Cycle Laos with us

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Committed to our goal of uniting cyclists in Vietnam and in neighboring countries, in November at Vietnambiketours we are organizing our special ASEA Sunday Bike Ride, which is taking us to Laos, where we will have a great chance to discover its capital city, Vientiane, on a bicycle and with the best possible tour guides: local cyclists. This small country is really unknown for many Vietnamese and foreigners and this is a great opportunity to have a glimpse of it. Here is the schedule of this 4 days and 3 nights trip from November19th to 22nd.

November 19
We will fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Vientiane, Laos capital city. This days we will only have time to do a quick tour around the city before enjoying our dinner.

November 20
It’s the big day, the main reason why we organize this trip. We will be part of a biking event with a local cyclist club. It will be a great opportunity to discover Vientiane on a bicycle and to make new friends who share our same passion for biking. We believe cycling can help our countries get closer and also make new friends.  Organized in cooperation with Asean Cycling Club and Laos Cycling Federation, it will be a non-profit tour that will help us build stronger ties with those who love cycling and promote peace in the region and in the world. After that, the ones who feel like it can play a badminton game.

November 21
We will start the day with a city tour around Vientiane, you can choose to make it by bike or by bus if you got too tired the previous day. We will always recommend the bike, but the bus will be available if you need to rest or you want to enjoy the air conditioned. The rest of the day we can take our time to go around, buy some souvenirs and keep discovering a country that was a total mystery until not so long ago.

November 22
It’s the end. After breakfast we will go to the airport and end our tour in Laos.

The cost will be 199 USD per person, including 3 nights in a 3 star hotel, meals (3 dinners, 2 lunches and 3 breakfasts), cycling shirt, transport airport transfers and daily events and certificate. It doesn’t include the airfare, you can book your flight here: http://www.laoairlines.com/ . You can register here until October 19.

5 signs you are getting dehydrated

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Photo by Okolo Třeboně. CC BY-SA 3.0

When we go out on the bike, specially in a hot country like Vietnam, it’s good to keep ourselves hydrated, stop as many times as we need to have some water or juices and be wary about any sign that shows a possible dehydration. With the tropical weather a dehydration can soon become serious if you are riding a bike.Dehydration of 1 to 2 percent of body weight is bad for your performance, but if it goes over 3 percent of your body weight, your body will be less responsive, and you will have higher risk of  heat cramps or heat exhaustion. Loss of 5 percent or more body weight can result in heat stroke.  Here are five signals you should watch to avoid this

1 You are more than thirsty
As obvious as this may seem, some riders tend to push their limits and not bring that extra water bottle or to wait too much before they stop and refill. Wether you are cycling alone or in a group, don’t hesitate if you need to stop and reload your fluids tank. You should never come to the point when you are this thirsty, but if you are, take your time to drink and rest for your body to recover.

2 Fast heart rate
When you work out our heart rate is faster, but if you notice a pace faster than the usual by 20 or 30 beats per minute, it may be an early sign of dehydration.

3 Pinch your skin
If you pinch the skin, for example in your forearm or wrist, and if it doesn’t spring back right away, you may be getting dehydrated.

4 You feel cramps
When you cycle in the heat, your body doesn’t only release water when you sweat, also electrolytes and minerals and that’s why your muscles may start aching and you may feel cramps. If you do, stop and drink.

5 Dark urine
If your urine is dark and almost orange, it’s a clear sign you don’t have enough fluids in your body. It may happen after a long time without going to the toilet. The best solution is, of course, a lot of water. Don’t drink coffee, as it may make things worse.

Cycling to save these children

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Photo from Tuoi Tre News

All of us know cycling is great and we don’t need any further reason to get on a bike and have fun but we always like people who do it for a good cause and we always support any idea that links cycling to helping people. And that’s why we have to support Cycling for 16, the amazing 16 days cycling trip through Vietnam by Scott Kirkham, who wants to get funds to save the lives of 32 children with congenital heart disease who cannot afford the surgery they need to live. As Scott explains, these children desperately need the treatment, which cost 1,200 USD per child (but their families only make about 50USD per month). Kirk wants to raise 38,400 USD to help these children, to save them from a “slow and painful death that their families would helplessly watch”. You can help here.

Scott is not the kind who would just sign a petition for help on Change.org, post on Facebook and keep on with his life: he decided to cross 1,600 km across Vietnam to raise money and save the lives. If cycling through Vietnam seems to be a good thing to do whatever is the reason, doing it for these children is just being a hero.”I am a simple guy who is a husband, a dad to two healthy young children (thankfully), and I just want to make a difference to help save the lives of some very sick children here in Vietnam”, he saus. We certainly need more simple men like him.

