About the Vietnam Cycling Tour

The Global Volunteer Network's Fundraising Vietnam Cycling Challenge offers participants the opportunity to help support children in Vietnam and to cycle through one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Vietnam is famous for its lush green rice paddies, rich traditional culture, beautiful beaches, and delicious Vietnamese food.

Our partner in Vietnam has created numerous programs to help disadvantaged children. You now have the opportunity to work with them to support Vietnamese children while cycling through the southeastern region of Vietnam!

For more information, please visit the Vietnam program page on the Global Volunteer Network website.

Recent Vietnam Cycling Journals:

Is this really….almost over?

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 11:16 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Is this really….almost over?
May 182011
 

Last night (not really last night, but the hypothetical Wednesday of the trip…you understand.), we said our goodbyes to the bike support team.  BUT we still had a couple “dates” with Mr. Khai and Mr. Tuan!  I’m glad we didn’t have to say goodbye to them yet!

We met Mr. Khai in the hotel lobby for a short tour of Hoi An.  We visited a Chinese temple and a historic house in the downtown area.  It’s amazing all the stuff Mr. Khai knows about Vietnam and really just lots of places in the world.  I would NEVER survive as a tour guide in the U.S.  Nope, not at all!

After the tour we split up to go shopping.  Many of the girls went to a local tailor shop to get dresses handmade.  Next time I go back to Vietnam – this is definitely on the to-do list.  The clothing was beautiful and you could get tailored things for cheaper than something from a box store in the U.S.!  Incredible!

I wandered around with Jen.  We went to her favorite tailor (she’s got one of those since she lived in Vietnam for 2 years…awesome!).  We looked through a ton of fabrics and picked out colors and patterns for different shirts, shorts, and a pair of lounge pants.  (By the way, Jen had most of these things done by THE NEXT DAY.  Talk about fast work. And the pieces looked great.)  Anyways, then we went with her tailor to an alley “warehouse” type building.  It was a small building like the shops, but it just had shelves and shelves of scarves, earrings, necklaces, postcards, bags….you name it, they had it.  This was the place that supplied all the shops that everyone else was looking in on the main stretch of roads.  So, we shopped from here….for less!  I got some amazing beautiful scarves from these ladies.  LOVE them.

We met back up with the group for lunch at a restaurant called Morning Glory.  We had another unbelievably delicious meal.  I was really getting better at the whole chopstick thing.  And then…THEN we had to say our goodbyes to Mr. Khai.  It was all so bittersweet.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel for swimsuits and to hit the beach!  Wow.  There’s nothing like relaxing on a lounge chair while looking at the South China Sea in Vietnam.  It was such a perfect day.  We were lounging at one of Jen’s favorite spots.  It was a lounge/restaurant owned by a French guy named Denny.  It was literally on the beach.  Steve and Shireen decided to go for a run (silly!) while I’m pretty sure I spent most of my time thinking to myself “Please let me stay! Please let me stay!”

::fast forward::

On Friday (our last full day with everyone!), we got to spend some more time with some awesome kids!!  We got in the vans for the short ride to Da Nang.  This would be the same van ride where we finally saw a motorbike carrying two LIVE pigs.  I’m sorry to say I doubted it a little bit when I heard they do this…but it’s so true!  I saw it!

Anyways, we drove to the Kindergarden and passed out ice cream to all the kids.  They devour this stuff!  There was a group of kids I was hanging out with that were such hams.  They just wanted their picture taken over and over and over again.  And so, I did just that.  And they loved every second.  These might be some of my favorite pictures from the trip.  A bunch of kids and ice cream – it can’t get better!

Next we visited another Social Support Center that houses widows/unmarried older women and disabled children.  They also had a physiotherapy program here that was really inspiring.  Some of the kids were making such progress – learning how to sit up on their own, or to stand.  We were able to put some of these kids in wheelchairs and take them outside.  We rolled over to a field and watched John, Steve and Natasha play soccer against some of the Vietnamese guys that worked at Social Support.  Oh, and the GVN team won 3 -2.  That’s right!  Also, it was a scorching 95+ degree day and extremely humid.

We had lunch at the local GVN volunteer house and then headed over to our hotel.  I went up to the spa floor with Steve and Shireen to look into getting a massage/happy fun time.  We all decided to sign up for private VIP rooms for an extra couple bucks ($15 total).  This included a sauna, jacuzzi tub and 60 min massage.  Seriously.  All that for $15…and it was heaven!

