If you'd like to get close to Vietnam's landscapes while visiting this incredibly diverse nation, then travelling by bicycle is to be recommended. In a country where travelling by bicycle is universally accepted, you will find ample support if you wish to use this as your preferred method of sightseeing. In fact, as well as simply travelling through the tourist sites, there are also opportunities for you to raise money as you do so.
One such fundraising exercise is known as the ‘challenge of the nine dragons'. Originally arranged as a charity event to raise money for underprivileged children, this takes full advantage of the tracks and trails running through the verdant Mekong Delta. The name ‘nine dragons', or Cuu Long in local parlance, is a reference to the nine main tributaries of the Mekong River as it flows into its verdant delta in southern Vietnam and neighbouring Cambodia.
The first of these dragon's tails breaks away from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penj, when the Mekong is actually known as the Bassac. As the nine dragons unfold, you will find yourself on a fantastic cycle track that criss-crosses the landscape across minor roads and trails, bypassing the beautiful waterways of the Mekong Delta.
For the most part, due to the relatively flat terrain, the cycle race is reasonably straight. However, in parts the tracks do become somewhat overgrown, or involve traversing rickety bridges that do provide something of a challenge. But it only seems fair that any activity aimed at raising funds for underprivileged children should at least involve a modicum of effort on the fundraisers part!
The nine dragons cycle ride is the first of its kind that takes full advantage of a recently-opened border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia. This narrow point occurs at a position on the Gulf of Thailand coast known as Ha Tien. Cycling here will take you into Kep, once known as Cambodia's Riviera. The next point in the trail is the former French colonial town of Kampot. As you gaze over the mish-mash of colonial architecture and modern buildings, you might find it hard to picture this sleepy backwater as it was during its heyday – Kampot was actually Cambodia's main seaport.
Following on from this pleasant jaunt into Cambodia's past, the cycle track begins to demand something more of an effort from its charges. Bokor Mountain looms before you, presenting a challenging climb up above the encroaching treeline. Once you climb up towards the summit you'll be rewarded with views of the long-abandoned casino that broods over a dramatic escarpment. As you rest before your next leg of the nine dragons, you'll be rewarded with fabulous panoramic views across Cambodia's rural landscape.
The good news about this cycle tour of Vietnam and Cambodia is the fact the holiday can be tailor-made according to your wishes. The actual dates and preferences can be individually tailored to meet your own needs. This flexibility can prove to be particularly useful if you wish to balance your cycle tour of the Mekong Delta with other activities during your visit to Vietnam.