Cycle vibrant Vietnam with UNICEF’s Cycle for Kids 2017
Every year, around 3 million children die due to undernutrition. For millions more, chronic malnutrition will result in stunting – an irreversible condition that literally stunts the physical and cognitive growth of children.
By taking part in UNICEF’s Vietnam Cycle for Kids, you can give them a chance at survival.
Bustling, vibrant and eclectic, Vietnam is a true feast for the senses, and on this amazing cycling adventure, you’ll experience the best of what this compelling country has to offer.
Your adventure begins in the colourful and chaotic city of Hanoi, delving deep into the country’s unsettled history. A short plane ride then sees us in the city of Hue, where our cycling challenge begins.
Riding beyond the city limits, we cycle along paved roads and rice fields, weaving our way through the hustle and bustle of local markets, before taking the challenging Hai Van Pass head on. After a cooking class in Hoi An, a tour of the history-riddled Quy Nhon and a cruise in Nha Trang, we fly to Ho Chi Minh for some final sightseeing.
Your adventure concludes in Ho Chi Minh City. Stroll the bustling city streets, gaze up at the French colonial buildings and boulevards and experience the commercial chaos that is the Ben Thanh Market.
UNICEF’s Cycle for Kids 2017 will help fulfil every child’s right to good health, clean water and nutritious food.
- $125 can provide 3,000 micronutrient powder sachets to give a powerful boost of vital vitamins and minerals to an infant’s diet.
- $296 can provide 500 therapeutic food sachets to bring a child back from severe malnutrition, fast
- $420 can provide 360 packs of high energy biscuits, these biscuits are easy to distribute and provide a quick solution to improve the level of nutrition
ADVENTURE BLOG: 18 – 29 October 2017
We have arrived! After several hours of transit, the team says “xin chào” to Vietnam. The amazing Team UNICEF has raised an astonishing $34,701, which will help UNICEF continue their important work with children in developing countries.
As it’s already dark, it’s hard to see much of the city as we make our way to our hotel from the airport. However, it’s impossible to miss one thing — the traffic! An endless stream of motorbikes seem to come from every direction! Our local guide, Tinh, described the sights we pass. Some highlights were the flower market and the impressive mosaic celebrating Hanoi’s 1,000 birthday.
A few hungry teammates braved crossing the roads and after finding our original destination closed, enjoyed a meal together. Despite no vegetarian options on the menu, the waitstaff fixed something special so everyone was included in the feast. The time change isn’t much, but feels significant after this long day so it’s an early night for a big day of exploration tomorrow.
After catching up on sleep (and discovering new fruit at breakfast), we began our city tour.
The first of many stops was the Ho Chi Minh complex, where the first president of Vietnam, affectionately called “Uncle Ho”, lived. It is now a memorial to remember “a man who devoted his life to Vietnamese independence,” as our guide Tinh told us. We watched the changing of the guards at the mausoleum, where Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body rests. We then saw many of the palatial buildings built by the French, which have now been painted yellow to represent prosperity.
Next stop was the Temple of Literature, a Confucius temple, which is where Vietnam’s first university began. It’s an important place for students, who often visit for luck on their exams.
Lunch was at Koto, short for “know one to teach one”, a social enterprise restaurant where young people are trained in hospitality and cooking skills in hopes of a better future. The food was fresh and absolutely delicious.
We then visited an artisans workplace, where we saw the process of creating beautiful lacquered paintings and gifts. One of the designs involved painting with crushed eggshells! The highlight of the afternoon was definitely our rickshaw ride, where we joined the other hundreds of cyclists on the streets and darted through traffic. Although a bit nerve racking, it was an incredible way to see the Old Quarter. We celebrated our bravery with some egg coffee–frothed yolk mixed with coffee, an absolute treat.
