The Mekong Delta region is one of the best cycling locations in the whole of Vietnam due to its quiet back roads, friendly people and stunning scenery. Here’s a self-guided route from Saigon to the Southern border with Cambodia, with tips on great places to explore the area.
Albeit being the most densely populated area in the whole country, it is home to an enormous diversity of quiet rural villages and small lanes that will make you quickly forget the hectic lifestyle between Hanoi and Saigon. The Mekong river, which the locals call Song Me – the mother river – is perhaps the single most important element for livelihood and production not only for this region, but for the whole of Vietnam.
Extensive rice paddies, mangroves, dragon fruit plantations, palm trees and banana trees provide a great share of the food production in Vietnam. Yet, the pace of life through the narrow waterways is slow and peaceful. This route explores one of the many alternatives you could ride between Saigon and Ha Tien (the most Southern border crossing with Cambodia).
HO CHI MINH CITY – MY THO (82KM)
Take the CT01 out of Ho Chi Minh. The road is busy but there is a separate lane for smaller vehicles and mopeds, so you don’t have to share the lane with big trucks. Along the way there are plentiful road side fruit vendors as well as places to eat and have a coffee.
At the big junction between the CT01 and the Highway 1, take the highway (bikes are forbidden from going further ahead on the CT01). It’s an ugly and busy road, but it’s unavoidable. This is the reason why all the organized cycle touring agencies will drive you directly to My Tho from Ho Chi Minh, where you start cycling in the Delta.
At the town of Tan An, you can finally leave the H1 and take the smaller and more rural DT828 road to My Tho. The town is quickly developing with new roads, bridges and buildings to accommodate for the recent surge in local tourism.
We stayed in a budget room at The World Hotel, one of the cheapest in town and relatively new. The room came with AC, kettle, fridge, super comfy bed, and private bathroom with hot water. They even had a secure place for the bikes! In terms of value-for-money, it was unbelievably good. Across the road there are many local restaurants, with some international options, too.
As an alternative you could ride 16km further on the QL60 and reach Ben Tre, which has a variety of accomodation and restaurants.
MY THO – TRA VINH (65km)
Today’s ride is shorter but certainly slower. Upon leaving My tho, head over the 3.5km long Rach Mieu Bridge, built in 2005. Follow the road (Q60) for a total of about 15km to then turn left on Nguyen Thi Dinh road. This is Ben Tre province, also known as Coconut island for the extensive cultivation of palms and, allegedly one of the most beautiful parts of the Delta region. Get lost in the maze of small lanes and bridges, enjoying the soothing stillness of life on the Delta. Once off the main road, you will be hard pressed to find a truck, let alone a car!
Google maps and Maps.me do not cover the lanes and paths in detail but follow your nose and proceed South West, until you reach Ben Pha Vam Don, the ferry terminal. This small ferry transports bikes, motorbikes and cars from one side of the river to the other. They depart every 40minutes and the ride costs 5000 Vietnamese Dong per person (US 0,22$) including your bike.
There are shops where to buy refreshments on both sides.
Tra Vinh is 10km South of the terminal.
The town doesn’t offer a plethora of good accommodation. We initially booked Minh Ngoc Motel (US 9$) but the location on both Google and Booking is not correct. Re-reading the reviews to gather some hints on the location we also discovered it doesn’t have hot water. So we moved to Gia Hoa 1 hotel (US 13$ for a double). The room was small and pretty worn out, but the AC and hot water were slowly working, and we had a safe place for the bikes, too.
TRA VINH – CAN THO (77km)
From Tra Vinh take the QL53 out of town until you reach the intersection with DT911. Turn left on this smaller road and enjoy 6km of riding through rice paddies, palm trees and dragon fruit cultivations.
Although there is a bridge for vehicles further down on the main road, we strongly recommend you to make a detour and take the ferry, as to reach them you will have the chance to cycle through truly stunning villages.
For the last 13km take the QL91C, which will take you straight into town.
Can Tho is famous for its floating market, although when we visited we sadly realised that the trade is changing and there are not many people selling produce. This is due to the increased infrastructure of bridges and ultimately easier access for trucks. Tourists on boats are much more numerous than market vendors. As an alternative, we strongly recommend you to stay at Muoi Cuong Homestay and Organic Cocoa Farm. The farm is simply beautiful and peaceful, and you walk around smelling cocoa everywhere. They also host a very informative half an hour tour of the farm, during which they explain methods of growth and production of cocoa. It only costs $1.50USD.
From Can Tho you can either go South to Rach Gia (option 1) or you can take a more scenic route through Tri Ton (option 2).
Option 1: CAN THO – RACH GIA – HA TIEN (190km)
From Can Tho follow the river South out of town, proceeding on the right bank. To explore more of the hidden back lanes we simply used the “walking” option on Google maps and it turned out to be one of the best days cycling in the Delta region, going through many small beautiful villages along the canals, an incredible number of bridges, small merchant boats, and fruit trees. Along the waterways there are a few coffee shops but not much where to grab a bite. It’s a long day on the saddle, especially when we had to leave the villages and rejoin the main road to Rach Gia, but it was worth our late arrival into town.
We stayed at the Kiet Hong Hotel (US12$ for a double). We think there were far too many stairs and it was a bit of a pain to take all the bags upstairs after a long day ride but the staff were very friendly and helpful. Room are big and have small balconies overlooking the bridge and the Gulf of Thailand. It came with AC, fridge and a free taxi service into town if you needed to get a feed.
From Rach Gia to Ha Tien there is only one way: taking the QL80, which is a long straight, bumpy, and busy road. On the way, there are plenty of options for refreshments and food.
Option 2: CAN THO – TRI TON – HA TIEN (195km)
From Can Tho to Tri Ton is a 110km ride. The lanes are quite small and bumpy, but this route will take you through lush rice fields and dense palm trees, until you reach the sacred Seven Mountains. You’ll go through some small rural towns, surrounded by the bright green of the rice paddies.
Tri Ton is a quiet town sitting at the foothill of this small, but stunning, mountain range. It is also the historic location of a massacre committed by the Khmer Rouge (1978), which prompted the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. There are 8 local guest houses (look for Nha Nghi), but nothing that can be pre-arranged on Booking.com.
From Tri Ton to Ha Tien is a 84km ride on the QL1. There are more rural villages on the way, as well as plenty of opportunities for food and drinks.
Ha Tien is a small, but lively, town with several markets, far too many accommodation options and plenty of local and cheap restaurants. We stayed at the Ha Tien Happy Hotel (US13$) with the usual trimmings – fridge, AC, TV.. Some rooms overlook the Gulf of Thailand.
We hope you enjoy cycling this route as much as we did. And if you have any feedback or suggestions do not hesitate in letting us know.