We all have a lot expenses, a new smart phone to buy and a new vacation to prepare, but a 30 USD (or more, of course) donation won’t make a difference to you and, if we all help, it can be huge for these children, it can simply save their lives. It’s not every day that you can help saving a life, knowing exactly where your money is going and how it will be used.

If you want to know more, you can follow Kirk’s adventure on Facebook, he just started his adventure in Hanoi. There you can also find details to do a bank transfer:  www.facebook.com/cyclefor16

Here, more information about Heart Vietnam:http://vinacapitalfoundation.org/our-programs/heartbeat-vietnam/heartbeat-vietnam-heart-surgeries/

Cycling is good even if there is pollution

It is no secret that Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City start have a problem with air pollution. It’s not that bad in the South these days thanks to the rain, but there are times when it can be worrying to get out there and breathe the fumes of the thousands of cars and motorbikes that flock the streets everyday. Yes, we can use masks despite the heat, but it is reasonable to wonder if the harm of pollution will be higher than the benefits from exercise you get when you cycle. Our slogan is “Climate change, ride a bike” for a reason, we want  a cleaner world, but not at the expense of our own health. Fortunately, it looks like cycling (exercise) is always good, despite the polluted air. At least this is the biggest finding by a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge.

However, according to their research, there is a point after which the benefits of cycling don’t increase even if we keep cycling and another breaking point, when they become smaller than the harm that the air can cause. In Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world (much more than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City) after 30 minutes the exercise will cease bringing benefits and after one hour it would become more harmful than good. In Hanoi or Saigon the pollution is usually about half the one in Delhi, so cycling in the city would cause more good than harm after two hours.

 

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And there is another factor, wether you cycle or not, you are in the city, you breathe the same air. One of the authors of the study said in this interesting piece in Quartz magazine, “we are not disputing the fact that air pollution kills,” said James Woodcock, one of the authors of the study. “[But] it would do so even when you are sitting at home. What we find is that being physically active, even in polluted cities, can cut that risk. So it’s a win-win.” In short, get on your bike, it’s always better than not doing it. And anyway, we would always advise to get tours or ride outside the city, the countryside is way more exciting for cyclists! 

 

Meet tour guide Le Tan Phuc

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Tour guide Le Tan Phuc is the kind of person you want to be with when you are on vacation. After meeting him for a few minutes, you feel you are loaded with energy and you can achieve all your dreams. No doubt you need that sort of energy when you are cycling under the Vietnamese heat.

This 29-year-old young man has been a tour guide for the last five years and he couldn’t be happier about it. When he was younger, in his Mekong Delta village in the province of Dong Thap few believed he could achieve his dream of becoming a tourguide in the city. he didn’t listen. He studied college in Saigon. He felt his English was very weak so he decided to work as a waiter in Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker’s area in Saigon. After one year he was offered to be a cycling tourguide for Vietnambiketours. He did well and got more and more tours. He loves it.

“I like a lot cycling tour guide. It’s good for the environment. I imagine if everybody in this city cycled, the air would be much cleaner. It’s good for health. And when you cycle you get to see more. If I didn’t have this job I would miss a lot in my life. In my village I discover things, I get to small roads with my bike and my friends and parents don’t know when it is”, he says.

Cycling is getting popular in Vietnam but for Phuc cycling has always been part of his life. He had no choice. As a child, he used to cycle everyday to school 45 minutes to go, 45 minutes to go back. When he got older, he used to help in the rice field after school. He knows what it is to work under the sun, to carry heavy sacks of rice. “Farming is very hard. My father said I ran away from it”, he recalls. Compared to that cycling long distances is like a game. Maybe that’s why he sometimes feels the need to challenge himself and cycles from his village to Saigon in one day. 160 kilometers. 8 hours on the bike, under the sun. That’s one of the reasons why he is so fit during the tours.

Phuc has a good reason to keep returning to his village every 3 weeks. His wife and his 2-year-old son still live there. He plans to help them move in the future, but so far it’s not possible. When he misses them, he is lucky to share time with the tourists, enjoy with them and learn from their culture. “They help me to learn English and I also learn from their cultures. When we do the long tours, some of them are crying when they have to say goodbye”, he tells.

Phuc keeps learning from his own country as he cycles with the tourists and he is thankful for his job. If he had to choose a tour to discover Vietnam he wouldn’t be sure, but he thinks the Mekong delta is a good introduction, specially for tourists not specially fit. “In the Mekong there are a lot of different places”, he says.

If you want to learn more about him you can see him in this great video.

Phong Nha, the new gem of Vietnam

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Until 2013, Phong Nha was just a small village where some cave enthusiasts used to go and discover the wonderful caves there. It was mostly a destination for local tourists who ventured on the boat tours to Phong Nha caves or dared to go to other sites that require more adventure, like Paradise cave. Then, suddenly, foreign tourists started to flow, and two years later it had become the second most popular destination for foreigners after Halong Bay, according to Lonely Planet.