The evening ended with a very entertaining water puppet show, a traditional style accompanied by live music. Most of the skits were quite humorous! After another delicious meal, it was back to the hotel to rest after our adventurous day
Leaving our hotel as the sun rose, we played an entertaining game (that revealed our teammates many quirks!) as we made our way to the airport, bound for Hue. Today is Vietnamese Women’s Day, so to celebrate the ladies on the team, Tinh gifts each of us a small statue of a Vietnamese woman. It’s very touching and will be a lovely souvenir.
Upon arrival in Hue, we met another guide Lee and our driver Hung, who will accompany us for the next few days during our cycle. Lee takes us to the tomb of Minh Mang, an emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. We marvelled at the grand archways and stunning, intricate carvings.
We stopped for lunch at a local place, meeting the owner who is also a talented photographer. He had books full of his prints, most of the Vietnamese countryside, for sale and many of us walked away with one or two.
The next stop on the tour was the Imperial City, the citadel of Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. While much of the area was destroyed, we still spent a couple of hours exploring the sprawling complex while Lee explained the history of the various emperors.
In the afternoon, a few enjoyed a swim in the hotel pool before we met to discuss our cycle, beginning tomorrow morning. Then we enjoyed a group dinner in a gorgeous restaurant. This meal just might have been the best one yet!
We ended the evening with Georgie, our charity representative, talking about how the funds raised by our team greatly impact current UNICEF projects. Everyone left feeling motivated and inspired for the cycle tomorrow!
Today’s the day we’ve been waiting for–first day on the bikes! Lee makes sure everyone is comfortable and briefed on safety, and then we’re off! The first moments on the bike are almost indescribable. It’s so thrilling to ride through the small village, enjoying the sights from our saddles. The sky was incredibly blue, our first really clear day.
From the very first moment, we leave the main roads and wind our way through local villages. It’s a great insight into everyday life that we wouldn’t otherwise experience in our city visits. We saw local markets, fishermen, women washing their clothes in the river, and dozens of small children who all shouted “hello!” as we zoomed past. As well, we were up close with buffalos, cows, goats, and chickens. The villages were separated by gorgeous rice paddies, that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Upon reflection of our highlights of the day, everyone agreed that this was our favourite part–seeing the local life.
Lunch was a fresh seafood feast at Lang Co Beach. It was hard not to overeat, but we quickly burned off the excess as soon as we jumped on the bikes. It was time for Hai Van Pass, the most challenging stretch of our ride. The bends in the road were endless! Just as we thought we reached flatter ground, we were met with another sharp incline. As the final leg of today’s ride, we were already exhausted and still had these final (uphill) kilometres to go. But we persevered and then, finally, made it to the top! Everyone was in high spirits after the amazing effort of today’s ride. Cycling about 70 kilometres in total, we shared a quick dinner and then straight to bed, resting for another challenging day tomorrow.
Everyone was so eager to get back on the bikes, we left our hotel at 7am to get the day started. On the transfer to our bikes, Georgie read us a story about one of UNICEF’s current projects, similar to what the team’s money would fund. It reminded us of why we are here and motivated us to begin today’s challenge.
Tinh lead us in warm-up stretches while Lee provided some background music. One of the exercises was giving each other massages, no one complained about that!
The first few kilometres were tough, as we realized how sore we were in some spots. However, we quickly fell back into the cycling rhythm. Our path alternated between vibrant green fields and local villages. The misty mountains in the distance made for a scenic backdrop, as did the buffalos, cows, and many ducks. At one point, we veered off road and cycled down bumpy dirt paths and got up close with the cows. This was a highlight for everyone. Pete said the experience of seeing the farmers and the cows, so well taken care of, was humbling.
At one of our breaks, we stopped at a home where a woman taught us to make “banh da”, large rice crackers garnished with sesame seeds and chilli. A few team members tried as well, hopefully, they can recreate the dish at home.
After finishing our 60km cycle for the day, we dined at a local homestay. A very generous man named Nha and his family served us plate after plate of food. Our mechanic Tung serenaded us on a guitar, a very welcome surprise.
After our leisurely lunch, we visited My Son, where the ancient temples of the Cham civilization stand. While much of the temples were destroyed, the ruins which are left are very impressive. Lee gave us a very comprehensive history and we even enjoyed a dance show.
