Sunday, September 2, 2018

Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 D9: My Tho To Ho Chi Minh - Of Temples & Markets

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Cycling Cambodia & Vietnam 2018 Day 9: My Tho To Ho Chi Minh - Of Temples & Markets
Cambodia & Vietnam Tour
Day 9: Wednesday, 18th July 2018 - Mỹ Tho To Ho Chin Minh
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:-
1. Cycling around My Tho:
Distance: 8.34 km.     |     Level: Easy
Time : 7:45am to 11:20am
Time Taken : 3hrs 35mins (including visits to temples, markets & parks, breakfastregrouping, rain stops, and many photo opps).

2. From My Tho to Ho Chi Minh:
Total Distance: 74 km.     |     Level: Easy
Cycling Distance: 4 km.     |     Coach Ride: 70 km.
Time : 1:45pm to 4:05pm
Time Taken : 3hrs 40mins (including bus journery, loading/unloading from bus, unpacking & unfolding bikesregrouping, rests stops and photo opps).

This is page 9 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D8 My Tho 2         |       Go to Other Days   |  Go to D10-11 Ho Chi Minh 3 >

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 Tan Lap Thanh Coach ride from My Tho to Ho Chi Minh took about 2-1/2 hrs. Fare was 60k dongs (about RM10-50) and we folded and bagged our bikes to put into the bus hold.

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 My Tho (Mỹ Tho) morning to noon temperatures averaged 28°C. The overcast skies did make the day much cooler. There was couple of short bursts of showers during the morning.
At Ho Chi Minh (Hồ Chí Minh) afternoon temperatures averaged 30°and evening temperature averaged 26°C.
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
In My Tho:
   - Vong Nho Farmers' Market (Chợ Vòng Nhỏ) (GPS: 10.35205, 106.35515) also known as the "Small round market".
   - "Dragon Park" (GPS: 10.35184, 106.36037) at Hoang Sa Road.
   - Lac Hong Park (Công viên lạc hồng(GPS: 10.35259, 106.36709).
   - Truong Sanh Temple (Chùa Trường Sanh(GPS: 10.35212, 106.37976) with it's conspicuous tall pagoda.
   - Hokkien-Teochew Clan Temple [福潮會館(福建公所、潮州公所)] (GPS: 10.35765, 106.37608).
   - My Tho Old Farmers' Market (Chợ Cũ) (GPS: 10.35682, 106.3756).
   - Backpackers Street (Phạm Ngũ Lão(GPS: 10.76876, 106.69351)

6. Food
In My Tho:
1. Breakfast: Pasta Phở at food court of the Vong Nho Farmers' Market.
2. Morning Tea 1: Cà phê sữa đá at Huu Tai Coffee Shop (Cà phê Hữu Tài) (GPS: 10.3524, 106.37982) near the Truong Sanh Temple.
3. Morning Tea 2: Cà phê sữa đá at Cafe Chung Cư () (GPS: 10.3568, 106.37218).
4. Lunch: Fried noodles and fried rice at Karaoke Rạng Đông (GPS: 10.35093, 106.35384).
In Ho Chi Minh
6. Supper: Iced desserts at Chè Viêt in Asiana Food Town (GPS: 10.76945, 106.6937).

7. Accommodations
 At Ho Chi Minh, we stayed at Saigon 237 Hotel (GPS: 10.76831, 106.69255), two 3-pax room at USD19 dongs per room per night:
Address: 237 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Tp HCM, Hồ Chí Minh 700000.
Phone: +84 28 3837 2361

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.
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PRELUDE

The previous day we had a interesting ferry ride from An Binh Island which took us along canals onto the Mekong, and then up some canals to Cai Be where we visited the Cai Be Floating Market before proceeding to My Tho.
Today we explored a bit of My Tho before boarding a bus to head for Ho Chin Minh.
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CYLING AROUND MY THO
This is a short route to explore a bit of My Tho, with visits to a couple of markets and two temples. It goes along the Hoang Sa Road promenade along the Mekong before turning inwards onto the busier streets of the town.

With time to spare we decided to spend the morning exploring My Tho and started off the day with a visit to a local farmers' market. My Tho, located in the fertile Mekong Delta, has several farmers' markets. We went to the Vong Nho Farmers' Market, it was just round the corner from our hotel. But I must confess, we went to the food court first 😛; must take care of the tummy first, Yah?
The market is not a very big one, so the food court had just several stalls.

Today, I tried something different - a broth made from star-shaped pasta; I saw it and the little kid in me just surfaced and said "I want... I want!"
One can select the dishes to go with the broth, I went for some pork chops, prawns, quail eggs.... and pig's blood again! This one here also had lard bits, another of my favourites - and of course I asked for more.

Like most of the locals in small towns, the stall-holders were very friendly, smiling and waving at us. I like the onions at this stall, with their roots tied up to form stringed bundles.


Most of the stalls are in the market proper, but some vendors just laid out their stuff on the lanes around the market. A trishaw man, nonchalantly rested on his vehicle while waiting for passengers.

We rode off from the market, turned into this quiet and green nice side lane to head back to the riverside. Oops! It's a dead end. Well never try, never know; and sometimes when we try we hit a jackpot of nice things to see.

Our destination for the morning was a tall pagoda that we espied from our hotel. We rode along Hoang Sa Road hoping that that this riverside road will lead us close to it. But the road led to a dead end. However, near the dead end was a small park filled with dragons cut out from dark green shrubs... okay, let's stop again... for photos... haha!

