Hanoi – 06 November
Arrival Day.. After exiting the airport I am taken to my hotel by a private transfer. On arrival, I am given keys to my room and I dump my bags, get changed and head out into this crazy city. It’s so full of life. Streets are lined with people and bikes. They say that 9 million people live here. I am feeling like I have seen at least 1 million of them in just a few hours. I walk towards the lake hoping that it will be cooler. I wasn’t disappointed. From here I wander the streets, find an ATM, take photos of my surroundings and head back to the hotel for the group meeting.
Whilst I may look calm from the outside, I am flooded with anxiety. I booked this trip back in May thinking I would cycle to work, cycle on the weekends and do some training. The year that I have had didn’t allow it. So here I am, completely unprepared. It’s a little frightening to say the least.
accomm: Church Hotel, Hanoi
Hanoi – 07 November
This morning we took the bus to visit the Ho Chi Minh complex and The One Pillar Pagoda. The afternoon presented us with a leisurely 30km bike ride from Gia Lam. We rode along the 1.68km Long Bien Bridge designed by Eiffel, through villages and watched some ceremonies, took a few river crossings, stopped at the Trấn Quốc Pagoda and then back to the city.
I will have to add riding a bike on the busy streets of Hanoi to the list of most dangerous things I have ever done. The roads seems quite chaotic, however, in actual fact, it’s about getting out there and get going. Let yourself in and move on. The people are accommodating to let you just pull out, of what I know would be a give way intersection, as long as you get moving they will swerve around you. Yes, I was nervous and frightened but exhilarated at the same time.
The evening train will take us from Hanoi to Hue. At this stage it’s unclear whether we will be able to make it all the way through due to all the rain from the typhoon. Let’s cross our fingers and find out. We are in the 4 berth first class sleepers. Such a great way to travel. There is local food on board so I am suggesting that you bring your own drinks and snacks to get you through the night.
overnight train: Hanoi to Hue
Hue – 08 November
A shortened ride to the Citadel of only 15kms due to rain and flooding. As we were already cold and saturated we made the most of it and played in the rain. The ride back to the hotel was interesting as it was bucketing down and the water couldn’t get away from the road fast enough. In some parts, the water reached our pedals and it was on this day I decided riding in the rain is not as scary as I thought. Thanks Allan for your wonderful videoing abilities.
Tomorrow is the 90km ride if we can get through on the roads. Let’s wait and see. It’s still raining and forecast says more rain. 🚲🚲
accomm: Asia Hotel, Hue
Hue to Lang Co – 09 November
90km on the bike today with sun and rain from Hue. I’m totally chuffed for making the distance. Massive shout out to Steve for his helping hand (aka “The Hand of Steve/god”) when I was about to give up around the 80km mark. Cycling ended at Lang Co next to the beach. The first thing I did was head straight down to the water, stripped off to my undies and swam in the waves at 4pm… I’m exhausted. I just lay in the waves trying not to think about tomorrow and the next 70kms or so.
accomm: Lang Co Beach Resort, Lang Co
Lang Co to Hoi An via Da Nang – 10 November
Today’s effort was a 90km ride from Lang Co to Hoi An via Da Nang, of which I completed 80kms. The rest of the group took on the 10km ride up Hai Van Pass. Impressive achievement!!! 8-10% incline. I knew that I had a long ways to go on this trip and didn’t want to let this one portion ruin me and make me unable to finish. I decided to take the bus up the mountain and became the official welcoming party.
accomm: Green Field Hotel, Hoi An
Hoi An – 11 November
FREE DAY means massage, facial, sitting by the pool, beers and playing pool. At 12pm we went to “oodles of noodles” for a noodle making demonstration and lunch. The special part about this (and I was quite emotional) is that the restaurant is run by a non profit organisation called “Streets Restaurant Cafe” who give young, disadvantaged local kids a chance to learn skills in hospitality and tourism and then go on to get real jobs in 5 star hotels and resorts. They learn how to cook or serve food and even speak English. Many of them are around 19 years old. Absolutely wonderful. This is another reminder at how blessed and fortunate that I was, as I still am today. ❤️
accomm: Green Field Hotel, Hoi An
On my walk back from the restaurant I hear a person’s voice, “beep beep”, which means get out of the way I’m coming through. So I move closer to the side of the road. Then the voice speaks again, “You want a ride?”. I turn and see that it’s Sunny on his bike. I get all embarassed and shy and say, “no thanks”. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. So the next minute I am side saddle across the bars of the bike. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. It reminded me of my teenage years. To capture the moment I really wanted a photo but I was too scared to lift my hands off the handle bars and to hold the phone in front of us for a selfie. Sunny, bless him, grabbed his phone off the holder and not only navigated the bike with me on it, but also courageously took a photo. I loved it. It shows the fear and joy in one snap.
