Thursday, August 30, 2018

Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 D8: An Binh To My Tho - Cai Be Floating Market

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Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 Day 8: An Binh To My Tho - Cai Be Floating Market
Cambodia & Vietnam Tour
Day 8: Tuesday, 17th July 2018 - An Binh t0 Mỹ Tho
This is part of our cycling tour from Phnom Penh (ភ្នំពេញ) in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh & the Mekong Delta (VietnameseĐồng bằng Sông Cửu Long, "Nine Dragon River Delta") in Vietnam:
Total Distance: 55.37 km.     |     Level: Medum
Cycling Distance: 52.70 km.     |     Ferry Ride: 2.67km
Time : 8:25am to 4:10am
Time Taken : 7hrs 45mins (including visits to temple, floating market & war memorial; ferry crossing, lunch, coffee & tea breaks, regrouping, re-orientation, rests stops and many photo opps).

This is page 8 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D7 An Binh           |          Go to Other Days      |     Go to D9 Ho Chi Minh 2 >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    Vietnam's traffic is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, be careful and take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from! Also do watch our for motor-cyclists who ride contra-traffic.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
   Generally the roads were fairly flat, climbs were mainly up and down bridges.
   At the major towns traffic is super-heavy with many motor-cycles. For the uninitiated, crossing junctions can be a nightmare with vehicles coming in from all sides. Rule of thumb is: JUST GO WITH THE FLOW! Move along with the traffic at an easy pace, giving way to other traffic when need be, AND avoid making any sudden swerving. At the rural areas traffic is very much lighter.
   The Mekong Delta being a large delta has many bridges and ferries crossing the Mekong River and it's distributaries. Most were low bridges. Ferry fares were relatively cheap, ranging from 1,300 to 12,000 dongs (MYR 0-25 to 1-75) depending on distance of ride.
The ferry fare for the crossing of the Mekong River from one of An Binh unlisted (on Google Maps) jetty (GPS: 10.31096, 105.99872) to the Đông Phú Ferry Dock (GPS: 10.33064, 106.00331) at Cải Bẹ was 10,000 dongs per pax including our bicycles; there was no need to fold or bag our bicycles. Google Maps does list some of the major ferry docks, but there are many that's not listed - so it's best to ask the locals to safe time.

3. Navigation
    Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty. Sin together with Robert brought these along and had pre-loaded the Vietnam Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations, and tracks between our destinations.
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.  
    We also used Google Maps in Walking Mode for navigation but there is a lag when starting off, so one would have to cycle a bit to get the orientation right. We used this for cycling in and around Phnom Penh and also as a alternative to our GPS units in Vietnam, as Google Maps have more up-to-date roads. Do note that what are shown as roads on the map may turn out to be rough gravel roads or wet, muddy tracks.

4. Weather
At Vinh Long (Vĩnh Long) late morning temperatures averaged 30°C. At My Tho (Mỹ Tho) evening temperatures averaged 27°C. The 50% overcast skies did make the day much cooler. Wind speed was 18kph with gusts up to 28kph. There were a couple of showers along the way.
A useful weather forecast sites is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

5. Places of Interest
- Tien Chau Temple (Chùa Tiên Châu) (GPS: 10.26299, 105.96911) at An Binh.
Cai Be Floating Market (Chợ nổi Cái Bè) (GPS: 10.3324, 106.0352).
Cai Be Produce Market (Trung tâm du lịch Cái Bè) (GPS: 10.33436, 106.03498) a small tourist market to buy souvenirs and local foodstuff.
Rạch Mieu Bridge (Cầu Rạch Miễu(GPS: 10.3442, 106.34217) in My Tho.

6. Food
1. Breakfast: inclusive hotel breakfast (baguette, Steamed Vietnamese Banana Cake (Bánh Chuối Hấp), fruits, and Cà phê sữa nóng  at Nam Thanh Homestay (GPS: 10.26476, 105.9666).
2. Lunch: Broken rice with rural Vietnamese dishes, durians and Cà phê sữa đá at road-side shop (GPS: 10.32468, 106.08175) in Hội Xuân.
3. Tea: Sinh tố with Chiku fruits at road-side shop (GPS: 10.35185, 106.34942) at outskirts of Mỹ Tho.
4. Dinner: Seafood steamboat with baby cat-fish at Karaoke Rạng Đông (GPS: 10.35093, 106.35384) in Mỹ Tho.

