a unique glimpse at the communities that live both on the shore and on the river. Like so much of our route through the Mekong Delta the only forms of transport connecting these communities with the outside world are supported by feet, 2 wheels or water. Larger than many of the waterways we have followed the Trem River carries more and larger vessels, but being much smaller than the mighty rivers we crossed earlier in our tour nothing is so far away that we cannot fully appreciate how life is lived along this river; a fascinating day.
The final stretch of today’s journey will be via our support vehicle as we transfer to our rest day hotel in the costal town of Rack Gia
Day 8: Rach Gia - Rest Day
Nestled between two rivers and the sea the neighbourhood in which we spend our rest day is a quiet and prosperous area in which to relax. Whether you spend you day reading in the hotel, strolling the streets or relaxing in a riverside café a day in Rach Gia is a pleasant way to recharge your battery ready for the journey ahead.
Day 9. Ha Tien
We cycle out of Rach Gia via narrow lanes winding past shop fronts and houses and through small local markets. Soon we are out of the city and following trails that at some points become no more than a narrow foot paths passing vegetable plots duck farms and extensive fields of rice. Single lane roads take us through rural villages and fishing communities where colourful fishing boats are moored up at where canals enter the ocean. Our destination for tonight is the riverside town of Ha Tien, a pleasant place with a strong Khmer influence.
Due to the long and tedious nature of the final stretch of roads we will transfer the final 45KMS aboard our AC minibus.
Day 10: Chau Doc
Leaving Ha Tien we are soon crossing open expanses of marsh land with views to the mountains of Cambodia to our left. Heading northeast the vista soon changes as we begin following a canal that tracks very close to the Cambodian border. With three rice harvests a year here there are often huge swathes of brilliant green leading the eye to the Khmer hills and temples. Nearer by is canal life where we observe how Vietnamese canal barges very closely resemble those of Europe.
Day 11: Long Xuyen.
The day begins with a short ferry ride across the Hau Giang, or Lower Mekong River to one if Vietnam's few Muslim neighbourhoods. Here we resume our exploration of the small lanes through the Mekong Delta's wonderful waterway as again we follow tracks and trails, sometimes gravel, sometimes concrete and sometimes bitumen. In this region there are some splendid examples of colonial houses along the way, add in friendly locals and a few river crossings and we have a wonderful final days of bicycle exploration in Southern Vietnam.
Day 12: Saigon.
Having spent two weeks observing the waterways of The Mekong Delta region from the riverside paths, it is now time to take the opposite view as we board a boat for a memorable river trip along the Hau River, the largest branch of The Mekong. We will arrive at the vibrant riverside town of Can Tho, the capital of the Mekong Delta Region, in time for a lunch of either local cuisine or, for a change, Western fare.
Following lunch our mode of transport will change to land based as we board our minibus and head for Saigon and our final evening together.
Day 13: Departure.
For those flying out today we will provide transport to Saigon's International airport. For those wishing to spend more time in Vietnam we are able to offer advice and assistance for further travel in the region.
Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.
Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.
2017: 17 Jun - 29 Jun
Rental bikes for this tour are from our local supplier. The are typicaly Giant hardtail mountain bikes with front suspension, although the brand may vary.
Rental bike price £170
The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.
** Early Bird Discount.
Book with a deposit four or more months prior to the tour running to secure your place at this discount price.
Our Other Tours in Vietnam
Cycling An Enchanted Landscape
Dates: November 2017 | October 2018
Tiers of rice terraces fading seemingly to infinity as they drop away through a vast valley, karst pinnacles like those from a Chinese water painting, minority people whose way of life and dress is little touched by the outside influences of the global village most of us inhabit; North East Vietnam as such is possibly the most stunning destination in South East Asia for a cycling holiday, and this tour is all about adventure. From Hanoi in the north of Vietnam we first transfer to within a few kilometres of the Chinese border from where we set out by bicycle to explore a region overwhelmed with natural splendour. The cycling is on small, quiet roads with challenging climbs and breathtaking descents. Our exploration of this part of Vietnam follows valley floors, climbs through karst hills and past rice fields, crosses spectacular mountain passes and explores wonderful plateaus. If you desire a bicycle touring adventure through a Vietnam little visited by outsiders then The Painted Roads North East Vietnam cycle tour could well be for you.
Note that this holiday includes an optional extension to include a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage sight of Halong Bay. See below for details.
Total Days: 14 | Cycling Days: 9 | Difficulty: 7/10 | Daily Average: 70km | See more information, dates & prices »
Cycling Central Vietnam
Dates: March 2018
Extending south of Hanoi is the Annamite Mountain Range, known in Vietnamese as Truong Son. During the Vietnam War a series of supply routes through the dense jungle of these mountains were used to move troops and supplies to support the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong in their war against South Vietnam and the United States. This series of trails ran not only through Vietnam, but also through neighbouring Laos, and soon became know as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Some thirty years after the war came to an end a series of roads following the route of these trails was finally linked together and sealed and, rather appropriately dubbed, The Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Named after the leader who led the nation to liberty from colonial rule, this relatively new and oft times amazingly deserted route provides a wonderful conduit for the adventurous cyclist to explore a beautiful and regularly deserted region of Vietnam seldom visited by Western travellers. A highly recommended tour if you're keen to enjoy a cycling holiday off the beaten track.
Note that this tour includes an optional extension to include a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage sight of Halong Bay. See below for details.
Total Days: 14 | Cycling Days: 10 | Difficulty: 7/10 | Daily Average: 97km | See more information, dates & prices »