The New Vietnam

Unlike Hanoi, Saigon appears as any bustling Southeast Asia City with new skyscrapers dotting the skyline, neon billboards, and a density of hustling population. Horst said it reminded him of Hong Kong ten years ago and most said they found it remarkable two cities could be so different. In fact, each city we had passed through had struck us as being remarkably unique.

Our day started with what was planned as a quick stop at Lam Thi Ni Pagoda and perhap's Vietnam's most famous resident monk. We ended up staying over and hour as the group marveled at his prodigious stock of works and captivating personality.

Just outside town we descended for several miles through the pine forests that surround Dalat emerging onto the flat plateau of tea and coffee plantations that mark this area of the Central Highlands. The heat turned up and over the next few hours we rode over rolling hills past the rich planted fields and dozens of wedding celebrations -- the day after Christmas it seems is a popular day for hitched.

By early afternoon we reached our destination, Bao Loc, and lined up for showers, ate a large lunch, and petted the restaurant's Gibbon monkeys. Back on bus, lead by Tim, Barbara and Debbie sang rice-wine induced 60's songs all the way back to Saigon as the rest of us try to rememeber the lyrics. Sinh joined on the guitar and the drive went quickly, but we were all disappointed the tour was really over!

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This 16-day bicycling tour by twelve Americans and Canadians involved traveling the length of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Saigon, with plenty of time to stop and see the uniqueness of the cities and people along the way. Although cyclists ranged in ability from beginner to champion racer, all found a way to explore Vietnam at their own pace and in the best way possible -- as most locals do -- on two wheels.

This diary was written and updated each day during the trip as it happened during the tour according to the perspective of the author who makes no claims of accuracy to the events happening as described herein.

The scenic, six-mile descent from Dalat is an incredible beginning of our ride followed by rolling hills through coffee and tree plantations.

Coffee beans are raked to roast evenly under the hot sun. These unprocessed beans are sweeter and tastier than we get in the West.

Coffee and tea crops are the main crops in this area of Vietnam, but bananas, strawberries, vegetables, and flowers are also grown.

Ted shows off a new purchase - Moka brand coffee beans.

Tree makes friends with a gibbon owned by the restaurant. I remebered when they first got the monkeys as babies 5 years ago. These animals are endangered, but Sinh still seems them on his treks. Precious hillside land is raked over for a new planting of tea, or perhaps banana trees. The earth is rich and fertile and the climate ideal for crops making this area more affluent than rice growers along the central coast.

Photographs by VeloAsia 1999 [More Photos]

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