7. Accommodations
 At Mỹ Tho we stayed at Rang Dong Hotel (GPS: 10.35103, 106.3542), 3 nos. 2 pax room at 350k dong per room per night:
Address: 5, 40 Lê Thị Hồng Gấm, Phường 6, Thành phố Mỹ Tho, Tiền Giang, Vietnam.
Phone: +84-273 3970085.

8. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest.
    We were offered 4G prepaid sim cards for USD5/= each at the Cambodia-Vietnam immigration crossing at Bavet/Moc Bai; but we declined as we were uncertain of the reliability of the walk-by vendor. At Ho Chi Minh, they are many shops selling 3G & 4G sim cards; but to ensure reliability we got our hotel operator to buy 3G Vietnamobile sim cards for us, there was no need to set up the phone to operate this sim card, it was automatic. The sim card cost 60k dongs (about USD2-60, MYR 10-70) for a validity of two weeks with 2 Gigs of data per day.

9. Communicating with Locals
    The official language in Vietnam it is Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt). Their words are not pronounced the way they are written, click on the Vietnamese words within these blogs for their correct vocal pronunciations.
   Most locals do not speak English. Hotels receptionist do speak some rudimentary English. The staff at Tourists information counters do speak pretty good English. Google Translate is a good app to use for basic conversation with the locals, it also have an audio feature to play the respective words/phrases. In this blog, click on the Vietnamese words for their pronunciations.
10. Curency
In Vietnam, the currency used is the Dong (VND, Vietnamese: đồng). At tourist spots in the larger cities, there is a notoriety of tourists being fleeced, so do be careful. We were fortunate that our tour took us to the smaller towns where the locals were warm, helpful and honest. We were fleeced only once while in Ho Chi Minh (read about that later).
11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools. As many of the roads we muddy or dusty tracks, lubricant oil will come in handy; we also brought along a couple of spare tires.


Yesterday we had good day at An Binh Island, one in which we did not do much cycling and instead went for a river cruise. It was a good break after several days of cycling, and the tranquil island was just the place for a good rest.
Today, we continue our loop back towards Ho Chn Minh heading towards My Tho but with a short detour to Cai Be (the town we were suppose to be at before getting stuck at An Binh) to see its renown floating market. The route includes a ferry ride from An Binh to Cai Be.
Distance: 55.37 km.     |     Level: Medum
This route mainly goes on quite rural roads until the outskirts of My Tho where it merges to a four-lane highway. It is quite flat and includes a ferry ride from An Binh to the outskirts of Cai Be.

We started the day with a simple breakfast; it was simple yet very nice with bread, fruits and this interesting and delicious Steamed Vietnamese Banana Cake which was chewy soft and full of banana flavour. It's eaten with thick coconut milk (in the bowl at the centre).

8:25am - We say our goodbye and thanks to Nam Thanh Homestay and Huấn. He was a very good host, coming all the way out to wave us off. Yes, we will definitely miss him and his place, and would recommend those coming to An Binh Island to stay here.

But first a short visit to the nearby Tien Chau Temple. This is an old temple that dates back to 1899 and is a national art and architecture heritage site. It has a nice architecture with roof top stupas that reminded me of the Tibetan ones.

Withing its compound are several statues, this one is of a meditating Buddha sitting on a lotus bloom with an umbrella canopy consisting of dragons.

And this one is of Guan Yin standing on a lotus bloom raised high by sea waves in which fierce golden dragons are swimming.

We left the temple and rode across the island towards the ferry terminal that will take us to Cai Be. As we passed a shop, Anne gave a wave: this was the shop we stopped by for cà phê sữa đá yesterday. Now more familiar with the route, we were more observant of the going-ons there: of locals cycling to work and school, of locals riding on motorcycles carrying impossibly large loads of fruits, of passing by several wide canals with the colourful river boats, of a long boat ferrying out large porcelain pots of which this area is noted for, etc.

