Three years of Sunday Bike Ride!

It feels like it was yesterday but it has been already three years since the Sunday Bike Ride started n Ho Chi Minh City  since then we had the chance to welcome riders every Sunday, discover new places in our city, make new friends, enjoy the slow pace cycling and, in short, enjoying. Many of us can no longer understand Sundays without the Sunday Bike Ride and this enthusiasm has allowed us to expand to Nha Trang and Hue and keep expanding the passion for cycling in this country.

3rd-bitrthday-sbrThe ones who joined on Sunday November 6  had the chance to do a 50km round trip ride around the city, before the birthday party in Dong Tao tearoom. We had the chance to cycle through Ben Thanh Market, Phu My Birdge, Dong Van Con, Mai Chi Tho, the Thu Thiem bridge and finsih our ride in front of Dong Tao tearoom, where we had a nice party, enjoyed food, beers and chatting with one another. Events like this remind us that biking is about exercise, it’s about discovering new places and cultures, it’s about moving in a respectful way for the environment but it’s also about developing a special relationship with your fellow riders. Cycling is often pictured as an individualistic sports, as opposed to collective sports such as football or basketball, but as much as this can be true, it is also a great way of making friends. Only those who have discovered new places with fellow riders, who helped or were helped when they had any problem on the road, who know that experiences on the bike often become better when you are with the right people will understand this. Cycling is a sports, but more than that, it is a way of life. Happy birthday to the Sunday Bike Ride and hoping for many more years to come.

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.

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.

5 reasons we prefer bicycles over motorbikes

11062084_915181691866542_5579551241258364130_nIn a motorbike country like Vietnam, where locals use their vehicle for anything you can imagine (and even things you would never imagine) traveling by motorbike can be very tempting. Roads are decently paved, the traffic is not so dense out of big cities and the weather is perfect for it. Many tourists like to rent or buy an old motorbike, attach their backpacks and let it roll. It is, for sure, an attractive plan. But why not doing it by bicycle? Both have two wheels, both need momentum to keep balance, one has an engine and the other one has your legs. It might be slower, but who is in a hurry

1) You feel more free

Remember the first time you rode a bike as a child, the feeling it could take you anywhere without your parents being around, that first feeling of independence and absolute freedom? That’s what we are talking about. Some people might not agree, since an engine allows you to go faster and further, but everyone who rides a bike has experienced this unbeatable feeling of freedom, as if the only thing you needed in this world was a bicycle.

2) It’s healthier

Sitting down the whole day on a motorbike seat is not the healthiest thing to do. If you cycle you will also enjoy the sightseeing and your legs will be moving, your fitness will improve and you will go to bed with a very pleasant feeling.

3) It’s silent

This is not something you should overlook. Enjoying a country means sightseeing, but also listening. Imagine you are in the middle of the countryside, gently pedaling, listening to the subtle noise of the chain turning, of the wheels rubbing the road. You are in peace. Imagine the same thing with the roar of a motorbike… You get it, it’s not the same.

4) You know the country better

Here we prefer to listen to one of the best American writers ever, Ernest Hemingway:”It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle”. OBviously, we couldn’t say it better.

5) Don’t worry for the Police

If you are a foreigner and you have driven a motorbike in Vietnam (specially when the New Year is nearing), you know that the Police is bnd to pull you over and ask for as fine for whatever reason. If you don’t have a Vietnamese driving license or the registration papers of the bike, you might be in even more trouble. It can usually be solved with money, but it’s a hindrance that for sure makes a trip less pleasant. We have never seen the Police stop anyone on a bicycle. You just forget about that worry.

Tết ride: Vietnam-Laos-Thailand

2016 just started, but for Vietnamese the big New Year celebrations are coming in February, with the coming of the Lunar Year of the Monkey next February 8. And Vietnambiketours will celebrate it, you guessed it, with a bike ride. This time it will be a very special bike ride, as we will go through three countries (Vietnam-Laos-Thailand) in three days, with some vehicle support for the hardest or tedious parts of the road. If you want to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year in a different way, surrounded by nature, doing exercise, meeting people and having fun, this is for you. Here is the schedule of the trip, which will happen a few days after the traditional celebrations, in order to allow Vietnamese riders to spend time with their families.

