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

 

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Discover Ly Son island

Author: Eric San Juan
Author: Eric San Juan

One hour and a half away by speed boat from the coast of Quang Nai, in central Vietnam, Ly Son is one of the hidden gems of Vietnam. This small island, with barely 10 km2 of land and no more than 20,000 people is a land of beautiful coasts, hidden beaches, magic sunrises and sunsets and also a land of mystery. With small roads and little traffic, it is also a great place to explore by bicycle, to push the pedals gently along the sea or, for the ones who need a challenge, they can try the impossible slopes of Thien An mountain. If you have the energy to go early in the morning, it is one of the best spots to see the sunrise.

Author: Eric San Juan
Author: Eric San Juan

If you ride around you will have the chance to melt into the quiet pace of the island, see the fishermen at work in the harbor, maybe preparing for a month long trip to the Paracel Islands, see the farmers taking care of the onion and garlic crops, which are really special in Vietnam. Some kind of garlic with only one clove per bulb, has curative power according to Vietnamese traditional medicine and is paid as high as 50USD per kilo.

As you pedal along the coastal road, you will surely see a lot of pagodas. They’re buddhist pagodas, but some have their peculiarity, as Ly Son islanders have a special belief rather surprising: they worship whales. The Tan pagoda, for instance, hides two skeletons of huge whales that were stranded in the Ly son coast decades ago. Not far from there is the grave of the last whale that was stranded in their coast, two years ago. Ly Son people worship the whales as gods and whenever they find a dead one in the beach the whole island buries it and show their devotion. Fishermen believe that the whales help them when the sea becomes rough and many villagers tell legendary stories of whales who saved fishermen’s lives. After ten years, the whale remains will be unburied and taken to a pagoda for worship. If you feel tired during your ride in Ly Son, think that the whale will be there to help you.

Author: Eric San Juan
Author: Eric San Juan

Ride to Tay Ninh and learn about Cao Dai religion

Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh Author: Herr Klubeisser
Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh Author: Herr Klubeisser

Being in Saigon, one of the most interesting bike rides is the one going to the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh (done by the Sunday Bike Ride last year), not far from the Cambodian border. Once you get out of the city you can enjoy a road with little traffic and getting there you can admire the temple and the religious rites of this strange and yet popular religion. The full name of the religion is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ (“The Great Faith for the Third Universal Redemption”) and it mixes elements from three of the main religions or philosophies in Asia: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism but it also adds elements from some of the biggest monotheist religions in the world, as Christianity and Islam. Tay Ninh temple actually holds a statue of Jesus.

Founded in 1926 by Ngô Van Chiêu, a public servant during the French colonial period, this religion has the particularity of including spiritual guides (a rough equivalent to Christian saints) and among them we can find French writer and humanist Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables, Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare and Lenin. The temple in Tay Ninh is the equivalent of the Vatican, but the religion is spread in other countries, specially in the United States, where Vietnamese immigrants built several temples.

Cao Dai temple in Dallas. Author: Pete Unseth
Cao Dai temple in Dallas. Author: Pete Unseth

Ngo Van Chieu claimed that a spirit contacted him during a table moving séance, introduced itself as Cao Dai Tien Ong (Cao Dai means supreme being in Vietnamese) and gave him the main teachings about the new religion. At a time of political turmoil all over the world, the religion grew very popular in Vietnam, specially in the Mekong Delta, and held an important political role during the 1940’s and 1950’s. During the 1930’s they had been gaining a lot of influence and they managed to build their own private army in 1943, during World War II and the Japanese occupation. This times of chaos were advantageous to the Cao Dai rulers, who managed to establish a semi autonomous (sort of) state around Tay Ninh and together with other groups like the BIn Xuyen and the Hoa Hao (other autonomous groups with their own armies) gave more than a headache to the French colonial rulers and to the subsequent South Vietnam government of Ngo Dinh Diem, who disbanded their army in 1956. Since then and during the Vietnam War, they lost influence, but spread all over the world (specially France and the United States) and have been regaining  some popularity in Vietnam in the 1990’s, when their particular faith (with around 5 million followers in the world) and rites became a tourist attraction. Buses full of tourist go to Tay Ninh temple (The Vatican of Caodaism) every day, but we know that readers of this blog won’t miss the chance to take their bikes and pedal there.

One year riding with you on Sundays!

Sunday Bike Ride
Sunday Bike Ride

You may know by now that we don’t only like to ride our bicycles, we like to do it with you. Companionship, sharing happy and funny moments is as important as the fact of feeling good about the exercise and this is what truly makes a difference between us and other cycling groups in Ho Chi Minh City. This is why one year ago we decided to start the Sunday Bike Ride. It is hard for us to believe that twelve months are already gone and we are waiting for you this Sunday November 2nd to celebrate it with you. For such a special event we chose to ride to peaceful and relaxing Gia Bao Villa, in Ho Chi Minh City’s district 12, about 20 kilometers from the city center.

It is a short and easy ride for any level and we will actually spend most of our time relaxing, singing and swimming as we get to know each other a bit better. And there will be some exciting surprises that we can’t tell you about yet… You’ll have to come if you want to know. As usual, the meeting point will be Ben Thanh Market at 6:30 AM and we expect to be back there around 1pm, after having lunch together. If you need a bike, you can rent it with us, here you can read about the new ones that are available.

Since we started this adventure on the first Sunday of November last year, we have cycled on 49 Sundays out of 52 and we ventured into kinds of terrains, enjoying nature, exercise and friendship. We learned about Vietnamese culture in places like the Cao Dai Temple, the Thanh Da Peninsula or in the floating Market in Tien Giang, we discovered amazing natural sceneries a few hours away from Saigon such as Da Han waterfalls or the beach in Bien Ho Coc, and, most important, we had a lot of fun. It would really be a pity to miss the surprises going on this Sunday!