Cu Chi Impression

Riding for 4 hours per day in the ultimate toxic tropical heat for many times in a row, Cu Chi should be a name to scare me personally.

Yet bringing different people to this land, getting them endure the heat together just to crawl inside the same set up branches of dirt forth and back is still a notable experience. From being an explorer, you switch your role and become observer, story teller. Your sense of ego melts, invisible to let other people’s experiences shine. Cu Chi in me is

Beautiful rubber jungles

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In a dry land with nothing aside but an overwhelming heat about to burn you anytime, dotting here and there are still beautiful vast rubber plantations. We ride slowly in small paths under lovely protection of rubber shadows, admiring milky latex drippings crystalized into see-through golden threads.

And once in a while, a character appeared, letting us intrude into his work and try cutting rubber for the first time.

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To him, getting enough rubber milk for a work day when it’s not too hot is already a happiness. That simple. Happiness roots from not knowing, or knowing it’s enough to be content.

Intimacy in a flash

As a guide, I am allowed to cut through people’s interactions for a short time. Before a tour, we are not aware of each other. After a tour, we clear each other out of our minds. I don’t even try to remember their names because there is no point, and so do they.

Being intimate in a flash allows me to touch their precious adventure moments. Like seeing couples trying to sneak in a tunnel trunk I know too well, seeing them excited, nervous and their eyes spark the moment their partner got out with tunnel cover on hand, full of dirt.

Love is in the air.

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Overcome the most challenging pass in Vietnam

Well known as the most balanced city in Vietnam with sandy beaches, fresh air and clean, organized urban landscape, Da Nang is also a favorite destination for riders coming to the central part of this country.

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Here locating the legend pass: Hai Van. Literally means Ocean Cloudy in local language, this 21 km long pass is a breathtakingly scenic route for riders. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear proved he was right upon exclaiming this is “a deserted ribbon of perfection—one of the best coast roads in the world” while the Guardian puts Hai Van the top great lesser known scenic drives on earth.

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With sandy beaches on one side, rugged mountain on the other and a unique climate thanks to being the boundary between North and South Vietnam, Hai Van pass is a top choice for adventurers.

Source: Da Nang cyclists discovering Hai Van pass.

After many centuries of restricted commuting due to limited infrastructure, in 1966, Hai Van pass was widen and improved by American army. 39 years later, in 2005 Hai Van tunnel was officially built, helps reduce traffic flow coming here which makes it even more attractive for motorbikes and bicycle riders.

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Hanoi Positive Mass

Originated from The critical mass in San Francisco, Hanoi Positive Mass took up the spirit very well.

Information about the journey was posted In Facebook for quite a while and the hub, mostly young peopl

e all gathered at the holy point — The Hanoi Cathedral.

“Hi Quang!”

“Hi”

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“I saw you ridin

g on the lake a few days ago. What’s your name?”

“Hello, I am Simon. We are organizing a journey from Hanoi to Paris to raise awareness about climate change”

The mass kept talking, all conversations warmed up the atmosphere and soon enough from unknown faces we pushed our different bikes as long-term peers. Cycling itself sparks a strangely positive energy which attracts us all together, like a magnet. We rode along French Quarter heading to Ho Chi Minh complex, passing by the green boulevard named Hoang Dieu where Hanoi ancient citadel is located.

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Listen everybody, we must ride in two lines only!”

One confident girl in her sporty outfit exclaimed.

People just smiled and the chaotic mass soon lined up in two. I noticed one man riding beside me whose a bike attracts all attention. He is riding calmly and confidently, in the middle of Hanoi on a busy Friday night, with his cute little daughter on the front, and the bike itself, wow:

It just looks like Easy rider.

(By any chance if you read this <yes, you-the-cool-man>, don’t hide your beauty in secret, show it to the world ;)>

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Yep, you imagine how cool Jack is with his iconic motorbike, then this man is very likely one level up cooler on his non-motor one.

Do you assemble the bike yourself?”

Yes I do

And you carry your little baby with you, wow

The mass was wowed for a moment and kept going. Chit-chatting while steering along small lanes of Old Quarter, we attracted some curios look from locals. I would say it is a mix-look: a mash-up of curiosity and excitement. Who knows out of the crowd which one is gonna join us next month?

We stopped for a bit at the junction where the two famous dragons of the pottery street is located. In case you haven’t known about that, then pottery street in Hanoi is the longest mosaic in the world and two-dragon is the center of that.

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I have been told that different from Chinese dragons — big and powerful, Vietnamese dragons used to be depicted as very small. One mischievous biker used to joke and call them as “two little worms” ^^. Well, being small means being more flexible and easy to adapt, and it has been shown very clearly along Vietnamese history.