Laos tour

Day 1 (February 13) Hue-Savannakhet (Laos)-Mukdahan (Thailand)

Have you ever been in three countries on the same day. It’s not so often that we can have the chance to cross to borders in such a short time, but that’s what we plan for the first day of this adventure. Central Vietnam is one of the nicest regions for bike riding in the whole Vietnam. The slow pace of the country side fits perfectly with Vietnambiketours philosophy of riding without pushing our bodies too hard, enjoying the nature and the kindness of villagers. We will feel mostly the same as we cross to Laos through the Lao Bao border and have lunch in Dansavan (Laos), where we will meet local riders. We’ll finish our day in Mukdahan (Thailand) after going over the Mekong River through the Friendship bridge. We will be able to visit the night market and the border between Thailand and Laos during the night,
Departure from Hue: 5:00, at 18 Dương Văn An street. Lunch in Dansavan, Laos and continue to Mukdahan (Thailand) for dinner and spend the night. 

Day 2 (February 14) Mukdahan (Thailand)-Savannakhet (Laos)

For Valentine’s Day we’ll have a more relaxed schedule after a fulfilling first day. We’ll cycle around Mukdahan on the Thai side of the border before crossing the Friendship bridge again (sorry, no love bridge available for Valentine) to Laotian side, in Savannakhet. We will spend the nigh there, resting, having dinner together and maybe trying our chance in the Casino. On a Valentine’s day you can check if the saying “Unlucky in gambling, lucky in love” is true.

Day 3 (February 15) Savannakhet (Laos)-Hue (Vietnam)

This will be the end of our trip, before going back home and to work for many of the riders. We’ll have breakfast at the hotel, do a last ride around Savannakhet, eat lunch in Dansavan, then use the support vehicle for a transfer to Hue. The tour will be over then.

As usual you can use your own bike (road or MTB are fine) or rent with us, with 50% discount. All cyclists can join.

How much?

The price will depend on the number of riders. With a group of 20 to 24 persons the price will be 2,735,000 VND per person and if we get 25 to 30 riders the cost will be 2,470,000 VND per person. This is the rate with shared room. If you want a single room it will be an extra 370,000 VND. If you want more information or already decided to register you can contact us here: uy.nh@hghue.com [054 3 932 789; 0914 019 177 ]; or huy@vietnambiketours.com [0974131032].

Remember you need to register before January 15! 

 

 

One hundred Sundays riding together

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A few weeks ago we celebrated the second year anniversary of the Sunday Bike Ride in Saigon and now we are proud to say this Sunday we are reaching our 100th ride. For such an event we chose to connect with one of our trademarks: merging with nature. That’s why we will be cycling to Ho Tri An-Dong truong eco tourism facility in Dong Nai province, where we will be able to wander by the Tri An lake, enjoy the nature that surrounds the water flows and, for the most adventurous, explore the surrounding areas. The nearby Ma Da forrest is also worth exploring and those who are interested can learn a lot about what you can eat when you are in the forrest, you never know, it might be useful in the future. Riders will soon understand this is one among many overlooked natural tourist attractions near Ho Chi Minh City .

It will be a long ride, 120 kilometers overall from the start in front of Ben Thanh market at 6:30 AM,  but as usual, we’ll be having stops for coffee and snacks. We plan to arrive there before lunch. The food will also be very special, as we will get the fish from the lake and get it cooked in the traditional way in a claypot. You won’t have to worry about chemicals or how the fish has been processed, since you will see how they catch it (or you catch it) and prepare it. After cycling, having a little adventure and eating this delicious fish, nothing better than resting your tired body in a hammock under the shade, listening to the sounds of nature. You will probably wish you can stay there forever… but after a few hours you will have to go back, smoothly, to Saigon. Be sure you keep some energy for the ride back! We also want you to reach our ride number 200.