How was that possible? Well, it is no coincidence that Phong Nha is the closest village to Soon Dong, the biggest cave in the world, which was just discovered in 2009 by a team of British explorers with the indispensable help of a local man named Ho Khanh. This gave a lot of publicity to the place, and although the tours inside Soon Dong are limited and very expensive, it allowed tourists to discover the other caves around, which are also wonderful and can be trekked in one day (two or three days for more distant ones, such as Hang En or Thu Lan).

The once quiet rural village where kids died of starvation 20 years ago is now a bustling village where everyone wants a share in the tourism boom. As you walk (or better, pedal) through the main street you will go through dozens of newly born hotels and restaurants that publicize western food, pizza, beer and hamburgers, with charming spelling mistakes, seeming to be the biggest hits.

But why are we talking about this in a blog about cycling? Because aside from this tourism gold rush there is another striking fact in the country of motorbikes: most tourists move around by bicycle. All homestays and hotels offer bikes for rent and it’s common to see groups of Western boys and girls in their twenties pedaling around the town by bicycles. The sportiest ones venture into the countryside with the bikes and park them in front of some of the caves near the road. It’s difficult to find a better place for cycling: there is barely any car, you are surrounded by nature and even the climate seems to help, the mountains bringing some fresh air (except during the hottest months in the summer). If you are in central Vietnam and you like cycling, it can be a good choice. You can even try cycling there from Hue; you can rent a bike in our office there if you don’t have one with you.

Join us in Hoian

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Following our dream to be present in the main tourist spots in Vietnam, since last month we have one more office in Hoian. As usual, one of our goals will be to connect with local cyclists, both locals and foreigners, both expats and tourists, and help people discover the wonderful potential of Hoian and Danang region. It is very common to see groups of tourists with their bikes along the rice fields or in the ancient town of Hoian, a perfect place for bikes. But we want to go a bit further and discover some of the secret gems for cycling in the area. We like discovering the countryside, but also the cultural treasures, and they are a lot in the area. For instance, yesterday, in the second Sunday Bike Ride in Hoian, we had a wonderful ride to Tra Que Herb Village, where after an interesting ride you can experiment being a farmer, preparing rice paper or cooking in the traditional style from the center. From Hoian you can easily pedal to My Son Heritage site, where you can discvoer some ancient Cham culture structures that survived through the centuries, go to Lang Co bay and Hue or go further South to Nha Trang.

hoian addThe office will also be a starting point for cycling tours in the region, one more possibility of exploring the center after the one in Hue. Those who need to rent bikes will be able to enjoy our GT Avalanche, with 27,5 inches wheels, or the bigger Karakorum elite with 29 inches wheels. Both are very comfortable off road and feel very light when you are on the road.  And because we value safety more than anything, the helmets we offer are not just ok helmets, but very good Giro Hex with a market price over 100 USD.

There is no excuse to miss the chance to visit Hoian with a new perspective from the saddle! Don’t miss our office in 162/22b Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoi An (0974131032).

Bike ride in Myanmar

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Biking can be a good way of exercising, of seeing the world, of moving around the city in a fast and clean way… We all know there are many advantages to cycling. We also want to promote friendship between countries through cycling, with a special focus on our neighbors from ASEAN. Last February we cycled to Laos, we have cycled in the past with clubs from Malaysia and now we are excited to enjoy a ride in Myanmar next May with the cooperation of the Asean Cycling club and the Myanmar Cycling Federation.

It will be 4 days in Yangon, from May 21 to 24th, with a ride on the 22nd in Yangon with local riders. The cost is 185 USD for the hotel with breakfast, 3 lunch and 3 dinners, a biking shirt, transportation in Myanmar (does not include the airfare) and a certificate. It will be free for riders from Myanmar. You can register here before March 31.

Here is the schedule:

May 21
This is the day we are arriving from Vietnam so we will just have time to meet for dinner at 5pm in the hotel lobby and get the first impressions of Myanmar.

May 22
This is the big day, when we will do a cycling tour together with our fellow Myanmar riders around Yangon. The ride will start at 5:30 AM from Yangon International Stadium and we will go around the city for a 35 to 40 km ride, which will help us discover the city and also enjoy time with our friends from Myanmar. We are happy that biking can be a way of getting people and countries closer. After the ride, all participants will receive a certificate and a medal. Then we will all have lunch together and those who didn’t have enough with the bicycle can participate in a Badminton friendly match before dinner.

May 23
We will probably be tired from the previous day, so we thought this could be a good time for the participants to relax, go sightseeing… But if you didn’t have enough exercise, you should join the Futsal friendly match. With Vietnam’s recent achievement making it to the World Cup next September in Colombia, riders from Myanmar should be scared of our skills. And if some foreigners want to join the team, they will be more than welcome. Here is the complete schedule

May 24
This is the end. A little time for sightseeing or shopping after breakfast, lunch together and the tour will end.24/5/2016 ( B, L ): Have breakfast at hotel, free to visit sightseeing. The tour ends after lunch.

