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Day 83– February 21st: Mỹ Xuân to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): 60kms
Considering the hotel was right on the edge of the highway, I had a surprisingly good night’s sleep. As always, I was keen to get going, not bothering to try and find something for breakfast. I paid the bill, 330k VND, collected my passport and was off. Because of the concrete barrier in the middle of the road, I had to ride back down to the last intersection with lights, duck across in front of the waiting traffic on the side road, and then make my turn before all the cars and bikes flooded the intersection.
I got straight onto the wide shoulder of the highway, joined by dozens of screaming scooters roaring past me, some very closely. It took about ten minutes to find a banh mi lady finally, and I quickly stuck it in my handlebar bag. I would wait until I was off the highway on a less noisy and dusty road.
About another 15 km up the road, I used the lights once more to turn west onto the DT25B and pass uphill through the Phú Hội Industrial Zone. There was no shade to be had, so I just stopped on a large, grassed area in front of a factory and ate my banh mi. Being the end of the Tet holidays, there were lots of young people on motorbikes heading back to Saigon. They were nearly all young couples with the boy driving, their luggage tied onto the rear of the seat and tucked between the boy’s legs.
I had chosen to go this way to avoid using the highway all the way into town and having to share it with a huge volume of truck and bus traffic. I was riding for a ferry crossing at the Saigon River to enter the southern suburbs of the sprawling city. Being a Sunday, I was sure the southern streets would be pretty quiet, especially before lunchtime.
I was originally heading to the Cát Lái ferry, but it was unclear if it was still operating during Tet. In the meantime, I learned about another ferry just south of there. The Phước Khánh ferry was a bike-only ferry which meant I’d have more chance of getting on it sooner. It was 11kms between both ferries, so I figured if the Phước Khánh ferry wasn’t working, I would ride up to the Cát Lái one instead.
There seemed to be more and more bikes heading towards the ferries, and I was worried that I’d have to line up for hours to board it. At Phú Thạnh, I turned down a narrow, very rustic lane and headed for Phước Khánh. As I got closer and closer to the ferry, the traffic all but disappeared. I turned into the small riverside village and rode down a maze of laneways till I came out on the ferry dock. An old man pointed me to the ticket seller. There was no line-up, and the ticket was only 6k VND. I rode up the boarding ramp and discovered about ten other people with their bikes sheltering under the small roof at one end. I pushed past a couple of bikes and leaned mine against the railings, and sat down. Nobody seemed interested in me, and they mainly sat there silent.
It took another 20 minutes before we set off to cross the river. I didn’t care. I had plenty of time today. The ferry was only half full, and everyone was squeezed under the shade of the roof. The crossing took about 20 minutes, and I was the last one off, letting the mad rush precede me so I’d have a nice calm ride off the ferry and onto the streets of Saigon.
The southern suburb of Phu My, where I embarked, was very quiet. It was a truly pleasant ride up into the heart of District 1, where I no longer needed a GPS to show me where to go. Everything here was so familiar to me, but it was the first time I’d seen it from the saddle of a bicycle.
I had well and truly chosen the right time and place to enter Saigon. So much so that I was way earlier than I thought I’d be. I had arranged to meet Sharyn at Te Te Taphouse as she had booked a night at an AirBnB just down the road from there. It was way too early to be drinking beers, even for me! So, taking advantage of the lack of traffic, I started on a mini-tour of the usually busy District 1 streets.
Finally, after killing half an hour, eventually completing a lap of Walking Street (Nguyen Hue), I found myself in Little Japan Town and out the front of the Pasteur Street Taproom. I pulled up the bike and leaned it on the step in front of my table, and ordered a beer. I had another hour and a half to kill before arriving at Te Te.
At 4 pm, I cycled around to Te Te, a short ten-minute ride, where Sharyn was waiting for me with the friendly staff. We were the first ones there, but the staff kept us busy with questions about the ride. They had known for some time about our plans.
This was the official endpoint of the ride. It had been a daunting prospect, to begin with, not so much because of the distance but for our safety out there on the road in a country that has 20 road deaths every day of the year. So, in one sense, it was great to be back and finished in one piece, but I had also gotten used to cycling by myself and had really enjoyed the second half of the trip after finding no joy up north. There’s also the sense of achievement after such a long trip with all of its challenges, which only you can appreciate. It was just very sad that Sharyn had been robbed of the chance to share in the achievement as well. Not being one who enjoys the spotlight of center stage, I managed to keep the celebrations low-key. I know what I’ve done, and that’s good enough for me.
In the end, I’d ridden 1920kms over 33 separate legs, averaging 58kms per day. Certainly, no records were broken, but for us, that’s not what it’s about. We had experienced Vietnam like not many others have done, staying in places that foreigners don’t stay and meeting people that foreigners don’t usually meet. In the meantime, we’d conquered the crazy roads, the big hills, and the erratic weather that Vietnam throws up at you to make sure you remember her well.
Want to reflect on the entire Vietnam Cycle Tour from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Check out:
The summary blog with our handy hints and