 

Power your house with a bike? It’s possible

Climate change is a big issue in Vietnam, one of the countries who will suffer the bigger effects of global warming and the rise of sea levels. However, carbon emissions keep going up: due to the economic growth more energy is needed, more cars are on the road, more people can afford to use the aircon, and so on. So far the authorities have dealt with energy supply problems by building dams for hydroelectric power and relying on dirty coal plants. Renewable energy is doing some progress but it’s still not significant and nuclear energy, which has the downsides we all know about, is still a project. But what if you could power your house for 24 hours just by cycling for one hour on a stationary bike. Manoj Bhargava, the Indian businessman who created the 5 hour energy drink thought about this question and as the action man he is, he found the answer: you can. 

With a net worth of $4 billion, he seems to be right when he says he has more money than he needs. And he is right when he uses his money and his time to help people who don’t have access to electricity. This happens in India as it happens in some areas in Vietnam.The first 50 bikes will be tested in 15 or 20 small villages in Northern India before he distributes 10,000 all over the country early next year. While this is thought for rural areas who don’t have access to electricity, it’s also easy to imagine it in urban houses, where people would be happy to save some electricity while they workout. So far, previous attempts to generate electricity with human workout had proven to be inefficient and not worth the investment. With an estimate price of 100 USD to produce them and encouraging results, this one could be a breakthrough that can change lives of millions of people. We hope we can see those bikes in Vietnam soon. The world is thirsty for energy, Vietnam is thirsty for energy, but we don’t need more fumes and we had enough emissions. As our logo says, Climate change, ride a bike (even if it’s a stationary one).

Sunday Bike Ride second birthday: gifts, shirts and new bikes

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It feels like it was yesterday, but two years already passed since our chairman Ngo Trong Huy joined a friend in front of Ben Thanh Market on the first Sunday of November and had a beautiful ride in Can Guioc, south of Saigon. That was the first Sunday Bike Ride, an event that started slowly but has steadily gained popularity to become the most recognizable Sunday Biking group in town. Vietnamese and foreigners join every Sunday to do some exercise, discover new places around the city and have a good time together. As Huy says, “the goal is also to make Vietnamese people and foreigners know each other and spend more time together”.
And those who have been more consistent in joining over the 43 rides we had in the last year will be rewarded in our birthday party this coming Sunday. As usual, the meeting point will be Ben Thanh Market at 6:30 AM on Sunday November 8th. The ride won’t be too strenuous, we will visit the bike store of one of our two main sponsors, Xe Dap Vietnam (the other one is Phi An Welding machines), we’ll cross over the Saigon bridge to reach district 2, then reach Cat Lai before crossing the Phu My Bridge and ending our ride in Phu My Hung. All riders are welcome the party at 36 Star Hills, Phú Mỹ Hưng, district 7. Food and drinks are provided by our sponsors.
If you are one of the top five riders of the year, you will get on Sunday Bike Ride shirt for free. If not, don’t worry, you can buy one at a good price. If you joined us one or two times over the last year you can get one for 400,000 VND, if you rode 3 to five Sundays, it’s 300,000 VND and only 100,000VND if you caame 6 to 9 times. You never joined us? No worries, the birthday party is a perfect time to get started, get to know the people on the bike and sharing some food and drinks with them. And you can also get a shirt for 700,000 VND. Mr Ngo Nhat Bao can help whoever wants to get one (tel: 01214514250). You can make the order here.
As usual, not having a bike is not a problem. You can rent one from us. And now it’s even a better time to do so, since we have brand new bikes at our offices in Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. Don’t miss our birthday, it only happens once a year!

The miracle of Can Gio

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Our last Sunday Bike Ride took us to spend a day in Can Gio, one of the most overlooked spots around Ho Chi Minh City. it is usually publicized in travel agencies for its Monkey Island, an area where crab eating macaques and tourists have fun together, although you risk to lose your hat if you wear one, those monkeys are fast and sneaky. But the most amazing fact about Can GIo is not the monkeys, but how this are was completely destroyed by chemicals during the war, how a mangrove forrest was turned into a desert of sand and salt and how Vietnamese people were able to reverse the situation and get back the mangrove they had.