And here is a summary of what the price includes:
– 3 nights at the Orchid 4 stars hotel
– Meals (3 dinners, three lunches, 3 breakfasts)
– T-shirts for participants
– Bus transport in Yangon

There will be bikes for rent for 10 USD per day. For more information, contact us at info@vietnambiketours.com

Competition and cultural tour in Hue

cycling raceThose who have cycled with us know we don’t specially focus on the physical performance or on how fast we ride. Our approach is more relaxed or social. However, a little competition from time to time doesn’t harm anyone, and we all know it’s exciting. If we can combine it with something of cultural interest, we can have a cycling tour that fits anybody’s preferences. This is what we plan to do in Hue from March 25, to celebrate the 35th Sunday Bike Ride in the former imperial capital.

Here is the schedule for those who want to join:

Day 1, March 25
We will check in a hotel in Hue, enjoy some free time and spend the night there, preparing to start the fun on the bike. We suggest you try some Hue specialties like the local pancakes (banh Beo, banh Nam, banh Loc), some seafood like the baby clams with rice crackers, before having a walk along Nguyen Dien Chieu street, relax crossing the Trang Tien bridge and see the night scene in the backpackers area.

Day 2, March 26
This is the day. Get a good sleep, have a nice breakfast and be sure your legs are strong. Those who want to join can register here. It will be 42 km and the start is at 6:30 AM. If you are not into racing, you can just watch and join the afternoon ride to Than Tan hot springs, where we will have the chance to soak our whole body in the hot water to relax. At the foot of Ma Yen Mountain, these springs were discovered by French Doctor A. Sallet in 1928. Since then they have been renowned for the health benefits of submerging your body in hot mineral water. If you need to relax, this is what you need. For those in need of some action, we suggest a visit to the Waterpark, with a zipline included. After that, we will cycle back to Hue and share a nice dinner.

Day 3 March 27
Of the many culinary specialties of Hue, Bun Bo Hue is probably the most popular in the whole country. However, locals say that it’s never as goo as it is there. We will have a chance to check if it’s true over breakfast, before visiting Dong Ba Market and doing a city tour around the major sites. The citadel is one of the most interesting ones. This old residence of the Nguyen kings includes the Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa palace, Forbidden Purple City, the Emperor Temple, the Hien Lam pavilion and the nine dynastic urns. After that we will go to Thien Mu pagoda, the most ancient in the city, as it was built in 1601. Our historical tour will end with the visit to the impressive mausoleums of emperors Khai Dinh and Tu Duc, where we will appreciate Hue’s architectonic style. If time allows it, we will finish the day climbing Ngu Binh mountain.

The prices will be different depending on your accommodation choices. You can get more information on our Facebook page or contacting us here: info@vietnambiketours.com

 

Phan Rang: quiet beaches and mini Angkor Wat

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A few weeks ago we explored the Southern stretch of the Ocean Road, from Vung Tau to Phan Tiet. If you keep going up, you will end up in Nha Trang, and along the way you will encounter beautiful sea sights, a lot of sand and very few big towns. The biggest one is Phan Rang 120 km south of Nha Trang, and still considered as no more than a fishermen village by many Vietnamese. However, if you look closely, you will discover all its beauty and its quiet roads, ideal for cycling, and its very rich cultural background. Here are three places you should absolutely visit if you are in the area.

1) Vin Hy Bay
It’s a lovely little bay where fishermen can protect their boats from the winds and the fury of the sea. The winding road gong there is ideal for cyclists and you can enjoy the beach, taste the local seafood and sea the real life of a fishermen village. The village is surrounded by lush nature.

2) Ca Na
If what you are looking for is an astoundingly beautiful beach in the area, go to Ca Na, south of Phan Rang. White sand beaches like this are difficult to find in Vietnam. However, it might seem boring to the most adventurous traveler, considering in this area the Cham princes used to hunt tigers, elephants and rhinoceros. Unfortunately, these animals are no longer there.

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3) Cham culture 

Yes, you are probably wondering who are those Cham princes who were hunting tigers in the 16th century. The kingdom of Champa occupied a big stretch of Southern Vietnam between the 7th and XVIIIth centuries. Originally a kingdom influenced by Indhuist culture, they started to convert to Islam in the 11th century. Today, there are still around 160,000 Cham people in Vietnam, mainly in Ninh Tuan province, An Giang, Phan Tiet and Saigon. Their splendorous times are over, but in Phan Rang, just near the train station, you can still admire one of the most impressive traces of their empire, the Poklong Garai. there, you will see the influence from India and you will feel like you are visiting a mini Angkor Wat.