Monday, 7 April 2014

The final glorious pedal strokes




Bullet points

-After cycling for the last 12 months we decided enough was enough and we simply stopped cycling. Just like that we were finished!
-We caught a few buses and enjoyed a cruisy final week in Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam

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After dropping out of the Cardamom mountains near to the Cambodia-Thailand border we couldn’t help but question- What on earth are we doing here? With less than two weeks until our flight home from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam we had ambitiously headed a few hundred kilometres in the wrong direction and now found ourselves needing to cross Cambodia and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta with little spare time to relax and enjoy the last days of our journey. So with that in mind we got stuck in and hammered out a couple of big days before wisdom prevailed and we opted for some public transport in order to get back on the front foot!
Classic Cambodian public transport
 Border crossings have always proven to be fascinating experiences, occasionally stressful, sometimes hilarious, often entertaining, always exciting. Re-entering Vietnam after two weeks in Cambodia was as big a contrast as any border we had ever crossed. Thatched bamboo housing gave way to concrete brick and tilt slab, quiet rural scenes were replaced by chaotically busy urban sprawl, empty broken and bumpy roads were soon smoothed and filled with the quintessential Vietnamese motorbike mass! Vietnam, when contrasted with Cambodia, suddenly seemed like a land of plenty.
Re-entering the wonderful chaos that is Vietnam!
 The plan was to gain some time by bussing to Can Tho on the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam, and to complete our year of cycling adventure with a crusiy four day ride up to Ho Chi Minh. The vision was a glorious final section, perhaps riding into the city with crowds of fans cheering us on as the sun set on another day and on our journey. In reality it all turned out a little different. We just stopped biking. We departed Can Tho, rode 10km out of town, got disorientated on an unmarked road, stopped into a café for a drink and a team meeting and decided to stop. We were pretty happy with all that the year had given us, we’d had a little taste of relaxation and we liked the flavor. We were happy to put the bikes away and have a holiday for our final week out of New Zealand. Just like Forrest Gump stopping running, we stopped biking. We turned back, rode the final glorious pedal strokes back into town, checked back into the hotel we’d just checked out of, much to the amusement of the staff, and entered into our new life of relaxation and luxury!
The cafe where it was decided the ride was complete.
 So instead of another bike ride our final week consisted of a wonderful boat ride exploring some of the floating markets and the myriad of canals around Can Tho, indulging in the vast array of fine foods available in Ho Chi Minh City and wandering it’s parks and museums and meeting distant relatives. Amongst all this we reveled in the celebratory vibes at the culmination of this very fine year spent exploring this landmass and the hugely exciting anticipation  of our return home.
Cai Rang Floating Market. Mekong River Delta.

Phong Dien Floating Market

Classic Mekong Delta produce and attire!


Canals near Can Tho

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) by night.

Police in Ho Chi Minh are currently trying to clear all business from the footpaths. They confiscate any restaurant furniture found on the footpaths. In a cheeky act of resistance the bar owners have gotten one step ahead of the Police, the furniture was all taken inside, for those of us outside we were all offered a piece of cardboard to sit on!