In the afternoon we took the van over to Marble Mountain.  Marble Mountain is a cluster of five mountains/hills that represent the five elements: metal, water, fire, earth, and wood.  There are caves, tunnels, buddhist sanctuaries, and lots…lots of stairs.  You can climb to the summit of one of the peaks.  The view was absolutely gorgeous.  I believe we climbed about 500 steps up….so about 1,000 total!  The caves were incredible as well.  Apparently the caves were used as a hospital during the Vietnamese/American War.  It was a beautiful place.

For dinner we went to an amazing local seafood place.  It reminded me so much of the type of place you’d go in Maryland for crabs except instead of sitting at a picnic table, looking at the water, and eating crabs, we were at a metal table along a sidewalk in Da Nang eating shrimp, squid and the likes.  Okay, so maybe not really like Maryland at all.  But there was beer!  😛  (AND more dancing by John and Steve!)

The evening was spent at a karaoke place with Mr. Tuan.  Apparently karaoke is a must-do when you visit Asia.  They love it. We got our own private group room and had a blast singing songs. Caitie is a phenomenal singer by the way.  That girl’s got talent!  :)  By the end of the night, we were throughly exhausted and had to say our goodbyes to Mr. Tuan.  We headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep…the next day was Saturday….the end of the trip!

Babies!!!

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 11:04 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Babies!!!
May 162011
 

(sorry for the delay on the following posts.  Internet access towards the end of the trip made it difficult to complete the posts, but I figure someone might want to read these…either now or two years from now.)

Wednesday morning we woke up to rain at the guest house in Tam Ky, but luckily that didn’t last long.  We biked with Mr. Viet over to the Baby Orphanage.  All the older kids were standing on the steps waiting to greet us.  Naturally, (very tall) Steve ran up to stand with the kids and joke around with them.  The kids always got such a kick out of him.  We all sat on the steps for a huge group picture and passed out ice cream (or maybe it was yogurt) for the kids to eat.  They devoured it!  One of the kids sat on my lap for the picture and we were immediately BFFs.

We got to spend the better part of an hour inside with these kids.  They had a BALL PIT!! Awesome.  The boys seemed to have a blast with that.  There were also mats to play on and some toys.  The walls were covered in paintings and murals.  In the back, there was a room where the babies were taken care of.  How precious they were!  There were a couple that were only a few weeks old, that had just been left on the front steps of the orphanage.  Thankfully there is a place like this where these babies can come and be loved and taken care of.  A bunch of us spent a lot of time in the baby room just holding them and loving them.  It was the best.

Eventually we had to say our goodbyes and we biked next to the Home of Affection and had a FEAST lunch with the kids.  I can’t even explain how much food there was.  Apparently they have these feasts once a month for the kids and they just love it.  They had the kids sitting at their own tables during lunch and when we got up from the tables, they ran over to eat some of our leftovers! haha  We spent some time playing with them after lunch.  Unfortunately this particular Home of Affection was going to be closed and so they are evaluating which kids will be moved to other orphanages or can go and live with a relative.  I pray they can find a spot for each of them.

After the Home of Affection visit, we hopped in the van for about an hour and then got to bike 20km into Hoi An.  This was probably my favorite day of biking because Mr. Khai led us through neighborhoods and back streets and through the downtown/shopping area of Hoi An.  It was really neat to cycle on little walkways by all the houses.  Gorgeous.

We arrived at our hotel (Bach Dang Hoi An Hotel) to a huge banner and a champagne celebration with our bike crew!  This was our last day of biking.  :( Mr. Tuan and Mr. Khai popped the champagne and we took pictures on the front steps.  We also said our goodbyes to our bicycles and trekked up to our rooms for showers and getting ready for the evening.  There was a party to be had!

Dinner was next to the pool as the sun was setting and it was our last night with our bike support crew.  The meal was delicious, the beer was flowing, and Mr. Khai and Mr. Tuan gave us quite the musical entertainment.  Mr. Khai on guitar and Mr. Tuan on the spoons.  Yes, that’s right…spoons.  They sang many songs American and Vietnamese songs and oh…there was dancing!  John and Steve gave a lovely poolside performance for us.  There is some talent there, ladies and gentlemen.  haha

The evening ended with a trip into Hoi An for a few hours with all the cyclists.  :)

Take Me Home Country Roads…

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 12:31 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Take Me Home Country Roads…
Apr 232011
 

TUESDAY!

