a top trip: cycle vietnam
There’s no doubt handle-bar height gives the best view of Vietnam. Cycling gives you a chance to meet the locals in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise and as Jo Gilbert discovered, once you rise to the challenge of the roads for the first time, you’ll be freewheeling all the way!…
“Attempting to even walk across the manic streets of Hanoi is a mean feat, but cycling? Standing on the curb in Hanoi, clad in my beautiful new lycra attire and clutching my bright mountain bike, my heart was beating madly and thoughts were racing through my mind. Was I hallucinating when I signed up for this?
When I decided to partake in Intrepid’s Cycle Vietnam trip, I had envisaged empty streets, flat wide roads and welcoming parties of local villagers with huge smiles encouraging us along. Now, don’t get me wrong, these images really do exist and my cycling experience through Vietnam was incredible, however, Hanoi’s busy streets definitely caught me by surprise at the start of the trip.
To make matters worse, we were travelling in the midst of the mad build up for the Tet festivities (Vietnamese New Year), so locals were navigating the narrow streets of Hanoi with a Kumquat or pink blossom tree, or even a live pig nervously strapped to the back of their motorbikes.
With bated breath, I nervously jumped on my bike and entered the chaos. With my fellow Intrepid adventurers, we immersed ourselves into the crowd and set off. I think I must have cycled with my eyes shut for the first few minutes, but after a while I felt a smile creep across my face. In reality, cycling around Hanoi was actually ten times easier than trying to cross the road!
The realisation hit me as to why I was here and over the next 15 days I loved every minute of cycling approximately 550 kms (340 miles) through Vietnam’s beautiful, unforgettable scenery.
What an incredible experience and a glorious way of discovering a new country: cycling past vast vibrant rice paddies, negotiating windy mountain passes (where the support vehicle really came in handy), navigating unknown territory through the Central Highlands where locals rarely see tourists, let alone a dozen brightly clad, beetroot-faced, smiling cyclists. A personal highlight was cycling through what we nicknamed ‘High 5 Alley’, where every man, woman and child surrounded us, offering high fives! And just the sheer feeling of achievement and having been fortunate enough to see a country through a completely different light. I totally recommend this to anyone from avid cyclists to occasional weekend riders. Now my only problem is deciding where to cycle next!”
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* photo by Mark Brown – Intrepid Photography Competition