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.
I 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?”
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
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.
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:
Facebook – Couchsurfing Hanoi Bicycle Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cshn.bicycleclub/
Total length: 30km
Level: easy (or supereasy? 😉 )