Turning inland we rode along a familiar looking four-lane road. Hey! It's the place where we stayed in days, we shouted to ourselves as we rode pass the Hotel Tấn Lộc 2. At the far end of this road was another park, the Lac Hong Park, with a statue of Nguyễn Hữu Huân standing tall at one corner. The park is also known as the Pink Roses Park, during the right season roses and lavender can be seen blooming there.

9:00am - We arrive at the Truong Sanh Temple, it has a ten-tiered pagoda with smooth curved roofs at each tier.

Within the compound were several statues: a Reclining Buddha statue and this golden one of Guan Yin.

The girls praying to Buddha; we are thankful: although during our tour, we had faced some rain and muddy trails, we had not had any mishaps or any punctures.

Next to the pagoda was the original older temple, it's architecture was with distinct arched gable ends filled with bas-relief carvings .

As we left the temple, it started raining, so we did what came naturally - waited it out with cups of Cà phê sữa đá at the Huu Tai Coffee Shop.

Fortunately it was a short shower and we rode onwards to another famers' market, this one is called Chợ Cũ, (My Tho Old  Market). It must have been the oldest market in the town. We rode round it, trying to find a suitable place to safely park our bikes.....

..... and then, at the back of the market we discovered an old temple. It's the Hokkien-Teochew Clan Temple, dedicated to the Hokkien and Teochew clans.

On each side of the main prayer hall were annexes, each dedicated to one of the respective clan. This one is the door leading to the Teochew Clan prayer hall.

From the front door a corridor paved with antique yellow flowery tiles led to the main prayer hall. Above were many round Chinese lanterns.

The temple was strangely quiet, some locals were sipping Chinese tea at the front foyer ...


... and inside the temple, the only person we saw was this motherly looking lady wearing a unique hat.

As we were about to leave, another round of short shower came... well better go back in and say another round of prayers.

The Old Farmers' Market now had a new roof, it was a fairly clean market and motorcyclists seems to be able to ride within it; er... perhaps it's a drive-thru' market.

As we rode back, another round of showers came. Today's rain was odd, with no slow build up from a drizzle; it just came in sporadic bursts, suddenly coming pouring down and we rode helter-skelter for another coffee shop for shelter - the Cafe Chung Cư, for another round of Cà phê sữa đá.

With a light drizzle cooling us, we rode back to our hotel.
Getting back to Ho Chin Minh was easy; we just got the hotel reception to buy the tickets for the intercity bus which leaves hourly. Conveniently, the bus company will send a mini-bus to pick up passengers from the various hotels. The fare per head was 60k dongs inclusive of our bikes. 
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FROM MY THO TO HO CHIN MINH


Total Distance: 74 km.     |     Level: Easy
Cycling Distance: 4 km.     |     Coach Ride: 70 km.

Instead of sending a mini-bus to pick us up in one go, the Tan Lap Thanh Coach Company sent a couple of vans to pick us up. Somehow the van sending the girls got delayed and by the time they arrived a heavy shower came in. Even the umbrellas provided by the bus staff could not prevent the girls from getting wet.

2:00 pm - Here we are, happily on board the bus, a comfortable 28-seater. The journey to Ho Chin Minh will take between 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. depending on the city's chaotic traffic.

As we arrived at the city, from our perch high on the bus we could easily observe the going-ons. This one is an interesting drinking hole called Suối Mơ (meaning Spring Apricots) with a jungle arch entrance. Elsewhere, at a strategic corner, empty low chairs and tables were laid out at a cafe, ready for the evening's patrons.

A man pushing a bicycle, loaded with his goods - brooms, dusters, mops, etc.

A lady pushing a small tricycle with an even bigger and heavier load of plastic bottles, buckets, pots, stove, chairs and other household goods.

A roadside "Hớt Tóc" barber; his shop is just a lean-to shed.

3:40 pm - We arrived at the Tan Lap Thanh Coach station in Ho Chin Minh, it's not a proper station and was just a road-side stop in front of their shop-lot. We quickly unpacked and unfolded our bikes to the curious eyes of the locals. The station was about 4 km. from our hotel and we will cycle all there through the crazily, chaotic traffic. It's okay, we are getting used to it.

At our hotel, Saigon 237 Hotel, we had some disappointing news. We would only be staying here for only one night, and will have to shift to another of their associate hotel for the next. They have a large group coming in who will need the whole hotel. We will have to make way for this large group, despite us having confirmed our bookings for two nights and paying a deposit days earlier when we left.
Well, this type of things do happen in Vietnam.... sigh!

Time for food hunting at Backpackers Street (Phạm Ngũ Lão). We settle for a slightly up market place called Huong Viet Vietnamese Aroma Restaurant, having these lovely Vietnamese spring rolls (Gỏi cuốn) together with Phở bò and clay pot rice .....

..... and also these and Vietnamese Prawn Fritters (bánh khọt).

Ngon! Nó ngon!
(That's "Yummy! It's delicious." in Vietnamese)

(For more photos of the dayClick Here)
This is page 9 of a 10-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D8 My Tho 2         |       Go to Other Days   |  Go to D10-11 Ho Chi Minh 3 >

Related Blogs:




Vietnam : Hokkien-Teochew Clan Temple @ My Tho
 (Phước kien-Thiếu cháu hội quán)



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