Tuesday, 30 June 2009


The day after crossing the border from Cambodia into Vietnam we ran the gauntlet and entered the city of Saigon amidst an escort of thousands of small motorcycles. No matter how wide the roads may be, they are always clogged by this popular mode of transport, buzzing around our bicycles from all sides like swarming bees - sometimes from the front. Faces are often covered by all manner of masks (anti-pollution or anti-sunshine?). As a result the women cyclists in rural areas dressed in traditional hats resemble bank robbers with lamp-shades on their heads making their getaway on bicycles. I've only been in Vietnam for about a week, but so far I estimate that in terms of development Vietnam is somewhere between Thailand and Cambodia. The city of Saigon (officially re-named Ho Chi Minh City, but still referred to as Saigon by many locals) seems to be under construction, and at this rate the skyline may rival that of Bangkok in a number of years time. So far everything here seems to be more expensive than in Cambodia, but there is a greater variety and availability of commodities such as foodstuff. So far accommodation comes at about double the Cambodian rate, but these are proper hotels with A/C, TV, fridge, hot shower, and clean bedding. Talking about TV, I've been able to view 2 SA sports channels, also watching the Springboks beat the touring British Lions at rugby. So, there I was, sitting in Saigon watching Kobus and Toks speaking Afrikaans on TV ( I wonder if those 2 big fish know how small the pond really is?). The language barrier in Vietnam is one of the toughest so far, as the spoken word has very little resemblance to it's written counterpart. For instance, our first night in the country was spent in the district of Cu Chi, but even there we were not understood when we asked "is this Cu Chi?" - instead we were offered food, or pointed off somewhere in the distance. Incidently, Cu Chi is the centre from where the Viet Cong waged their war on the Americans from underground tunnels. Since leaving Saigon 3 days ago Leana and I have caught the tail wind East to the coast, and are currently at the coastal town of Mui NĂ© (close to Phan Tiet). There are many fancy resorts here, as well as a renowned golf course designed by Nick Faldo. We're staying in the budget bungalows, right on the beach - not too bad for church mice! Daily distances cycled since I've last reported these from Phnom Penh have been:- Traeng Tratueng 91 km; Veal Rinh 97 km; Sihanoukville 50 km; Ream Nat Park 30 km; Kampot district 86 km; Kampot town 14 km; Kep 24 km; Kampot 24 km; Takeo 97 km; Neak Luong 131 km; Svay Rieng 65 km; Cu Chi 87 km; Saigon 38 km; Cia Ray 102 km; Phan Tiet 96 km; and Mui Ne 37 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town at the start of this journey is 42 638 km.


SMB tech geeks said...

Well done Ernest & Leana, keep on cyclin'! We love catching up with your exploits - I just can't quite believe how far you've made it ;0).

Elise said...

Hey - Zach and I met you near Kep at the bakery. We are about two days shy of Hoi An and hopefully we will cross paths again. We've been cycling with our friends from Canada and New Zealand this last week - What a change from cycling just the two of us. All the best to you both.

- Elise