Mekong Adventure IV – Finding mountains in the Delta

23.11.2018

After our bike had a well deserved break it was time to pack our bags again, mount our bikes and depart Can Tho for our next destinations – the Mountains of the Mekong Delta and the certainly non-touristy town of Tri Ton.

 

However, instead of being well rested after a good night sleep I was suddenly awake by 6pm due to some very loud music playing outside the hotel. After the same song (which was actually quite nice) was played for a third time on the same loud volume this unhappy German bloke stepped out to the balcony – in his boxer shorts. And what did I see? Some police officers standing along the road and some other people in front of the statue with some big speakers in the back – still playing the very same song. Giving the official some evil eyes I returned to my bed and of course due to the noise not able to sleep. Then suddenly the music stopped and I thought “Yay, now I can go back to sleep”. I was happy too early – as 5 minutes later they played the same song AGAIN. So I gave up and packed my bag. And around 7am they stopped the music, someone spoke for 3 minutes and the nightmare was over. So they did a sound check for an hour for a quick speech in front of the statue. In my mind I had some great ideas what to do with these people!!!

So bags packed I headed back to the Quynh Coffee next door for breakfast with my sister. She was as happy as I was – as apparently they started the sound check not at 6am but 5:30am. I just overslept the first 30 minutes. Unbelievable. I love Vietnam but the Vietnamese do not have any kind of awareness. You can witness it on the road or with the noise level. Part of the culture and life here I guess.

A simple Banh Mi breakfast with coffee helped to relax and around 8:30am were back on our way back to see some “mountains” after only seeing flat land for days. I have never been to the far west of the Delta so was looking forward to explore new provinces.

Route: Can Tho – Tri Ton

Distance: 147km

The first section was to get out of Can Tho. And Can Tho is bigger you will expect after staying mainly in the tourist area near the riverfront. But it should be no surprise as it is the largest city of the Mekong Delta. So we followed the QL91 to get out northbound. Thankfully the road was not too busy and it was nice for a change to ride a bit faster and getting out to the rural area quickly. So you still had to be careful with some of the lorries passing us, but other than that it was not too bad and we saw a bit more of Can Tho.

After a short while it was time to say goodbye to the busy road and instead we turned into a rather rural road – the DT922. And what a difference. Were we on a road with quite a few lanes it was now a rather small road with one lane each way – and on both sides fields, plantations, little houses. This was one peaceful road. As a contrast to the green surroundings we saw a lot of colourful flowers and surprisingly a lots of Vietnamese flags along the road. I don’t know why so many flags were out as there was no national holiday around that time, but whatever the reason was it was over, as the flags were taken down and collected by two rather official looking people. And of course it was always nice passing some nice villages – some of them offering a nice view of a lovely waterfront.

After crossing one of these many bridges and turning north the DT922 continued to be a lovely way to travel. Besides the rice fields and locals passing by we were treated with some different views. Like watching locals erecting a fence or a small duck farms where 1 or 2 (!!!) ducks were swimming and roaming rather freely around. It was a noisy place, but still fascinating to watch. Sometimes I hear tourists complaining about the lack of animal care in Vietnam. But I am not sure I see as many as these free range duck or chicken farms as in the rural areas of Vietnam. But I guess these complaining foreigners are probably not aware (or do not want to know) where their meat is coming from back home!!!

I really enjoyed this stretch of the road – it showed quite a few different sides of the local life in the Delta. This is why I love travelling by motorbike and exploring the countryside. You will not see or experience the same when travelling by bus – and I think not as much when travelling by car. But after the DT922 we turned for a short while on the single lane QL90, following a river. For a change I took the correct turn off the QL90 to join a smallish road we had to follow to cross the river and to get to our first stop – the little hill Nui Sap. This little road showed at the start what to expect. Passing some rice fields we were soon on the bridge overlooking the surrounding area – and it was lovely. The river was not too small and you could see rice fields, forests and the town we passed earlier underneath. The view was just beautiful.

