Xe Dap is not dead!

After 100 days of travel from Singapore, 4130km of pedaling and a good thousand by train or bus, we arrived in Hanoi on September 26 🙂 So many paths and so many great moments in the head on bicycles!

Since we entered Vietnam 15 days ago, we have had a few more great moments on our bikes. On the small roads of Ninh Binh, its canals adjoined by ducks and its hypnotic hills surrounded by rice paddies, with the friends Caro and Vianney. In Cat Ba too, where the hilly coastal road has plunged us back into the maritime atmosphere of Indonesia or Thailand.

Cat Ba Coastal Road

But let us be frank, and careful for those who would read us with the aim of crisscrossing Vietnam on two wheels (non-motorized): the country, or at least its north-central part, is far from being a paradise for cyclo-travellers. Motor vehicles, especially trucks, honk their horns for nothing, double without any visibility, even if they fall back on our wheels, while scooters insert themselves with anarchy on the main road, consult their smartphone while driving or stop unexpectedly…

Bikes stored in the alleys of Ninh Binh

Of course the volume of vehicles is the main cause but we still see a clear difference with the previous countries: the risk is everywhere and the Vietnamese are tough on the road.

We especially regret that the bicycle, which has long been used by sellers [1], has became so minor. The electric scooter is fashionable but does not solve congestion or danger. In Ninh Binh, Sabine our host explained to us: motorbikes are a sign of richness, the bike of poverty. So it disappears from the urban landscape. However, there are still a few shops that would allow everyone to equip or maintain their bike: they repaired Sylvain’s pedal box in 1/4 hour for 8 euros!

Bike shops in Hanoi

As for the collective bus in Hanoi, yet cheap (0.3 euros per ride) and quite reliable, it is far from being full except during rush hour.

In short, here we regret more than ever our European bike paths and the cycling rights acquired in pain by the French associations. About this topic, there is still time to fill the bike barometer of the FUB [2]. Let’s fight to conserve and extend rights, perhaps such beautiful countries like Vietnam will take inspiration from its to give the little queen a place of choice in an ultra-motorized urban landscape.

[1] See about the beautiful exhibition: “Street vendors and the cries of the street in Hanoi” at the French Institute

[2] Public inquiry of the French Federation of Bicycle Users, open until 30 November 2019

Remembering Cat Ba

Cat Ba is the gateway to the famous Halong Bay and its wildest little sister Lan Ha. It is therefore a tourist hotspot, with all its contrasts and excesses. While the surroundings are wild, mountainous and populated by the last langurs monkeys, the city and its waterfront look more like Canet-en-Roussillon, with its ugly hotel buildings and its uncharming bars.

In the harbour, the boats wet while waiting for a next trip between the karst islets.

Thanks to Charles for this illustration!