On Tuesday we stayed in Tuy Hoa in the morning, biking to a couple orphanages around town with Mr. Viet.  We first stopped by the GVN Volunteer house where we got to see a ton of the children’s artwork that they create during their art program.  GVN then sells the work to support the kids and the program.  A bunch of us bought a piece or 2 to take home with us.  There is some real talent in these kids.  I can’t wait to put mine up at home.

Next, we biked over to the Home of Affection (this is a common name for a lot of these places).  The children were lined up outside screaming “hello!! hello!!” when we pulled up.  Many of them were dressed in pretty dresses with makeup on.  What I didn’t notice at first was that one of the kids in the dresses and makeup was actually a little boy.  They performed a dance for us and he was leading the group.  I think he was probably about 5 years old.  And he was having a ball!!  The whole group of kids sang us the Old McDonald song and then we presented them with a new tv and dvd player.  This is going to help them with their schooling – especially English lessons.  If they don’t have someone available that speaks English well, having a visual/recording of proper pronounciation is a great help. 

For these kids, we’ve also help fund some food and milk for their nutrition program through the end of the year.  It’s amazing how far a US dollar will go for a child in Vietnam.  It only takes about a dollar a day to properly care for them – that’s incredible.  These programs are of course always in need of constant funding, but these kids are well cared for and supported by the staff and volunteers that run the programs.  All the little kids always have HUGE smiles on their faces and look like they are enjoying life.  It’s good to see. And it’s hard to say goodbye.

After the Home of Affection, we biked to the Social Support Center to visit with 6 children with disabilities.  Many had cerebral pasly but there were other issues too.  The staff and volunteers here were so loving and inspiring.  It is not a small undertaking to care for child with such extensive needs.  Even though we were only there for about a half hour, it was plain to see this was their passion and the kids really responded to them.   I spent most of the time playing with an adorable baby boy whose name is pronounced “do-a”. 

Our bike ride for the day was about 28k to lunch.  We ate a packed lunch at a small roadside stand.  We had pork sandwiches, frozen yogurts, and bananas.  mmmm.  This place also had hammocks.  I’m pretty convinced I need a hammock at my house now. 

We originally thought we would bike 40k today, but it ended up being too late and we had a long van ride (about 6 – 8 hours) because this particular section of road wasn’t suitable for bike riding.  So we piled into the vans and started on our way.  I’m not even sure how long the van ride was, but it flew by.  We had a great time playing games and talking.  We also picked up some beer on the way for little party ride.  The best part of the van ride was when Mr. Khai started singing!!  What an amazing voice.  He started off with John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Road and sang many other songs along the way including The Carpenter’s Top of the World.  What surprised me was how well he knew all the words.  I wouldn’t be able to get through Take Me Home Country Roads if my life depended on it and I’ve been listening to that song since I was a little.  We tried for awhile to convince him he should record a cd. But I think he’s sticking to tour guiding.  Ah, well….maybe one day.   But don’t worry…there’s video! 😛

Another funny thing about our guides (and maybe Vietnam as a whole) is that they underestimate things.  For example, we asked Mr. Khai how long until we got to the hotel.  “10 – 15 mins.  Tops!”, he answered.  One hour later…we were finally getting there.  We kind of got a kick out of that.  I think part of it is that you just never know how long it will take you to get through Vietnam traffic.  It could take 15 mins…it could take 3 hours.  It all depends.

Mr. Tuan was also becoming known for lying about the terrain on our biking days.  “Oh no, no hills. All flat”, he would say.  Well, it wasn’t flat.  In fact, it was mostly hilly.  haha  But what goes up, must come down, right?  And downhills are delightful…

Joy

Let’s kick this day up a notch, eh?

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 12:02 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Let’s kick this day up a notch, eh?
Apr 232011
 

Monday morning seemed like every other day.  But for only biking until about 2pm, the team really packed some action into the day. We had breakfast at the hotel (which was still ornately decorated from a wedding reception the night before in lime green and yellow decorations).  Steve gave us all matching bracelets to wear that he picked up from the local market – Thanks Steve! – and then proceeded to jump on stage for a quick dance.  Sometimes he would just dance…interpretive dancing.  It happened. And it was wonderful every time. We hopped in the vans for an hour and a half drive out of Nha Trang.  Today was going to have 2 mountain passes!  We did a 20k warm-up that was relatively flat and stopped for a break just before the mountain.  What a beautiful view!  Unfortunately, I decided fall off my bike (at a fairly slow speed) when we were all leaving break.  I managed to scrap up my arm and left knee pretty good.  I guess I just wanted a matching injury to the scar on my right knee from a similar fall in 2007.  Man!  It didn’t hurt so bad so I continued biking.  I picked up a van ride right before the top of the 2nd pass to get my wounds cleaned up and we immediately found John on the side of the rode with a broken bike chain.  But he was fine – a local Vietnamese man was there helping him fix it.  They are really, really friendly and it was so nice of this guy to stop and lend a hand when John would have otherwise had to wait awhile for the bike truck to catch up.  Our bike mechanics weren’t far behind to finish up the fix and John was on his way.  [click here to read more]