And then the fun really started. While I really enjoyed riding DT922, this one was a different league. It was more like a single lane (so large enough for one car), and you passed one rice paddy field after another one to your left, while on the right you saw either canals, villages or some small fruit plantation. Wow – it was a pleasure to ride on this road. At one point we stopped at a little church as there was a Christian cemetery on the other side of the road – between a rice field. The gate with some Angel statues looked very nice in the surrounding – so it was not an image I would immediately connect with Vietnam (even though some stats mentioned that 15% of Vietnamese are Christian, with many churches packed on weekdays and weekend I would believe to be correct). The path to the graves were covered with some small religious statues. Overall it looked nice.

But while a larger Christian cemetery might be a surprise, the next sight while taking photos was more typical – a manual plough coming from the field. All muddy and dirty but still a lovely view. Quite a contrast of what we have seen, but also so typical for rural Vietnam. From here this lovely, remote road continued, and as it was already after 11am I started to look for a nice place to have a wee break. It got a bit hot again and my bum needed a break. We passed a few places but finally I spotted one with hammocks. Anyone who knows me understands that I love stopping at places where I can get a rest in a hammock. So no different here. I think the couple running this restaurant / café were a bit surprised to see 2 Westerners parking their bike. I immediately utilised the hammock while my sister preferred the stone bench. I liked this place immediately. The owner and their two children were very friendly and even though they seemed not to understand my order of Da Chanh initially but in the end we got a kind of cold lemon tea with honey. Oh, it was good. I was just in a comfy hammock, drinking this lovely fresh drink and enjoying the view of the garden outside. The owner spoke a little bit English, and it turns out his brother is a priest living in Germany. Small world. Their 2 sons claimed not to speak any English, though he could tell me the price in English. And whenever our glass was empty they refilled it. I often say that meeting locals make any trip in Vietnam special. This was one of these moments. And my sister thought exactly the same. Finding this little place on a rather remote road, surrounded by rice field we found this little gem. It was like winning a Jackpot.

After this wonderful rest it was time to continue the journey. The plan was very simple – just follow the road to the end and we would reach the first hill of the trip. But when are things easy – right. As suddenly the road was closed. There was a lovely sign – I did not need to be able to read Vietnamese. The Skull sign made it very clear that the road is closed and dangerous to follow it. So what was the other option? Well – we just had to turn left into a small path. Oh, there was suddenly a very big smile in my face – a very big smile. This little elevated paved path was cutting through rice fields – left and right just rice fields. Oh yes – that is what I am talking about (the road is actually not shown as completed on Google Map – so it is not included in the marked direction on the map – it was the one before the indicated one). It was great to ride between the fields, especially as it was just about time for kids going home. So there were plenty of bikes coming our way with kids, who waved and shouted “Xin Chao” and “Hello”. I could have stopped every 2 minutes to take photos. I did not stop at all, but I enjoyed it so much. On the right hand side I could spot our initial destination, a hill with a temple. It looked nice I must admit – but this was better. We rode and rode and rode, and I try to keep my mouth shut to avoid any accidental snacks. It was marvelous.

After passing a number of bridges we arrived at a little village at the end of the rice field, where we followed the little unpaved path passing several houses. This path was hopefully leading us to the extension of the DT943. But before that we could watch more local life. More rice fields where locals were using machines to harvest rice (you could see locals using water buffalos, manual machines or machines to do the work – so you never know what you will see), small cute houses or stopped by a road congestion caused by – ducks!!! It was lovely – it was fun. It was awesome. I loved it.

Back on the normal, nicely paved road (extension of DT943) we were able to cross the bridge and ride a “normal” road along the river, though I don’t think hardly any road in this area could be called “normal”. We didn’t stay too long here (longer than needed as we missed the turn off) and soon it was back on a small road – not big enough for 2 cars. And Once again we just followed this wonderful and beautiful stretch, with golden and green rice fields on either side, providing a beautiful contrast to the blue of the canals. So far this area is what is in my head thinking about the Mekong Delta. Colourful. Quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. We both absolutely loved it. Even though there were trees and some plants along the road, there was not a lot of shadows so the sun was everywhere and offered an even more beautiful sight – though it did not help with the temperature. And soon enough the hill / mountain of Nui Ba was in plain view – we rode towards it. And I must admit, this rather small hill looks rather massive on a flat land like the Delta. And with the rice fields in front and the sides of it, it was stunning.

