Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam Cycle Tour.
Day 3 – December 3rd: Hanoi.
After breakfast again in Food Street, I set out to find a mount for Sharyn’s gimble that she’d bought to use her smartphone in to take video from the bike as we went.
It took some time, but I eventually found a camera shop that had an old GoPro mount tucked away in a box of odds’n’ends in a cupboard. It cost 300,000 VND (about USD15), but it would do the job.
Badly needing some preparation and fitness for our upcoming ride, we got the bikes out again and headed out around West Lake once more. A quick call into Hanoi Bicycle Collective to check my brake pads, and then we set out around the lake to a meeting with Guim, the guy from Mude who arranged our T-Shirts. He also owns the Bicycle Collective. Over a coffee, we found out he had toured the world on an electric bicycle and also ran tours on them here up north.
As serendipity would have it, on our way back, we came across the Turtle Lake Brewing Co. Seeing this as a sign to take a rest, we called in and ordered a couple of IPAs. We ordered a snack and met the co-owner, Lamon, a nice bloke.
Traffic back to our hotel was frantic. We had just entered the Rush Hour and joined all the risk-takers with their firmly-entrenched death wishes. Just about any road rules you can think of back in your own countries do not apply here. In fact, if there are any road rules here at all, absolutely no one adheres to them. Fortunately, traffic moves so slowly there are rarely any serious accidents in the cities.
Later that evening, we got a Grab car over to the Standing Bar, another craft beer pub with 19 taps representing a variety of brewers, both local and from down south. It was pretty quiet, but we met Ange, the lady running the place, and had a good chat about the local scene.
Day 4 – December 4th: Hanoi.
I had been looking around for one of the most essential accessories for travelers in Vietnam – earplugs. Both Sharyn and I snore (although me not so much!!!), which we are used to by now, but there’s no stopping the early morning Dawn Chorus of roosters and building construction. Trust me; earplugs can go a long way to help you enjoy your Vietnam experience.
I had had little success trying to find them, though, until we spoke with the boy at the front desk. He promptly took me on his motorbike to a small shop about a few kilometers away, and I bought ten packets of them just to be sure.
After lunch, we headed out on our bikes again around West Lake. Once again, we called into Turtle Lake Brewing Co. for a beer, and once again, we struck really thick traffic on the way back.
After cleaning up, we walked back into the Old Quarter for a few beers at C-Brewmaster. One of the local lads was having a birthday and, in his inebriated state, decided to buy us a beer. Our novelty value can’t be underestimated after nearly 12 months of no tourists!
Once again, Beer Street was going off, and once again, the Police raided the place and dispersed everyone. We didn’t have to wait long, though; they were all soon back again for business as usual!
Sharyn downloaded a new app onto my phone for me. RidewithGPS plots cycling routes for you as well as your distance covered at any one time and current speed. A trip computer and Google Maps have sufficed in the past, but here in Vietnam, we could use all the help we could get.
We had been planning a ride up to Mai Chau in the mountains west of Hanoi. Guim from Mude had also suggested an alternative route up there to avoid much of the Hanoi traffic. But after watching a number of Youtube videos, we decided that not only weren’t we fit enough yet to tackle big mountain climbs, it was the wrong time of year. The weather was still too cold and foggy, and the rice paddies had all been harvested a month or so ago. It would not be the picture-perfect place of the tourist brochures for some months yet.
After much discussion, we were satisfied with our decision and made an alternative plan to ride south to Tam Coc in the Ninh Binh area. We had had a homestay recommended to us at Tam Coc by an old school friend of mine who’d stayed there just last year.
With Mai Chau out of the picture, we would have extra time to spend around Tam Coc and other places along the way.
Day 5 – December 5th: Hanoi.
Today was our last day before we set out and had a chance to finalize our route down to Ninh Binh. After breakfast, I managed to fix Sharyn’s gimble to her handlebars while she did some last-minute work in the cafe across the street.
With Sharyn’s bike ready, I took the opportunity to go for a walk with my camera. The sun was out again, so I headed to Railway Street for some pics. Unfortunately, I could only imagine what it was normally like with no trains and people.
Undeterred, I headed over to Pasteur Street Brewing Co. taproom for a couple of beers. It would probably be the last craft beer we have had for some time. The place is down Au Trieu, a small but affluent lane with lined with beautiful, shady trees and many high-end shops. The taproom was almost empty, except for Trang, the bar manageress. She came and joined me at their shuffleboard table for a couple of games while there were no other customers. Trang was surprised; I beat her both times, then admitted I’d played before!
At 5 pm, I called Sharyn to meet me at the nearby New Gentry Beer House for dinner. We tried a couple of local beers at this smart-looking establishment. Thom’s Reckless IPA and Barett’s California IPA were both pretty good. If it weren’t our last night here, we would’ve stuck around to try some more, but we needed to get back to finalize our packing.
Read on to find out what happened next: Embankment Day. Hanoi to Phu Ly.