Hoi An to Tam Ky – 12 November
Completely exhausted, I was happy to know that today was relatively easy at 50kms. I was thankful for the early morning river crossing with the cool breeze across my face. We continued to ride through local villages that rarely see tourists. The kids were yelling out “Hallo! Hello! Hallo!” and giving us high fives as we rode through their streets. I’m sure it was the highlight of their day as it was mine. We stopped at the monument of the Vietnamese Heroic Mother who lost all her 11 sons and grandsons during the American War (Vietnam War). It was a tribute, an insight and the honorable title to all the Vietnamese women who have made numerous contributions and sacrifices for the cause of national liberation, national construction and defense, and the performance of international obligations.
accomm: Le Dung Hotel, Tam Ky
Tam Ky to Quang Ngai – 13 November
Pumped out another 56kms. Today was hard both physically and emotionally.
We visited the The My Lai (mi Lei) massacre site. 504 unarmed Vietnamese local people were raped, killed and burned over 4 hours from 7am til 11am. Women, men, children and infants. American troops say they were ordered to kill. My heart bleeds and tears stream down my face. I can see my own family and friends in the photographs taken by a professional American Photographer. The despair. The disbelief. A tragedy. Only a few locals survived and have this atrocity imprinted in their hearts and minds forever. The Vietnamese people, and in the Buddhist way, say “close the past, open the future”. They invite American people come to visit the museum and site of where the My Lai Massacre took place. I cannot get the photos of the mutilated and burned bodies out of my head. Horrific. At the memorial we lit incense, prayed and paid our respects to those lost and those who remained.
Quang Ngai to Quy Nhon – 14 November
A lot of PB’s were achieved today when the team cycled a total of 118kms from Quang Ngai to Quy Nhon. Super proud of everyone whose ages ranged from 28-71 years. I made it 55kms to lunch before I started having stomach issues and had to opt out and get on the bus. This was another story in itself. Firstly, I have to thank the entire crew, especially Lindsey and Rhoda, for making sure I was okay and giving me the right sort of medication and electrolytes.
The bus had to stay with the group in case of emergencies, which I totally understood and respected. We met up with the crew who were on a break after riding another 20-30kms. They were sat along a landing about 50 steps up, taking photos. I clambered up the stairs to get into the group shot. As we were heading back down the stairs, it hit me. I had to go to the bathroom ASAP. I panicked. There was nowhere here to go. I talked to Sunny, our guide, and explained to him that this wasn’t a “squat behind a tree” situation. He spoke to the bus driver. I have no idea what he said and I had complete faith in the both of them to look after me. The bus driver took me to a local petrol station. He yells out to the attendant who replies and then I’m ushered to the outhouse. As I’m approaching the bus driver is hosing it out quickly. I look inside. It’s a pit toilet with no running water, no toilet paper, and only a bucket of water to wash yourself. “This is going to be interesting”, I thought. I held up my hands and showed my ten fingers to the bus driver and said, “I will be 10 minutes, okay?”. As I squat down the only thing I was sure of is that if this situation doesn’t work out, I will be taking off my undies and using them as toilet paper. In the end, I managed with the bucketed water. Those ten minutes was all I needed and I was out and on the bus meticulously cleaning my hands with sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes.
Back at it tomorrow though. Only 2 cycling days left!! Woo hoo!! I can’t actually believe I’ve nearly made it. 🚴🚴
accomm: Hoang Yen Hotel, Quy Nhon
Quy Nhon to Tuy Hoa – 15 November
I can’t really remember much of today. The delirium and exhaustion must have set in. I do remember that we rode 75kms from Quy Nhon to Tuy Hoa. The team yet again formed a peloton to help us all through. I am very thankful and grateful for the family to keep us all together and not leaving any of us behind. At some points were were really cranking along travelling between 28-36kms an hour. Only one more cycle day to go!!!
accomm: Sai Gon Phu Yen Hotel, Tuy Hoa
Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang – 16 November
Today was the last 55kms of cycling from Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang.