Through the Desert

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 12:30 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Through the Desert
Apr 212011
 

HELLO!! Sorry for the delay in posts.  I didn’t have computer access from Monday morning through Wednesday night and we’ve been so busy! But we are all doing well and loving it here. On Sunday we biked from the hotel to Nha Trang.  This was supposed to be our 100-miler day, but only one person (Steve) actually completed it.  Have I told you about Steve?  He is a from Australia, 6′ 4″ and all muscle – a biking machine.  It ended up becoming apparent that with the heat and the distance, 100+ miles was going to be hard for anyone who wasn’t going to bike it really quickly.  And if I’m being honest….I wasn’t biking really quickly through this heat.  You know those rumble strips in the U.S. that are white-painted stripes on the road before a toll booth or a sharp curve in the road?  Well they have those all over the roads here.  It’s not terrible to bicycle over because they are very low, but it is still about 7 – 8 small bumps in a row.  In fact, for the first hour of biking on Sunday, I counted that we went over 92 of these rumble strips.  Wow!  Now a few are fine – but 92?  That starts to wear you down!  I stopped counting after that. Sunday’s bike ride actually took us through very different Vietnam landscapes…we biked through resort areas, along the ocean, through what felt like the desert (really, it was so hot and open and desolate for hours that I was beginning to think the water was a mirage.), and then at the end of the day we biked through downtown Nha Trang in the city traffic as the sun was setting – GORGEOUS.  The last 20k into Nha Trang was one of [click here to read more]

The South China Sea!

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 12:20 am  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on The South China Sea!
Apr 172011
 

Our first day of biking!! We met for breakfast at 6am the next morning.  What I forgot to mention before is that they have baby bananas here!  They are so cute…and only about 3 inches long.  Love them.  😛  Also, they play a lot of american music…including the Lion Sleeps Tonight and My Heart Will Go On.  Love that too.  We drove 2 hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City to get away from traffic and get to a place where we could take smaller roads through the towns.  Big trucks are only allowed on Highway 1 which runs North and South from the capital to Siagon….so we only drive that road when we need to. We stopped for lunch at a GORGEOUS waterfront restaurant and sat outide along the water under a grass-roofed structure.  The food was delicious as expected and I found out later that I had eaten squid.  I would have never known.  😛  Our next rest stop was located at a small lean-to on the side of the road with small chairs and hammocks.  Perfect.  Let me take a nap.  The only problem with sitting or laying down is the getting up part again.  That is the worst.  But we did it again and again.  Since we had to drive 2 hours in the morning, we didn’t start until later and so it was the heat of the day.  The heat here is just ridiculous.  I’m not sure the exact temps but it feels like the high 90s with very high humidity.  Everyone is just drenched.  I’m pretty sure it’s really sexy.  Ha.  The biking is fairly easy….mostly flat with some downhills and a few hills.  The scenery is amazing.  Think rice patties on your right and water buffalo hanging out on your left.  And sometimes [click here to read more]

Too much Boom Boom in the Cu Chi

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 11:59 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Too much Boom Boom in the Cu Chi
Apr 162011
 

Let’s see….I have a few days of updating to do.  ah! So much has happened. Friday the whole group met at 9am in the hotel lobby (we were still in Siagon then).  We also were introduced to Mr. Tuan (tune) and Mr. Khai (ky) who work for the Yellow Fields Tour company and are in charge of our bike route, etc.  Mr. Khai took us on a tour of Siagon including the Reunifications Palace which was originally the President’s house.  It has been turned into a tourist attraction now where you can walk through and see all the offices, bedrooms, party rooms, conference rooms, welcoming rooms, etc…  Also the basement was a war station including lots of small rooms with tiny desks (and a TON of telephones) and radios.  Oh, and lots of maps of Vietnam.  The most interesting one I thought was a list of how many soldiers from each country were there for the Vietnam War during a specific time.  I don’t remember what year.  The U.S. was somewhere around 500,000+. After this we walked around a small square for a half hour.  There was a beautiful church where two couples were getting wedding pictures taken.  Apparently it is tradition to take pictures together (all prettied up) about a month before the ceremony.  These women were gorgeous.  A few us sat down at a small cafe for some coffee.  Here they serve the coffee with a ton of sugar and ice.  I had a hazelnut coffee milkshake. mmmm  There were a couple of kids there asking to wash our shoes for us.  So they convinced a couple people to give up their flipflops and they would run away and scrub your shoes down with a toothbrush and soapy water.  But of course they didn’t run away with your shoes [click here to read more]

