Driving the Mekong

Nha Ngan centreI just returned from a trip to U Minh Thuong national park in the southern Mekong region. This was a tour unlike most others I do. This was one to be of discovery….. It all started with my friend and partner Nghia suggesting we return to the park after having a limited success with some very happy customers that wanted off the beaten track experiences. We are working very hard to build unique tours that nobody else can offer… Why? Not because it is more profitable, but because I am weary of the misguided information offered by travel guides and forums. There are a small percentage of travelers that want a truly native experience of Vietnam and that is almost impossible to get over the internet. Even most “easy rider” tours follow the same roads and stop at the same places….. That is why myHomestay tours are so popular. Even though we may end up in the same accommodation at night, the places we go are much off the main roads. Sometimes our motorcycles and rear ends suffer but it is worth it! It is my and hopefully my riders goal to let you experience Vietnam the way we do. No canned BS. Anyway……

If you have followed my blogs, you will have discovered that I came here to retire and open an IT business perhaps, but because of the adventure and life changing quality of this country, I am now deeply embedded in the tourism industry….. Ha!! But it has been a approach to townblessing in disguise. Instead of coming here to retire and get old, I now have become a bit of an oddity in this country and I love it. I like to think of myself like the Bugs Bunny of Vietnam….. I pop my head up laugh and create all sorts of chaos with always a happy ending…. Anyway….. I am getting side tracked… back to topic! Anyway, Nghia, Yung, and myself headed into the Mekong by motorcycle to pick up Hau, our sales manager at an intersection close to Vinh Long. We met and continued the journey to an area that sees NO foreigners except ones delivered by us. IT was a hard ride over some bad roads, but the finale was worth it. The town could not be accessed even by our motorcycles. It took 15 minutes of walking a mudBad roads path but the small town in the middle of nowhere was perfect!! The town is Nha Ngan just north of U minh Thuong National park… We have a homestay there that has the basic amenities.. I dare you to try to find it on a map! I had a great time on this discovery visit confusing them with my bad Vietnamese and fended off a couple of marriage proposals. This place is the closest you can come to “the middle of nowhere” with extremely basic service that a westerner can accept. I wanted to discuss acceptable standards and such but realized that there is no way the local homestay owner could understand. I guess I have to be satisfied about what I was presented…. And I am.. This Ferry crossingplace is the ultimate off the beaten track homestay. There is a very small percentage of people that want to experience the Vietnam I live in and I am keen to help it happen. This small home stay is the launch off point for the trip to U minh Thuong Park. It is almost an eerie place with giant bats and vegetation chocked waters with skeletons of trees….. Cruising its canals is like living a fairy tale story. (check out the pics) we finished the ride back by stopping in Can Tho for the night. We stayed at the hello2 hotel which was basic but acceptable.  The drive home was exhausting and at times frustrating because of Mekong roads. Let me tell you a little about driving in the Mekong.Black water

Highway 1 continues from Saigon south to My Tho and then there are a number of different routs a person can take. These roads are heavily congested with traffic and vehicles the blow clouds of black smoke. Mekong roads are dangerous to drive as a person can see by all the white chalk lines on the highways tracing smashed vehicles. A person spends so much time concentrating on road conditions that it is not possible to enjoy the scenery, therefore, I say do not do it! Let a vehicle carry you to your destination whether it be bus or car. Sure there are some smaller roads a person can drive but many of them that we took though beautiful were in bad condition and a person had to drive slowly Giant Batsmaking for very long days. There is also the fact that most of the roads that were worth traveling on between destinations, were not marked on any map including Google. Trying to find the correct route was an exercise in frustration. We often ended back on the very roads we were trying to avoid. Again, I stress let someone else do the driving. Driving the Mekong is dangerous even for the locals.

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

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