Biking the Mekong Delta

Thanks to a recommendation from our friends, Eddie and Jen, we finally decided to visit another part of Vietnam that we hadn't yet been to!  We always wanted to see the Can Tho floating market, so when they told us how much they loved the 3-day bike tour with Sinh Balo Tours, we decided to give it a try. 

Our 3 day journey in the Mekong area had us riding about 130km along quiet village roads and bike/motorbike trails that run amid various farms and fields.

Day 1 (Saigon–LongAn–MyTho–VinhLong ~43 km)

Our first day was pretty busy. Our guide, Loc, picked us up at our Ho Chi Minh hostel at 8am and we drove about an hour out of the city to begin our biking adventure with another couple from Denmark. 

The first 25 km were though rice fields. 

Along the way, we stopped at a factory to see how rice noodles are made.

Then the van then drove us 30 minutes to a local vegetarian restaurant where we ate an assortment of delicious local dishes. 

After lunch, we did another 18 km before taking a couple of boat rides to enjoy the beautiful sunset.  We crossed over to a smaller fruit-farm island where we tasted several types of local fruits and home-made "happy water".

At our homestay we ate some fresh seafood that our guide purchased from local fishermen during our boat ride along the river. 

Day 2 (VinhLong to CanTho ~50 km)

Another busy day packed with interesting sights and fun/unique experiences, starting with breakfast at 8am and then back onto the bikes!  

We stopped at:
a market where you can buy skinned frogs... that are still alive :(

several fruit plantations: Banana, Rambutan, LongAn, Pomelo, Papaya, Durian, etc.

a Khmer temple

another delicious lunch at a local restaurant in the middle of nowhere :)

Since it was nearing the end of the Chinese New Year (Tet) holiday, we saw (and heard) several small house parties blasting loud, distorted Karaoke through the normally serene farm fields.  

Our guide took an unexpected turn into one of the local homes along the way.  Apparently he decided to stop in to "say hi" to some locals he had met here while scouting routes for the bike tour.  The locals welcomed us all in as though we were good old friends, and offered us typical Tet celebration foods such as candy, biscuits, fruits with chili-salt, "happy water", and some dog-stew. 

One of the locals grabbed his guitar and they all started singing for us. The best part was that it felt so local, authentic, and unscripted - a very rare experience when you're on a tour! 

After our last ride, our butts hurting.  When we finally arrived at our guest house, we thought the days was over, but no… we had a 1 hour shower break and then it was time for a little cooking lesson!  The owner of the guest house taught us to make yummy Spring Rolls and Vietnamese pancakes. After dinner, we all crashed… exhausted, but happy.

Day 3 (Can Tho to Saigon ~35 km)

We woke up early and hopped onto a boat to visit the Can Tho floating market. We originally thought the market was where locals go to buy food, but it turns out that it's actually a wholesale market where farmers sell their fruits and vegetables to middle-men who then transport the food to other areas of Vietnam.  Our guide told us the minimum orders are somewhere between 50 and 100 KG. 
There were a handful of smaller boats selling food for the hard-working traders.
We returned to shore and biked 16km through the suburb of Can Tho.  This section was well paved, so our butts were happy :). 

Our last ride 20km ride was to a Pomelo farm where we stopped to pick our own Pomelo. 

After a quick drive back to Ho Chi Minh, our trip concluded.  

Overall we had an amazing time and we were extremely impressed with the organization of our tour.  Tthe bikes were in great condition, the group was small and felt very personalized and most of the activities didn't feel overly-touristy.  In particular, we felt especially lucky to get Loc as our guide, as it really felt like he put a lot of effort into showing us as many local and authentic experiences as possible.  

Thanks Eddie and Jen, for recommended the trip to us!  We also highly recommend it to anyone else thinking of visiting the area!!

Hoi An Side Trip

Jen jumped at the opportunity to return to her favourite Vietnamese city to play tour guide with her parents and the girls for a culture, foodie, markets, shopping, and tailor-made clothing extravaganza!  Dom and Guy had already been to Hoi An before, so they decided to remain in Mui Ne to continue teaching/learning kitesurfing.  

