This is a screen shot of LocusPro maps, app cost £6.20, absolutely invaluable. They are downloaded to your phone, tablet or pc and work offline. Sometimes they are way more precise and detailed than Google maps, especially years ago when google maps failed to show contours! But I find that I use google maps more and more as LocusPro detail does vary between countries. I must say that LocusPro England and Wales maps are absolutely superb, especially if you add sustran routes.
Enabling GPS has never failed to give an accurate location when we are offline. We may not be where we want to be but we are never lost!
I failed to download the Asian maps (775mb) directly to my tablet ( nexus 7) but a very kind cyclist, Daniel transferred them from his memory stick to my device ( he downloaded the files to his PC at home first). If you take the trouble to investigate Locus maps you can plan and profile cycle routes.
This is not a tour bike, but I wanted something that was light and fast (to keep up with my husband) yet sturdy. Charles added continental tyres and it has not given us a moment’s trouble in all our travels. SE Asia is mostly tarmac roads but it coped admirably with stony and gravel tracks. Sand was sometimes difficult – more my timidity than the bike! And isn’t it beautiful! I love this bike. If you are not camping (difficult to camp in Asia) aim to be able to lift your bike loaded, otherwise it is too heavy.
Travel as light as possible. We use Orleib panniers, about 10 kg between 2 bags is plenty. We carry plenty of spare inner tubes(27″) but not tyres. Cannot plan for all possibilities: Charles completely wrecked his derailleur with a stick on the road, but replaced it in Hanoi. ( see A sticky situation).
We brought our own bikes, free with Emirates under 20kg, London to Bangkok, cannot remember but not a lot with AirAsia to Hanoi where we dumped the boxes and set off. Note Dong Muang airport for AirAsia is a 40 main bus ride from Bangkok’s main airport but there’s a free transfer bus if you have proof of an onward flight. We showed the printed boarding pass for our next day flights with AirAsia and there was no prob loading boxed bikes onto the bus. We stayed at Dong Muang airport Amari hotel, about £40 on booking.com but worth it as it has a bridge link to airport, lovely pool and rooms, and we left our bikes – without boxes by then – in free of charge in left luggage for a week.
Cycling in Vietnam
1. Use LocusPro,it’s easy to get lost in rural areas especially trying to avoid highways.
2. We are scenic cyclists, not really interested in blasting along main roads gaining kms. I do not recommend HW1 for cyclists, nor mopeds/motorbikes for that matter! It is noisy, dusty, busy and seriously pot-holed. Bus and lorry drivers sit on their loud horns: 3 blasts from behind, another 3 alongside, then a final 3 as they fly by! Also the distances are too great to cover on a 30 day visa.
Twice we put our bikes in a train cargo carriage (check the train you wants transports cargo before you buy your seat ticket as bike tickets are sold separately. Never allow your bike to be transported on a separate train. If you buy a seat ticket by mistake return it asap and you will get a cash refund -10%).
We took a sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai for Sapa. The 4 berth are comfortable and cheap. We did sleep on the top bunks of 6 berths to return because all 4 berths were booked. Not great but we survived! We used the toilets of the 4 berths!
The 38 km from the station to the town is a killer climb, 8-10% all the way! Check the forecast: we spent 3 days in low cloud, only a few glimpses of rice terraces. There are places to buy water and snacks but but no-where for a cooked meal.
Trains are cheap and scenic but too many cannot transport bikes.
We took two sleeper buses. Online comments for Camel buses are discouraging but we travelled on a brand new bus, clean and comfortable, lacking space for someone tall, but they all do. Mostly tourists.
We enjoyed the experience of Mailinh Express bus from Da Nang to Phan Thiet but we had a steady driver. The bus did not have a toilet but regular stops with meals included, only Vietnamese passengers and a mostly empty bus made it interesting. We planned to cycle this section but constant heavy rain made us head south quickly.
3. Scenic rides:
Hanoi airport east to Halong bay via Bac Ninh onto rural roads
From Halong Bay cycle to Tuan Chau island for the cheap vehicle ferry through pretty islands to Cat Ba island. Then stunning ride N to S across Cat Ba island, a delight
Cat Ba town to Haiphong using very cheap vehicle ferries across Cat Hai island
Ninh Binh karst scenery, circular routes
Hue to Da Nang on TL 10 onto the island QL498 to Lang Co, then Hai Van Pass ( Top Gear) to Da Nang. Wide empty roads, varied scenery and such friendly people!
Da Nang to HoiAn, straight flat quiet road for a day trip to an ancient city and a swim on the beach
Phan Thiet to Vung Tau ( for hydrofoil to Ho Chi Minh city) along 719 and 55, an absolutely beautiful ride, forests and empty beaches, occasional cafes with some of our best meals. Perfect roads, new and quiet, plan where to stay tho, some big distances. Loved it.
Across the Mekong Delta, from My Tho to Vinh Long to Long Xuyen to the border town of Chau Doc on small island roads connected by dirt cheap ferries. A highlight.
Hanoi. Not scenic but completely thrilling! Nice ride around West Lake. Ride with confidence, be aware 360′ (best not to drink and ride!) Really enjoyed cycling there, old quarter perfect for bikes. Don’t pause, have your map on the front. Wear your helmet!ñ
Vietnam is splendid, will definitely return 🙂