We also passed several smaller canals and often stopped to take photos, this one was of a man on an odd- looking triangular wooden row boat.

9:20am - We reached the An Binh-Cai Be Ferry Dock, this dock is not listed on Google Maps, and we managed to located it after consulting the locals. With forty minutes to spare, we relaxed at the shop just opposite. Some of us just sat around having coffee, while some eased themselves onto the hammocks hanging at the side of the shops. All of us tried the sugar cane juice sold by this lady, whom we later found out was a former student of Huấn. Hah.... did not know that he's a versatile fellow, running a homestay and once a teacher too!

This was non-descript dock with a small concrete landing platform that was not shown on our maps and could easily be missed. We were fortunate that Huấn had told us about it as it saved us about 15km. Otherwise we would have to  loop down to the Phú Phụng-Tân Phong Ferry Terminal (Bến phà Phú Phụng-Tân Phong) (GPS: 10.27934, 106.06843), for a ferry crossing and then ride across Tan Phong Island (Tân Phong) (GPS: 10.30645, 106.05813). After that it would be onto another ferry at the Tan Phong-Hiep Duc Ferry Terminal (Bến phà Tân Phong-Hiệp Đức) (GPS: 10.31885, 106.05251) and then looping back to Cai Be.

We were the only foreigners on this ferry, other passengers were form the locality or from the surrounding region. Most were commuting and some like this motorcyclist were delivering longans to the larger towns.

We were also drawn to and could associate with some of the locals; Fenn sat next to this pretty young lass who probably reminded her of her daughter. Likewise, Ying sat next to an older lady motorcyclist who must have reminded her of her mother.

And there were these happy-go-lucky ship hands, sitting on a mid-level low deck. They help guide the ferry in shallower waters when landing, and direct boarding traffic at the docks. Above them, the pilot sat in a small cabin situated a the top of the ferry. This gives him a better and clearer view of the canals and rivers as the ferry chugged along.

And we were up to some antics, having fun with comical poses (see top-most photo) and beautiful butterfly jumps.
The locals must have been entertained by us 😍.... for free!

As we arrived, the ferry docked at a landing on the left and we were about to disembark when the crew stopped us and pointed to a dock on the other side. That's where we were suppose to get down, they have dock here for a quick pick up of passengers to take them to the other side. Hah! It's a dual-purpose ferry, one that took us form An Binh and also one that helps people cross this river.
We landed, gave the pilot and his crew friendly waves of goodbye and headed out on a short 4 km. ride to Cai Be.

10:30am - We arrived at the floating market but was quite disappointed by the lack of activity there. There were only a few large boats and some smaller sampans around; our timing was a bit out. Although the market is often opened all day, starting as early as 3am, the liveliest time is at sunrise, This market is believed to have been founded during the 17th or 18th century.
This floating market is basically a wholesale market with large boats bringing in fruits and vegetables from the surrounding provinces; longangs from An Binhsweet potatoes from Vinh Long, pumpkins from Hau Giang, etc. Smaller boats ply around these large ones to buy the goods for retails sale at the local land markets.

Nearby to the market, is the Cai Be Catholic Church (Nhà Thờ Cái Bè) (GPS: 10.338355, 106.035238) sitting conspicuously with its tall sharp steeple sticking up in the skyline. Built in 1929-1932, the Cai Be Catholic Church has the tallest bell tower of the Tien Giang Province. It is 52m (171 ft) high. The church bells weigh 400, 650, 800, 1000 and 2000kg respectively.

Since we missed the major market activity, and trying to seek more floating market views, we road further upwards along the Kinh 28 Canal. We did not see much more market boats but did get to view the local live like this bamboo house with an attap roof. Most houses around it were brick houses, so this could be a remnant of earlier days housing.

Further along, small boats were berthed near the riverside houses that stood on stilts, and the large wholesale boats parked further out. Several of these smaller boats were berthed in a line leading to the large boats; to get over a local walked on a make-do bridge made from several bamboo posts, walking on them agilely to reach the first small boat and then onwards to the larger boats across this make-shift pontoon bridge.