Of course they couldn't pass up the chance to try out all of the best Vietnamese dishes in the region, with Neville's Great Taste of Hoi An Foodie tour (for Jen's 3rd time)! :)


Friends and Family in Mui Ne

This season we were really fortunate to be joined by several friends and family from Calgary, at our favourite kitesurfing retreat in Mui Ne, Vietnam.  

Despite this year's very unusual season of windless days and down pouring rain, we still had a blast introducing them to all of our favourite restaurants, activities, massage/spa treatments, and, of course, all of our Mui Ne friends.

Kiting Lessons
Paddle Boarding
Motorbiking
Cooking School
Eating
Chilling
Jenga for buckets ;)
Checking out a movie to escape the rain...

Mui Ne Friends

We feel super lucky to be able to reunite with our friends at Surfpoint and to meet so many newcomers here each year.  Without them, our visit here just wouldn't be the same!  We were also fortunate to have Chris Miserva and his sisters fly in to join us for New Years.

When we leave, we always feel a bit sad.. but we take away so many great moments and memories... let's drink to that!

At the beach

Dinners at Sunset Restaurant, Pizza Bella, The Bar, Goat BBQ, Night Market, Ganesh, Love Sushi, etc.

Parties at Phong Phi Guest House :)

And we almost forgot... Merry X-Mas!

And Happy New Year!

Aiming High... (about 4.8m)

Every season we have some small goals in mind for kiting.  This year, Jen wanted to do transition jumps and a back roll, which she managed to accomplish, and Dom wanted to start jumping higher.  

Since we didn't bring a good camera this year and we tend to kite really far away (because it's a nice safe distance from the beach and crowds), we don't have many kiting photos this year... but, on 2 occasions, Dom borrowed a kitesurfing "Woo" device that you put on your board to measure the height of your jumps. 

After his first Woo session in light wind, he managed to jump 3.8 meters, and after his second session he reached 4.8 meters (more than 2.5 times his height)!  This probably sounds pretty crazy to non-kiters... but in the kiting community, it's actually not that crazy (..but it is still really cool!!).  As a comparison, our friend Phu won the KTA big-air competition in Phan Rang this year by jumping 13.9m!!    
Here are some of the few photos we have from this year, of Dom doing some "small" (2-3m) jumps.


Phan Rang

After spending 3 winter seasons only kitesurfing in Mui Ne, Vietnam, we finally decided to try out a new spot in Phan Rang since Phi built a new facility there.  It was well worth it - Phi's spot was great with plenty of seating, storage and bathroom facilities, and a restaurant that serves good food at really fair prices!  

Since the wind forecast in Mui Ne was low, Chris Miserva decided it would be best to join in on the 3-day trip, along with Gaston, Natasha, Felix, Phu and many other wind-seeking kiters.  We had great company, yummy BBQ, lots of fun, and great wind (albeit surprisingly light for Phan Rang where the wind is typically very strong).

One of the unique things about Phi's spot is the shallow flat water in the bay.  In order to go kiting, you have to wait until high tide which was around 13:00.  Dom was always anxious to get out asap and went a little too early one day resulting in a few scrapes and scratches on the bottom of our board (but hey, this is exactly why we decided to buy an old used board!).  Once the tide is high enough, you have 250 meters of super flat warm water until you reach the small kickers around the coral reef.  As you continue past the kickers you reach the shore break where you can have fun in the waves.  It's a really great spot since there is a little something fun for everyone... you just need to have patience waiting for the tide... :)

In February, Surfpoint also organized a big group trip out to Phi's spot for 2 days, with nearly all of the staff and friends of Surfpoint.

Dom did a beautiful, scenic downwinder with the Surfpoint crew. 

Thanks Phi and Surfpoint for all of the fun times!



Mui Ne to Phan Thiet Downwinder

This year, Jen decide to join the group on her first 14km downwinder from Mui Ne to Phan Thiet.

She was a bit nervous at the start and it took some time to get used to the smaller kite and board again!  But in the end, everyone made it in good time and everything went well.... except for one small incident at the end.  