Due to the size it was not difficult to find our way there, and soon we were in the town at the bottom of it, and even found the section of the town that led up to the mountain. Arriving at the base my sister decided she did not want to ride up to the top, as she didn’t feel too well. Bit of a bad timing, but she was happy to sit down in the shade and I was off again. The road up was in rather good condition and it was a nice ride. You just have to follow the road. There is one junction but I kept straight ahead – until I reached the temple on the top of the mountain. And I must admit – the view from up there was stunning. I could see rice fields for miles. From up here, one of the very few mountains or hills I just realised how flat the whole Delta is. And how beautiful it is with the different coloured rice fields, plantations and rivers. Unfortunately there was a slight grey fog over the sky, no clear blue sky. So the photos below might not reflect the actual beauty of the sight. There are a view open gaps from boulders where you can just climb or sit down to enjoy the scenery. And from some of the boulders. I was a bit careful though climbing around as I didn’t plan to fall down – not sure it would have been healthy. It was just stunning. While enjoying the view I decided not to walk up the stairs next to me – for whatever reason. I was happy where I was, especially sitting down at a boulder, feet hanging down, enjoying the view.

After 15 minutes or so I decided it was time to return, but after 5 metres I saw another entrance with stairs, so I parked my bike again (hoping the bike didn’t roll down on its own) and headed up the stairs. And now I realised that the temple was actually rather nice. The setting on top of the mountain was obviously perfect, but with the statue and the colourful building, it was something else, even if it was a rather small temple. And the view here was even better, and the view was less obstructed. I just wished the sky would have been clearer – it would have been the perfect moment.

After over 30 minutes I decided I should return so my poor sister didn’t have to wait for too long. I actually enjoyed riding down the mountain road, passing a nice looking café, with some glimpse down to the valley. The road is worth the journey – the view on top is just the main highlight. Thankfully my sister felt better, so she was ready to move on. Well – kind of. The road we came from was now closed as the ten erected on the road was now closed as the wedding celebration has started. Thinking that riding through the tent might not been the best idea we somehow found an alternative route back to the main road. But instead heading now towards Tri Ton we followed the way back where we have arrived earlier. The reason was very simple – I saw a little food place serving Banh Xeo. It was 14:30 and we were hungry and I didn’t mind Banh Xeo. Thankfully I found the place I spotted earlier and we made ourselves comfortable and I ordered on Banh Xeo and some Banh Khot. As I saw some Banh Xeo in the little stand in front of the food place I expected she would heat them up. But obviously I was wrong, as the elderly owner prepared some fresh ones for us. She clearly thought I ordered one Banh Xeo each, so we got rather 2 large Vietnamese pancakes with herbs and fish sauce. And yes, they were delicious. Bit crispy outside and nicely cooked inside, with a nice filling. Lovely. After I mentioned how lovely they were (in Vietnamese of course) the owner looked very happy and as a rewards for this compliment we got a third Banh Xeo – but without filling. It was fine with me – I ate it nonetheless. The Banh Khot, little cakes with coconut milk were nice as well – at least I liked it. My sister not so much, so I had to finish it. Not that I complained!!! This was a great find, and the Banh Xeo were some of the best I had in Vietnam so far.

Fully fed and nearly 3pm it was time to head to Tri Ton. So back on our bike and we followed now the real DT943. It was actually a lovely ride. After I have been on top of the mountain the sky decided that it was time to fully clear, offering a fantastic blue sky (!!!!). Thankfully there were plenty of trees offering some welcomed shade. The nice part of this road was that there was a little canal to our right, and occasionally a little stone bridge was leading over the canal onto the rice fields in the background. I was so tempted to turn off the main road and explore some of these little path. But I think the plan was to arrive in daylight for a change – so we followed the nice stretch of the road.