We reached a large covered area; this is the Cai Be Produce Market, a small shopping area with a few shops selling local produce, and souvenirs to cater for visiting tourists. We rode further on but did not see any more floating market and decided to turn back.

But we had still not given up and decided to ride across the Cai Be Bridge 2 (Cầu Cái Bè 2) (GPS: 10.332141, 106.034921) to try to look for a smaller floating market on the other side of the river. Not much luck here too as most of the buildings at the river side seemed to be warehouses or collecting centres for the catch from the trawler boats. We rode back out to head for My Tho and was pleasantly surprised to see some young lads training the cocks in a cock-fighting duel. Cock-fighting is although not that rampant is a popular sport in many Asian countries.

The major section of the road leading to Hội Xuân was being upgraded. Coupled with some showers, the road was getting muddy. Ok... time to get dirty.

New bridges were being built, and in the meantime we had to make several detours onto muddy paths, stony gravel trails and even ride across pedestrian bridges. Actually, this made our ride all the more interesting.

12:15pm - At Hội Xuân, we took a break for lunch. This lady in red really cook some good rural-style Vietnamese food (vegetable omelet, chicken rice, soup), one which was simple yet tasty. We like her vegetable soup very much and soon drank all that she had; being a good host, she quickly cooked some more for us.

Sin had a keen nose for durians, and popped over to some stalls opposite to get one... soon they were enjoying this King of Fruits, to the amusement of the lady in red.

Ahead we crossed a couple of timber bridges before the road merged into a busier road.

2:15pm - Looking place for a rest break, we noticed a lay-by with a large triple arch entrance with pointy roofs. The entrance gates were closed but we still managed to get some photos of a monument located inside. It was a significant place to stop for a short rest as this was the Victory Monument Rach Gam - Xoai Mut. It is a war memorial, but unlike most other monuments, this one wasn't in memory of the Vietnam War but was a memorial to an even older war and to a particular battle called the Battle of Rạch Gầm-Xoài Mút. It was fought between Tây-Sơn (Vietnamese) and Siamese forces in present-day Tiền Giang Province in 1785. It is considered one of the greatest victories in Vietnamese history.

Further ahead, another quick stop. This time to buy some Vietnamese chikus.

As we neared My Tho the road merged into a busier four-lane highway where we rode passed some industrial areas. Looking down a side road, had a peek of a bridge that looked somewhat familiar.

Along this road were many shops that sell grilled fish, a popular one is this nasty looking Snake Head Fish with their open jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth.

3:30pm - One last refreshing stop for Sinh Tho, this time tasty ones made from chikus and longans. It was also a good time to search for hotels, and out came our phones to check Google Maps for nearby ones. We found a few and decided to head for the nearest one to check it out.

The nearest one was the Rang Dong Hotel, my coincidence located on the Hoang Sa Road Mekong riverside promenade that we had rode on when we left My Tho for Tra Vinh a few days earlier. Here we are riding on this lovely promenade which was wide but had light traffic. The bridge which we had a peek at and looked somewhat familiar was Rạch Mieu Bridge, it can be seen in the background on the top left.

The Rang Dong Hotel had windy balconies with a good view of the Rạch Mieu Bridge. The only thing was that it was a bit run down and had poor maintenance.

Dinner was an easy walk to the Karaoke Rạng Đông restaurant, just a couple of doors down the road. We had some good seafood, including claypot fish and also a steamboat of baby Snake Head fishes with lots of local salad greens.

One of the salad we had was this nice looking, hook-shaped flower which we had seen on An Binh Island. It is the Sesbania Grandiflora Flower (Bông So Đũa), more commonly known as the Vegetable Hummingbird.

It was a good dinner, something more extravagant (but still comparatively cheap) to end our tour before we head back to Ho Chin Minh tomorrow.

With that nice Vegetable Hummingbird salad AND a good night view of the Rạch Mieu Bridge, we will be humming ourselves to sleep. Hahaha!
🎵🎵🎵 Chúc ngủ ngon🎵🎵🎵
(That's "Good Night" in Vietnamese but said in a humming way 😝.)

(For more photos of the dayClick Here)
This is page 8 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D7 An Binh           |          Go to Other Days     |      Go to D9 Ho Chi Minh 2 >

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