As Jen headed in toward the beach, a local saw her and thought she needed help so he walked toward her in the water, yelling something in Vietnamese.  She tried to tell him she was fine, but since they couldn't understand each other, he continued walking toward her and then suddenly jumped up, grabbed one side of the kite bar and yanked it down.  The kite took a sharp turn and dove straight into the pavement of the nearby park, dragging Jen up onto the beach with it.  Luckily no one was hurt and our Swiss friends Yannis, Gabriel, and Jenny happened to be on the beach taking photos, so they were right there to help out and make sure everything was ok!  

Yannis took a nice photo of Jen after everything was ok and the shock of the incident started to wear off :)


Cooking Classes at Sunset

Jen and Iris spent an afternoon learning to cooking some Vietnamese recipes with our friend Xuan from Sunset Restaurant.  Xuan showed them how to make all of their favourite dishes - they had a really fun time, and of course, the food was delicious! :)

Pho Bo

Vegetable Curry

Deep Fried Bananas (with sweet milk, of course!)

Time to feast!  Yumm!!

Mui Ne Graffiti

We returned once again to Mui Ne, to kitesurf the cold winter away.  It was great to reunite with all of our Mui Ne family and kiter friends, including our graffiti friends from Switzerland who had just recently hosted us a couple of months earlier.  As part of their Vietnam trip, they wanted to beatify Mui Ne with another graffiti, so they found wall along the main road and called the owner to get permission to paint it.

The wall is separated in 2 sections. Dom did a jellyfish and Gabriel did some lettering on the left section, while Fabian did a crab and Yannis did an octopus on the right section.  The graffiti on the main road was such a big success that several people approached them to do other jobs in the area, unfortunately they didn't have time since they were scheduled to return home to Switzerland by the end of the year.  

Dom felt really privileged at the chance to do another graffiti with the Color Nomads.  Since they had decided on a "sea animals" theme, Dom chose to do a jellyfish.  He wanted to stick with something not-too-complicated since it was only his 2nd time doing a graffiti piece on his own, on a public wall! (in other words, he wanted to keep it simple so he wouldn't ruin the wall :)).  


Here are more photos of the works in progress

One afternoon, Fabian also did a quick grafitti session with Bogi and her friend Wanda, 

and also filmed a short movie: "Super Bogi vs Dominator"


Fabian ended up having enough job requests to make it worth returning to Mui Ne.  He arrived in February, but got bit by an evil mosquito and came down with Dengue fever.. :(  It put a bit of a dent in his schedule, but he did eventually recover and go on to do a live graffiti demo at Line Up bar with his friend Baldi.  He also did a graffiti at Phat Burger and one in Phan Rang for the KTA competition. 

Holiday-making in HCMC

Since Peter, Chris, and ourselves were all leaving Vietnam on the same day, we decided to share a van from Mui Ne back to Ho Chi Minh City the day before our flights.  

When we met up with Peter, he seemed stressed.. his wife, Krisztina, had gone into labour earlier that morning.  The first half of the journey felt long through construction and typical Vietnamese traffic, and just as we were leaving town, our driver rear-ended the car infront of us (small fender-bender).  ~3 hours later, Peter got a call with news that their new son, Balázs, had arrived and both the baby and Krisztina were doing well!! :).  We felt bad that he had missed the birth of his son by just 1 day, but we also felt fortunate to be there to celebrate the news with him :)

We wanted to bring Chris on Neville's amazing foodie tour, but Hoi An was a little too far out of the way, so we opted to try out XO Foodie Tours in HCMC.  We wanted to bring Peter too so that he could experience a touristy night of "holiday-making" in Vietnam before heading home.  

4 girls in traditional Vietnamese dresses picked us up and motorbiked us around the various districts of HCMC, while stopping periodically to taste different local foods along the way.  Since it's a Hungarian tradition to celebrate a baby's arrival with drinks, Peter served up shots for everyone in our group to help him celebrate.  

For Peter and ourselves, most of food was stuff we had eaten in Vietnam before, but we did enjoy riding through the city.  The girls were good company - they were super friendly and made sure you had fun by feeding you, asking questions, and talking to you about their lives in Vietnam.

The one menu item that none of us had tried before, and still haven't except for Chris (of course!), was the chicken embryo egg… iiiich!!!