- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a Day
Chris Durrant, UnderGround Issue 46 March 2006
Updated 29 June 2011I can still vividly recall the iconic TV footage of people dangling from helicopter skids as the Americans abandoned the Saigon embassy at the end of the Vietnam War. The place held a fascination for me, what with all the movies and books I'd devoured, and its tantalising taboo status for casual travellers. Then all sanity broke loose - the government figured some foreign cash would be nice and the doors swung wide open. I'd grown up in the eighties, fearful of communist oppression and nuclear uncertainty. I really wanted to see what the fuss had been about.
We landed in Bangkok only to learn that while we were in the air, Southern Asia had been devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami. Not the most uplifting start to a holiday. Our flight continued on to Hanoi. From the window we spotted concrete hangars and MIG jets lining the runway. We envisioned being greeted by inscrutable soldiers wielding AK47s but were disappointed with standard issue po-faced border control officers. Hanoi's franco-asian food is outstanding and the people lovely. Ho Chi Minh was resting in state and looking good after his annual refit in Russia. The weather was a modest 14 - 18 degrees. We reacquainted ourselves with our bikes and toiled with Hanoi's sea of cyclists. It's total mayhem but totally effective given the absence of any cars. I pity the day when the Vietnamese all trade 'up' to motorcars and gridlock becomes the norm.
After a magical side-trip without bikes to Halong Bay, where we were part of a temporary theft of a rowboat, we finally set off on the business end of our trip - cycling 1000km to the Mekong Delta. Like most big cities, the only safe way to exit the urban sprawl is by public transport. We took a bus, sitting in the back with our bikes on the roof - sharing bread rolls and cigarettes with the locals. Actually I don't smoke but it felt right at the time. After stopping at Nimh Binh to climb pagodas and watch sunsets we continued by train to Hue. Now it's true that we hadn't done much cycling at this stage, but the stretch between Hanoi and Hue is reportedly quite dull and we only had three weeks left. Had we not ridden the train, we would have missed one of those unforgettable experiences - over-nighting in a 'hard' sleeper. The 'hard' part is the mattress because it's actually a bamboo mat. We shared with an Australian family of four and our bike bags. Bicycles are not allowed on this particular train. We pretended to be Americans with lots of luggage - no one asked any questions. We were awoken the next morning by stirring revolutionary music, followed by a bottle of water and a steam bun lobbed into our compartment for breakfast.
A crowd gathered as we assembled the bikes outside the train station. Disc brakes were a source of wonderment. Like blokes hanging around the barbeque, the men pointed and rubbed chins in admiration. Anything with a handle or button got yanked or pushed. The Vietnamese are naturally inquisitive and can create anything with a piece of scrap metal and a hammer. If terrorists really want an atomic bomb they should talk to a Vietnamese street vendor- "certainly sir, can I interest you in a missile launcher as well? Should be ready next Friday". Hue is ridiculously beautiful, packed with temples and even the occasional elephant patrolling the streets. We visited the Imperial City - where the Americans bombed the snot out of the Viet Cong guerrillas during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Extraordinarily there was no apparent animosity towards westerners, even Americans.
The next day we blew the cobwebs off our bikes and had our first taste of cycling Highway 1- not as harrowing as we had feared. The trucks steered well clear of us and the scooter drivers were friendly. In fact it felt a good deal safer than cycling the open road in New Zealand. Hitting the resort town of Dinh Binh, a young girl beckoned us from the side of the road, offering us a room in her dad's hotel for US$10. With one exception we never paid more than 15 bucks the entire trip, even at flash joints with pools and all the trimmings. A fellow cycle tourer warned that a steep, unassailable pass awaited us in the morning. It transpired to be quite straightforward. We even passed a few buses and trucks- on account of their sad engines rather than our fitness. Hawkers accosted us as we crested the pass, flogging tiger balm and costume jewellery at inflated prices. The Vietnamese are clearly coming to grips with this capitalism caper pretty quickly. The pass blocks Southern Vietnam from the chilly winds up north. It was instantly 5 degrees warmer as we descended to the other side. Our warm clothes were duly bundled off home.
We rode past the biggest Buddha I've ever seen on our way to Danang where one of the biggest US bases once was. It has that awful strip-mall look typical of fast growing industrial towns. So it was on to Hoi An, along with every other western tourist - or so it seemed. We discovered you could buy any piece of clothing imaginable, tailor-made to your individual shape and ready tomorrow. After lingering for a few days we caught a bus to Dalat where we drank beer with a German who reckoned he was on the run from the German secret service. From Dalat it was all downhill to Thanh Binh and a very questionable hotel- complete with full length mirrors, tired ladies in mini skirts and dodgy-looking drunk guys. Lonely Planet maintains it is the only accommodation available. Our sleeping silks came in handy.
120kms of pedalling the next day landed us in a valley that time had forgotten. The village of Jun was established for the displaced Montagnard highlanders. The government is forcibly creating refugees to undermine dissent in areas home to ethnic minorities. The village is poor with few amenities. Families live in long houses with parents, grandparents and kids separated by a blanket. We met another traveller - Michelangelo from Rome (no, really) who was touring the world on his 'easy rider' motor cycle. Normally people would pass comment on his name and the famous painter, but while in New Zealand someone earnestly thought it was funny to be named after a ninja turtle. Who says we ain't got kulcha?
At a campsite a few days later, we shared a drink with a motorcycle tour guide who had been a special forces ranger with the South Vietnamese Army. The more he drank, the more harrowing his stories became, including those of his three years re-education after the war. At the same campsite a French couple raved about Phu Quoc Island off the south west coast. We were sold. Picking our way along back roads and over rickety stick bridges, we rode for three days across the totally flat Mekong Delta to the coast. The markets were awesome and the food unimaginably good. A Russian-made hydrofoil whisked us from the coast to the island. A beach-side bungalow was secured without any reservations. We indulged - eating exotic fruit, quaffing smoothies, swimming in bath-temperature water and snorkelling amongst the coral. All too soon we were in Saigon and winging our way home. Vietnam is a spectacular place to travel- cheap, friendly... and by bike is a great way to see it.
The Nitty Gritty> The rainy season runs from May to November. December to February offers the best combination of warm temperatures and less rain, but gets cold up north.
> Take advantage of the prevailing northerly breeze that blows at that time of the year by travelling from north to south.
> Lonely Planet's 'Cycling Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia' is helpful but there are some inaccuracies so follow your nose.
> Take tools and spare parts. Locals ride cheap Chinese or Thai bikes, so quality spares are not available but the Vietnamese can generally fabricate anything you need.
> Mr Pumpy is a useful link.