We wrapped the ride up by a loop around Hoan kiem lake before getting back to the Cathedral. Friday is definitely not a bad choice to draw attention as Hoan Kiem then was packed with youngsters from all around the city celebrating TGIF.

Sweat and smiles, contacts gained and exchanged, the cycling network in Ha Noi just keeps getting bigger.

P/S: After getting peer pressure, the cool man did have to reveal his bike 🙂

 

The brown little front seat is used for his little daughter

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Confess of messed-up bikers

Like a polar bear just waking up from a long winter sleep, Couchsurfing Bicycle was still dizzy.
That was exactly my impression when we gathered in front of the Opera House in a hot Hanoi summer afternoon as the first member showed up.

“Hi, I am Manh”

He smiled and looked around, waiting.

“Oh where is everyone else? ”

Everyone? Me, you and ..3 more I guess? 😉 Nah this is gonna be funny. People expect that a bunch of 20 bikers or so will gather here and we are gonna parade along the way: strong and impressive. The effect of Couchsurfing brand name is interesting: On one hand, it sets a high expectation bar and attract people to come, on the other hand it may lead to disappointment when that bar is not reached. “Hmm let’s see”, I told myself.

10 minutes later, two cute-looking girls showed up. When Toan the little boy came with his full set – yellow helmet, yellow new mountain bike, sun protection shirt, nice shoes, we did feel weird. What about our tools guys? But that doesn’t matter. Biking amateurs we are, yet we still confidently pushed the pedals and moved on. The ride took us 3,5 hours to finish with lots of troubles, random exciting stops and a bunch of stories to tell.

Red River greenery set

Hanoi is a hustle city: buildings after buildings, 9 millions people gathered in constant trading and business. A bit overwhelming sometimes. Red river brings to the capital the extra smooth touch it needs. A classic, rusty yet charming bridge crossing over , seemingly endless delta full of green fields, a strong flow of water bringing a huge amount of alluvial to help make the delta more fertile, Hanoi looking from this side of Red River is such a different soul. Definitely “the city inside river” as the name itself suggests.

 

10628338_782924401787566_2938849058766269962_nI still recall last winter when me and some friends took William and Bryan, two tour guides from US to Bat Trang

pottery village. The extremely cold weather urged us to stop to get some warmth from t

he grilling corn stove and our photographer captured this right moment. Bryan looked like a real philosopher contemplating in the just-right landscape: gentle breeze, misty air, a line of banana fields stretching to the horizon. Time seemed to stop. (Yes, biking in summer will not give you the same feeling 😉 yet Red river would never stop to fill us with nostalgic emotions.

“Did you check the map?”6

No I didn’t, just ride and see.
Manh was a bit surprised. But I am sure he would agree later that spontaneousness would be definitely fun. A biking session not long ago with no plan led us to an amazingly beautiful farm along the the dyke route.

This time, we saw a pagoda and decided to stop. Buddhism is deeply grained around this area, which explains why there are that many pagodas and temples here (around 1,792 pagodas in Hanoi based on the statistic of Vietnam Buddhism Association). Vietnamese are not so religious but we consider pagodas as places to de-stress and seek mental balance. This particular one is designed in a very charming way and similar to what a farmer would set up his house.

Yes, a brick lane with two lines of areca trees on the side and a garden full of pomelo. That reminds of my hometown

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in central Vietnam. Areca trees are straight and strong, hence people compare them with honest and sincere people. Areca trees not only give us shade in summer but its fru

its are also used as an integral part of every wedding offering from the groom side.

 

In weddings, areca fruits are cut into half, surrounded by many betel leaves. The leaves are cut to imitate phoenix wings. When chewed together, a red liquid symbolizing for husband-wife connection is released. “Trầu têm cánh phượng” or “Phoenix wing betel leaves” is an essential part of our culture. It will not dissolve or eaten up by modernization for sure, something you might want to know on the way to discover Vietnam culture.

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Photos everyone, stop !

As we predicted before, the members are NOT professional bikers and we don’t bike in those kinds of sessions for that purpose . No competition please. We will not lose much weight, get six packs or become avid health obsessed after this but above all, biking is a great social activity. Sweating together via sport connects us in a strange way, may it be some technical troubles along the way or an impulsive stop just to take selfies and laugh like crazy. An easy-going ride with something to reflect long after.

Couchsurfing Bicycle community can be found in:

FacebookCouchsurfing Hanoi Bicycle Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cshn.bicycleclub/

Trip summary

Total length: 30km

Level: easy (or supereasy? 😉 )