Siagon never sleeps

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 2:25 am  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on Siagon never sleeps
Apr 142011
 

Guess what! I made it.  But you weren’t worried, were you? I didn’t think so. I was met at the airport last night by Betsy (a fellow rider) and a guide from Yellow Field Tours.  Of course I walked right past the woman who was holding the sign with my name on it because I had already recognized Betsy in the crowd.  The flights over weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be – watching 5 movies and eating occupied my time.  I managed to stay awake for most of the trip so I hardly feel any jetlag today – although I did take a nap this afternoon.  I’ve met some fun people along the way.  Two older (American) men sat with me in the airport in Seoul.  One guy was a fisherman from Alaska who also raises dogs for dogsled racing.  The other was a retired military vet and oil rigger.  He was coming back to Vietnam for the first time since the war.  He was pretty excited and that was nice to see.   It was comforting to be able to talk to someone after 15+ hours of not understanding any conversations. Betsy and I are sharing a room at the Siagon Hotel about a block from the waterfront.  We woke up this morning, ate breakfast and then wandered around the city.  We traveled over to Ben Thanh Market first – weaving in and out of the stalls.  You could find anything from sunglasses, lighters, shoes, and purses to dried mango, coffee (I hear they make excellent coffee here…) and pig ears. Walking along the streets is quite the experience.  There are motorbikes everywhere and they all want to take you places.  The words “Madam! Madam!” have never been heard so frequently.  But everyone is very friendly and [click here to read more]

I should be sleeping…

 Posted by Joy Woppert at 2:17 pm  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on I should be sleeping…
Apr 112011
 

But who can sleep when I’m leaving for Vietnam TOMORROW!!!!  The excitement is overwhelming.  And the only thing standing between me and the amazing bike rides & adorable kids is a 22+ hour travel day that includes a 14 hour flight.  Right now, that seems more daunting than a 105 mile biking day.  Really. I should be arriving in Ho Chi Minh City around 10:30pm their time on April 13th.  For all you East Coasters…that’s 11 hours ahead of you.   For all my friends and family that donated to GVN and all the kids in Vietnam – THANK YOU!!  You made this trip possible for me and have given my team the ability to share something amazing with these kids.  You all rock my socks and I have some of the most thoughtful and generous people in my life.  Thank you to everyone who’s thinking of me and keeping me in your prayers as well – they will certainly be needed.  Please send some extra good vibes on those long bike days – my legs will need it!  I can’t wait to tell you more about the places I see and the kids we get to spread some love to in the next 2 weeks. Hey-oooh! Here I come Ho Chi Minh! Stay posted… Joy  😀 “BICYCLE! BICYCLE! BICYCLE! I want to ride my BICYCLE! BICYCLE! BICYCLE!”  -Queen

How important is the knowledge of Customs and Cultures?

 Posted by Natasha Jacobi at 11:36 am  Vietnam Cycling  Comments Off on How important is the knowledge of Customs and Cultures?
Apr 052011
 

Very,  at least that is what i believe. How far up should your hand be on the chopsticks that you are eating with? In Vietnam (my destination on the 14th of April) it is the rule-of-thumb that the further up the chopsticks your hand is placed, the more experienced you are. It is extremely rude to take an item of food from the sharing plate, in the middle of the table, and put it straight in your mouth. You must first place the item of food on your personal plate and then into your mouth. From your plate, the piece of food that you have chosen can not touch your lips, teeth or tongue as you place it into your mouth. When locals see that you can expertly place a peace of chicken or even more impressive balance rice on your chop sticks and then place it into your mouth without touching your teeth, they will see and appreciate the fact  that you have taken the time to actually learn that this is the way it should be done, the way that the locals do it. They will see you as less of a tourist and more of well seasoned traveler, one that is open to trying new things and willing to immerse yourself in the local customs and culture. Wether that is the case or not, just bowing your head  and not shaking hands to say hello shows that you are respectful of their culture and they in turn will treat you with respect. Knowledge of customs and culture is the key to having the most amazing experiences during your travels. It is the one thing that you can not forget to leave at home.

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