Sunday, February 17, 2013

Coastal Cần Giờ - the unique district of HCMC

Saturday 16th, Feb. The last day of Tết.

6:00 am
Meeting our team members at Equatorial hotel for a day ride on bike to Cần Giờ, which is nearly 60 km away from Saigon and the only coastal district of HCMC, we, a team of four, depart at 6:15.

             Surrounded by rivers and sea, 50 km away from Saigon, Cần Giờ seems isolated...  

             famous for its unique mangrove forest, picturesque nature, spectacular views of river scenery

            but the beach is far from the best, people may enjoy only the fresh air, the sea breeze.

8:00 am
We arrive to Binh Khanh ferry, and it takes us 15 minutes to reach the other side - the coastal Cần Giờ - isolated and surrounded by rivers and sea, famous for its special mangrove forest, monkey island and the old war zone "Rừng Sác".

          the only transportation to connect Cần Giờ with the mainland - ferry Bình Khánh.

9:00 am
We arrive to Cần Giờ. The weather is nice in the morning. A bit cool with the light sun, we are so happy and feel excited to ride at the average speed to our destination for lunch but then we have a first incident with one of team members - tire deflated!

11:00 am 
We fixed the bike and continue our journey, now the sun is getting stronger, the road to downtown of Cần Giờ seems endless. We wonder are we on the right way?

At noon 
Finally we reached the downtown. The empty, quiet town with many mango stalls right on the sidewalk. Mango season, I guess. Cần Giờ is not the right home for this tropical sweet fruit? Anyway on the way back, we decided to get some mango back home as the "spring's luck". Few days later when I tried a mango that I bought in Cần Giờ and to my surprise, it was good, really good - sweet with a bit sour taste! 

               The town is very quiet, during Tết it seems even more... 

               I couldn't smell the fragrance of fresh sweet mango, but it's good, sweet and a bit sour.  

13:30 pm 
Our lunch at small guest house "Gió Lộng" (i.e. windy, exactly as it's named, our place is nicely windy, the electric fans on the wall don't need the electricity to work!) right on the beach, with the view to Vũng Tàu on the other side across the sea, but I hardly see something.

                 The view from our lunch & nap place, Vũng Tàu - a famous seaside town, on the other side. 

Lunch time 
Fried noodles with shrimp, cuttlefish and veggies. Tasty. I quite like it. During this Tết the new thing I try to do is to use the instant noodle instead of the egg noodle to prepare some food. I knew it for long but by somehow never tried it at home.

The raw oyster - the favorite for the other team members, but not me! Actually Cần Giờ has many oyster farms that we pass by today. 

                  Popular clam cooked with lemongrass, chili and herbs. 

              Oyster porridge with mushroom, sprouting mung beans and a lot of green onion. 

                 The oyster farm that I mentioned - right in the stream.  

15:00 pm
After taking a little nap and a quick cold shower at the guest house, it's time for us to depart as we don't want to have any problem on the road in the evening, when at some deserted road, no street light at all. On the way back we take a quick stop-over at one of many water coconut stalls along the road. 

       One of Cần Giờ specialities: water coconut. Water not because of the coconut juice...

                  it's not juicy at all, the coconut trees are growing in the water. 

                  Water coconut is a good refreshment, if we add some ice and sugar.  

                 and here we go : water coconut trees, a familiar image along the road to Cần Giờ. 

17:00 pm
As I told you there is one member in our team, we call him "the troublemaker". His bike got tire deflated again. Twice in a day. The same wheel. And only him - the youngest! And we wonder why? only him? Yeah luckily only him! No problem as it takes our mechanist - the nickname that I give to one of team members, only 15' to fix and we all get back to the road. 

Along the journey I'd love to take as many photos as I could, but on the way back, I was warned about the deserted streets without any light, so I have no choice to let some interesting sceneries pass me by with a great regret.  

             Fishing lovers, they stay on the bridge hours and hours with a dozen of fishing rods. 

                 Peaceful scenery with the famous mangrove forest in the background. 

                Mangrove has numerous tangled roots above water surface, form dense thickets. 

               We didn't have a chance to get a boat to discover more the mangrove forest. Next time? 

                 It's not fair if we don't mention another species of the mangrove forests: rừng đước 

               I love this shot, while the sunset, the atmosphere, the time seemed stopped...    

18:30 pm
We reached our ferry. The night falls. Back to the mainland, but it's not the end of our journey as we still continue to ride another 15km to really get back home, to flashy Saigon but noisy, polluted.

And here is our team with the nicknames: me as the photographer, the uncle and his nephew in the middle, blue guys, as the playboy for uncle and the troublemaker for nephew (his bike got tire deflated twice during the trip!), and the mechanist who is all the time helping us to fix the bikes, to bring them back to the road!

We all are happy as we completed our journey safely, we managed to ride out the distance of 150km, the killing heat in the midday, the bike's incidents and to finish our trip. Everyone feel "wow, we did it" as last time we also went to Cần Giờ but we had to go back in the middle due to some unexpected things.
So, thank you to everyone and to our companions - fabulous bikes - the iron horses!

See you next time!

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