Flying to Phu Quoc Island is cheap and easy, but if you want a real adventure, riding there by motorbike from Saigon is much more fun. This road trip takes you from Vietnam’s biggest city to some its best beaches, via the waterways, highways, and back-roads of the country’s rice basket, the Mekong Delta. Upgraded roads – both on the mainland and on the island – and regular ferry connections from two Mekong Delta towns, make it possible to complete a motorbike loop from Saigon to Phu Quoc Island and back again. This round-trip, including four river crossings and two sea crossings, takes you through vast swathes of lush agricultural land, past bustling, commerce-driven riverside towns, through sleepy, off-the-grid villages along the Cambodian border, and across the sea to tropical island beaches lapped by the balmy waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
Road trip detail
Total Distance: 800km
Duration: 5-7 days
Route: back-roads & ferries from Saigon, via the Mekong Delta, to Phu Quoc [MAP]
Road Conditions: good, paved back-roads, highways, new island roads, ferries
Scenery: rice paddies, rivers, lush hills, beaches, fishing villages & Mekong towns
Road trip content
SECTION 1: Saigon to Ha Tien on back-roads (via Chau Doc): 300km
SECTION 2: Exploring Phu Quoc Island by motorbike: 210km
SECTION 3: Rach Gia to Saigon (via highways & back-roads): 290km
Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island, is the southwestern-most point of the country: it’s closer to Cambodia than to the Vietnamese mainland. From Saigon to either of the ferry ports in the Mekong Delta (Ha Tien and Rach Gia) it’s a 300km ride west of the city. If you start early in the morning, you can make it in one day, but it’s more relaxing to spend two days riding through the Delta. In this guide I’ve included recommendations of places to stay and eat along the way, both in the Delta and on the island. I’ve written this route going anti-clockwise on the loop, but it’s also possible to do it in reverse. To get the most out of this ride, allow one week to complete the journey: this gives you time to explore the tropical beaches on Phu Quoc Island and to experience the bustling riverside towns of the Mekong Delta on the way there. The best time of year is December to March, when temperatures are hot but humidity is low, the sun is always out, and rainfall is rare.
Route: Saigon to Ha Tien (via Chau Doc) | Distance: 300km
As always, leave Saigon early in the morning, well before dawn: before the fish arrive at the city’s wet markets; before the cauldrons of morning soup and baking bread scent the air; while the city’s party-goers are still out drinking and the streets smell of alcohol and seafood. Saigon is beautiful, cool, and quiet at this time. Just as on the Midnight Motorbike Loop, the city is at its best during the small hours. But the main reason for leaving early, is to get out of the city and its industrial suburbs before the trucks, dust, and commuter traffic wake up and transform this first leg into a hellish journey. Leave Saigon early and it’ll pay off for the rest of the day’s ride. Aim to depart between 4:00-5:00am.
Take the Vo Van Kiet Expressway along the Ben Nghe Channel due west out of Saigon. The city is cool, calm, and even pretty, before dawn, with the lights reflected in the waterway by the road. Turn right on Ho Hoc Lam Street toward the end of Vo Van Kiet and join Highway QL1A due north for a mercifully short stint before bearing left (due west) on Road DT10 towards Duc Hoa. (Note: the turning off Highway QL1A onto DT10 is easy to miss: turn right just before the flyover on QL1A and then bear left under the flyover to get onto DT10.) This is a straight, dull road lined with cafes, shops and food stalls at first, then large industrial estates (including the GIVI factory) and lively wet markets which sprawl into the road, surrounded by dust and trucks, and shrouded in a chemical-infused fog. It can be an awful, traffic-clogged ride if you hit it at the wrong time of day so: leave early.
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