This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Can Gio, part of the Ho Chi Minh City municipality, is located about 30 km away from the city center. The trees of this 40,000-hectare forest with over 700 animal species protect Saigon against the rising sea levels. According toLe Duc Tuan, executive secretary of the Biosphere Reserve of Can Gio, biodiversity now is almost the same as before the war, which would have been hard to believe when he was one of the young volunteers who started the replantation in 1978. These teams replanted 4,000 hectares per year from 1978 to 1981.

DSC_0781It is still possible to visit the remaining os the Viet Cong guerrilla camp that the American Army tried to drive out by spraying the forest with 2.4 million litres of Agent Orange and 1.5 million litres of other defoliants such as Agent White and Agent Blue between 1965 and 1970. “After the war, the local government prioritized the recovery of green areas, and specially Can Gio, which was the most important. We chose a kind of mangrove tree from Ca Mau province (located at the southern tip of Vietnam) that was particularly resistant and could grow easily”, says Le Duc Tuan. They used 2,000 tons of seeds per year.

Since 1981, the pace of replantation went down to 2,000 hectares a year and since 1990, other tree species were introduced to improve biodiversity. In 2000, the replantation was officially completed, the same year that UNESCO recognized Can Gio as a Biosphere Reserve. Now, peop

Saigon-Paris by bike to raise awareness about climate change

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Scotsman Simon Nelson and his Vietnamese girlfriend Nguyen Kim Ngan think rising awareness about climate change is worth giving one year of their lives. Although the bike trip they just started yesterday from Australian International School (AIS) in Ho Chi Minh City and that will take them to Paris during ten amazing, exciting and extremely difficult months sounds like an enjoyable thing to do. Simon has worked for two years as an English teacher in Saigon and Kim Ngan is a novel writer with already four books published in Vietnamese. Simon has been campaigning to stop climate change for over 20 years, he has chained himself to coal fired power stations, attended raves at road protest sites, participated in critical masses on 3 continents and occupied the offices of fossil fuel companies. Now he realized that the United Nations Climate Meeting to be held in Paris next November is the last chance of survival four the Human Species and for the planet as we know it and he decided to do something big. “Either we do something in Paris or that’s it, we’re done”, he bitterly said before departing.

Before leaving
Before leaving

A dozen cyclists, most of them usual Sunday Bike Ride members (even wearing the SBR shirt) joined him for the first few kilometers to take the Cat Lai ferry into Dong Nai province. After the photo session in front of AIS, they all left the school through the busy road, loudly cheered by the students and the teachers who didn’t want to miss such an event. It was a good chance for the younger generations to realize the grim future we face unless we do something. It was a very encouraging start for a trip that will for sure have its difficult moments. They will head to the north of Vietnam, then cross to China, where they will have to do an intense ride to get out of the country before their visa expires. They will shortly go through the Gobi desert, which promises to be as exciting as challenging, enter Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and get into Europe through Turkey for the last stretch. Roughly 15,000 kilometers through all kinds of weathers and sceneries, meeting all kinds of people. They will experience how our behavior, our addiction to fossil fuels, is destroying our beautiful planet. They will see how the livelihood of the people (usually the poorer ones) is so deeply affected.

Actually, they already had the chance to experience it, since yesterday’s was their second departure. Few days ago they had a ride around the Mekong Delta, one area that is bound to deeply suffer the effects of the sea level rise. “We really wanted to commence our journey from the Mekong delta because i think it’s a powerful symbol of just how big a threat climate change is. The Mekong delta is one of the most climate change threatened regions of the world . Much of the area is less than 2 metres above sea level so the oceans expected to rise by as much as 3 metres this century you can imagine just how serious this situation is. Within a generation or two vast areas could well be uninhabitable. And as it’s home to 20 million people and a half of Vietnam’s agricultural production that’s a big problem for the country as a whole”, he says in their blog.

They will find other areas whose inhabitants will be affected and they will tell them about it, create awareness and keep pedaling for a better world, for the only world that is possible.Whoever wants to take part of the fundraising to help affected communities, can make a donation here. Aside from that, we can only wish them good luck for their amazing journey. Bon voyage!

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You can learn more about their trip in their website, Bike for a future. It’s worth following their blog.