We could not have asked for anything better. The road leading out of Cat Tien is quiet, there is hardly any traffic, and the scenery around us is beautiful. It is nice and sunny and we have somewhat of a tail wind. The road leads us over rolling hills and through several small villages. We ride past more coffee beans and other roots and vegetables spread out in peoples front
Well, the initial instructions sound easy enough: "Just follow the yellow blazes." Maybe after the young park ranger added "The trail has not been used or cleaned for the season yet, but you should be fine using your GPS" some sort of alarm should have went off in our heads.
Our heads do not work that way though. All we are thinking is more along the lines of: "Wow, that's cool, we get to go tracking through the jungle without having to have a guide!"
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"] careful where you tread, there are spiky things everywhere[/caption]
We pick up the very ambiguous map from headquarters and ask the young ranger, where the beginning of the "elephant hill hike" is actually located. Afterward, we head over to the animal rescue centre to find the trail head. After going back and forth several times without finding a trace of a trail, we decide to try our luck further to the right and behind another building to find the path and finally get lucky.
The only way to enter Cat Tien National Park is via a small ferry over the Dong Nai river. As we roll up to the ferry station, we are asked to park our bikes near the scooters behind the ticket booth. The lady at the ticket booth seems to be confused by our request to take our fully loaded bikes onto the ferry and repeatedly tells us to park the bikes by the scooters and lets us know that there are bicycles for rent in the park. Eventually, we
The ride out of Saigon is actually much easier than we had anticipated. It is almost a straight shot out of town and onto the highway, where a designated scooter lane keeps us separate from the busses, trucks, and cars. As we reach the outskirts of town the traffic is slowly dying down and the insane cacophony of honking and beeping is calming down to a more tolerable decibel level.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"] It's an easy ride out of Saigon[/caption]
Saigon is big and loud and full of crazy traffic. Luckily our hotel room is located down a narrow quiet alley. It seems within the giant chaotic city are many little neighborhoods each with a maze of quiet narrow alleyways where the real life is happening in this city.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"] the buzzing road outside our little alley[/caption]
After about 50 miles of riding, having a great lunch, and taking a break at a church, where dozens of children welcome us and where Jessica gets bombarded with questions by several girls about her travels, we finally enter the suburbs of Saigon.
We have heard many mixed reviews about traveling in Vietnam. A couple good ones and quite a few negative ones. We have heard, that visitors get ripped off and that we should learn prices quickly so we can haggle with people. At other times we've read that people were rude or unpleasant and that the continuos honking on the roads is enough to drive anybody bonkers. We decided, however, to ignore all the negative comment and try our best to have an open mind and plan on building our own opinion about this place.
Once in Kratie, we quickly figured, that we would be cutting it close to make it to Saigon in time for Randy to get his bike cleaned, boxed up, and for him to catch his flight back home after Christmas. Instead, we decide to take one more minivan to the border of Vietnam from where we are going to cycle into Saigon.
It is quite easy to find our way out of Stung Treng and onto the Mekong Discovery Trail: just follow the road along the river until it turns into a dirt road. Staying on the right path to make it all the way to Kratie, 100 and some miles down the river is a whole other story. Just after a few miles on the dirt road, we pedal through a construction zone. For a short stretch, the wet, clay dirt is dug up and loosely piled up on the road surface, ready to get plowed down again.