I have marked down on my trip notes that this is the last day of cycling. I remember the first night when I wrote this and it felt a thousand miles away. A dream or goal that I had no idea if I could achieve. One thing was for sure, I knew that I would give it my all and just see what happened. I would try and talk myself out of the times I wanted to quit or give up. Trust me, it happened a lot. One part along the way I remember being on my own at the back of the group with tears in my eyes. They were tears of joy, relief, exhaustion and a small part was letting go of all the events from the year. It was soul changing. A moment I will never forget.
So, I can’t believe I’m actually here. I did it.. yes, I really did it! Cycled over 500kms. BOOM! 💥
accomm: Edele Hotel, Nha Trang
Nha Trang – 17 November
FREE TIME – Boat Trip
From Nha Trang we took a boat to an island fishing village and then onto the reef for some snorkelling. So much fun was had jumping off the top of the boat into the water as well as drinking cocktails. Our own version of a swim-up bar being served by our Tour Leader, Sunny. A fantastic day on the water. Best part, no cycling. Hooray!! We fly to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow. One night there and then it’s time to fly home back to reality. I’ve had such a great time, took some amazing photos, met some amazing people and challenged myself far beyond what I thought I was made of. Thank you Vietnam. You’ve been just what I’ve needed.
accomm: Edele Hotel, Nha Trang
Ho Chi Minh City – 18 November
To wake up and realise that the cycling is over is refreshing. I repack my bag and leave my 4 year old trainers on the balcony to be thrown out. They stink and have made the distance. It’s totally fine to leave them behind.
It’s off to the airport this morning for our flight to Ho Chi Minh, the last city we will visit. On arrival we organise ourselves some lunch to take on the bus with us while we travel to the Chu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels are an extensive network of varying layers spreading across more than 250kms of the land that were hand dug during the American War (Vietnam War). It’s a very interesting place to visit. Many clever but brutal ideas to fend off the opposition and to save themselves. Many people lived in these tunnels for years. I cannot fathom living like this. I appreciate the outdoors and the sunshine way too much. Desperate times creates desperate measures. Watch the video here of the entry points to the tunnels.
It was good to be back on the air conditioned bus while I watched the sunset from the back seat side window. There’s a storm brewing and it’s going to be peak hour soon. I watch the people begin to scurry around as the winds pick up and they want to get home before the rain. It’s too late, the rain is almost here and the traffic jams. Once the rain arrives many people stop their mopeds and put on ponchos. Shop keepers are caught out and their merchandise is either getting wet or blown around. I just sit and stare in complete comfort with a half smile on my face (and not in a sinister way, but more in an appreciation and grateful way). I’m so grateful to be able to come to Vietnam. Sunny, our guide, is sitting next to me and I share my left over snacks from the day. In this moment, I know, that everything is how it’s meant to be. It’s a perfect moment in time.
accomm: Blessing Hotel, Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City – 19 November
Departure Day.. It’s time to say good to our fearless leader, Sunny, as he heads to the airport to fly home to Hanoi. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye or even farewell. Until next time my friend. This man showed us so much passion and knowledge of his country. His witty humour and quirky ways won me over from day 1. There’s a theory that once your energy is connected you will remain affected by one another no matter the physical distance. I believe this to be true. Sunny, you remain in my heart. I am very fortunate to have met you and I thank all my lucky stars that I did.
The morning was spent wandering through Ben Thanh Markets where you can buy almost anything for a reasonable price. Ensure to have your bartering skills up to scratch as you will need it. Somehow I ended up with three pairs of sunglasses as well as presents for friends and family back home.
In the afternoon, for a couple of hours, I visited the War Remnants Museum. My heart is heavy, my mood changes and I feel utter sadness. I learned about things like Agent Orange and napalm and their effects. Even 40 years after the war, children are being born with defects. The statistics of this war is unfathomable. After the war explosives, like land mines, remained in ground and another 100,000 people died while living their life. War breaks my heart. So much pain, hardships and suffering.
Sadly, it’s now time to go. When I came to Vietnam I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m usually a very organised and planned sort of person however I did very little research and was not as prepared as I could have been. This trip has opened my eyes. It has created curiosity and a better understanding. I know when I get home, home will still be the same, but something has changed within my heart and that changes everything.