The only problem was, that the road got less nice as we arrived in a more industrial area. This area seems to be popular to gather gravels and other raw materials, which also meant more lorries and unfortunately a lot of dusts. Oh, it was not pleasant. So we tried to ride a bit faster. Soon we arrived at Nui Co To, another hill in the area. But as it was already after 4pm, we did not head up there. Instead we passed the base of the mountain, seeing the large area where rocks and stones were removed from the hill. But at least the dust disappeared and we were able to enjoy the beauty of the rice fields in front of the hill. In hindsight I slightly regret that we missed the second mountain I must admit, but then again I do not regret to take our time on these beautiful roads, you cannot have it all.

And for a change we arrived in Tri Ton ahead of sunset. I heard about a hotel that was recommended, so we decided to go there. We passed the market and Google then stated that we have arrived. The only problem was – there was no hotel. Great – did it close? Are there other guesthouses or hotels? I double checked the address and then realised that this was not the correct house number, so we continued on the road. And voila, there it was  – Nhà Nghỉ Tú Trinh. Now I just hoped they had free rooms.

The hotel looked actually rather small, but what I didn’t know was that they had more rooms on the back of the building. It was more like the Motels in the USA, with a big car park as well. The downside – no windows. To their surprise I declined taking one of the modern rooms, and instead took the more basic rooms in the main building – but they had windows. It was all good for one night. Here is the review of the hotel.

While my sister decided to rest I wanted to enjoy the sun setting over the rice field. So back on the bike I retraced our way to Tri Ton and stopped along the DT943 with a great view of the rice fields, the mountains in the background. This was perfect setting to enjoy the sunset. And I must admit – it was a beautiful one. It was nice to sit on the bike, watching the spectacle and taking quite a few photos. I might have missed one or two beers back at the hotel – but the view was certainly worth it.

After refreshing back at the hotel it was time to get dinner. I was actually a bit interested to explore the town, but my sister wanted rather to stay not too far from the hotel. Seeing some soup places we decided to stop at a place called Bao Yen. I don’t know why, but it looked nice. Like a few times now the owner was surprised to see two foreigners walking in, but he pointed us onto a clean table. Well – the ordering was rather interesting. I know the Vietnamese names for the main ingredients, and can distinguish between the different preparation styles. But they had quite a few options for fried beef or chicken, so I just selected two dishes that sounded ok. Well – the waiters were not so confident with my choice, as they double checked 4 times about the order. In the end I just mentioned grilled chicken and fried beef and that seems to make them happy. I think they were worried something would be too spicy or we would not like it. It was actually quite nice. I have no idea what the other dishes I initially ordered were, but the simple grilled chicken and the fried beef served with vegetables and rice were just lovely. Really tasty as nicely marinated. Both of us were rather happy with the dinner. And yes, the friendly staff made it a nice experience. So if you are in Tri Ton near the market, I would recommend to stop by.

After dinner my sister felt her old age and decided it was time for bed. I was still a bit awake and as I had only one ca phe sua da that day, I headed to the nicely named “Saigon Café” near the hotel (maybe I was homesick???). The place had a rather nice garden with the typical lights you find in such cafe. And another nice benefit of the place – they served the ca phe in a phin. While it takes a bit longer, I still enjoy drinking it the traditional way.

It was a great end to a fantastic day. The roads we explored during the day were amazing. The sights were beautiful. And we met some great people. This is what travel is all about. This is what Vietnam is all about. And yes – this is why I think the Mekong Delta is a very special area to explore. I really loved this day – and actually the whole trip so far. I could only hope it continued this way.

2 thoughts on “Mekong Adventure IV – Finding mountains in the Delta

  1. Here’s the sister again 🙂
    My little brother writes all this truthfully – but it was even more beautiful. I did not even complain. The paths through the rice fields were just beautiful.
    And in the evening I did not go to sunset, because my experience from Brazil, India and Thailand taught me: if it never goes in the dark.
    And in Tri Ton, unfortunately, we were also followed by someone who would have liked to bring us to our property – I listen to such conditions and bring me not in unnecessary danger. Drank a beer in the hotel, kept my travel diary and let the day end. And I watched if Brother came home

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is true. I could not believe it myself that there was no complaining at all. Nothing!!!

      While there was one person following us on the way to the restaurant I would like to point out that I felt perfectly save in Tri Ton, as I do nearly everywhere in Vietnam.

      Like

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