We transferred to Hoi An for dinner, where we enjoyed another fantastic meal. This time we dined waterfront under stunning lanterns. Tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day!
Today began with a city tour around the lovely Hoi An. Tinh walked us through the Old Quarter, lined with colonial style homes. The most popular stop was surely the tailor. Hoi An is known for its rows of tailors and a couple teammates were fitted for custom clothing which they picked up later in the day.
We then went to the Red Bridge Cooking School, where our chef brought us to the local market and taught us how to pick out the freshest produce and meats. Afterwards, we enjoyed a boat cruise to the school which was set in a lush tropical jungle, right along the water. With this as our gorgeous backdrop, Chef Mimi walked us through making several Vietnamese dishes. After our lesson, we feasted on our creations. As always, the food was delicious. Fortunately, the chef gave us the recipes so we can recreate the meal for everyone at home.
After our cooking lesson, we had the rest of the day free to enjoy Hoi An. Most of the team went for total relaxation with a massage or dip in the pool. It was a much needed relaxation before we’re back on our bikes in the morning.
Today’s ride began at Cha O. Since its Day 3 on the bikes, we are all quick to get set up and get moving. Our scenery was mostly rice fields and we also cycled through some larger towns. It’s been the hottest cycling day yet, so we welcomed the few minutes of cool rain we got!
During the ride, we visited My Lai, a massacre site. American soldiers committed the crimes and the memorial site explains the history and serves as a remembrance to those who were killed. It was a very emotional experience. Afterwards, we got back on the bikes but used our cycling time to reflect on what we had just learned.
We finished 45 kilometres in total before enjoying a filling lunch. The heat wore everybody out, so most of us took a nap on our long transfer to the next hotel in Quy Nhon. Our hotel is right near the ocean, so we enjoyed dinner outside and then falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. Tomorrow we are cycling a long distance, so we need our rest!
We didn’t let a bit of rain stop us from our final day cycling! The steady pour that we woke up to finally broke just as we got to our bikes. To be cautious, we all put on our rain gear and began the day. After a while, with no cloud in sight, we stopped to look around a temple and as soon as our rain jackets came off, the rain started!
The rest of the morning varied between beautiful blue skies and sudden downpours. Everyone agreed the rain added to the adventure. We all enjoyed racing through the puddles!
We finished our cycle on some challenging hills. Although we were tired, we reminded ourselves that we came here to push ourselves and that motivated us to finish strong! We celebrated at the finish line and with huge lunch portions. It was then time to say farewell to our cycling crew, which was very emotional after all the fun we’ve had.
We arrived in Nha Trang, a lovely coastal town. Despite our tiredness, we enjoyed a dinner together and some karaoke! It was a fun way to end the evening and to celebrate our accomplishments.
We were greeted this morning by more rain clouds. Always up for an adventure, we put on our ponchos and boarded a boat bound for the islands off of Nha Trang’s coast.
The first stop was the aquarium, where we saw many different species both native and non-native to Vietnam. After a while there, we got back on the boat towards our snorkel site. Along the way, we passed a floating fishing village, one of many in the area.
Everyone jumped into the warm water for a snorkel, despite the raindrops. The weather certainly didn’t affect the underwater life and we saw many different fish, eels, and jellyfish swimming in the colourful coral. We met a strong current swimming back to the boat, so a hearty, warm lunch was most welcome after our adventure!
Since the weather was so poor, we headed back to shore. The team decided to visit a local spa where we enjoyed mud baths and massages. It was the perfect rainy day activity! The evening ended with dinner at a local noodle shop. It was a great choice on one of our last evenings in Vietnam.
Our final full day together began with an early flight to Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. We started our city tour right from the airport with a visit to the Reunification Palace and the Post Office which is a major landmark. Lunch was downtown, a beautifully presented meal. We all wanted second helpings of the coconut ice cream!
After, we visited the confronting War Remnant Museum. An incredibly detailed place, it gives a thorough history of the Vietnam War and the ramifications which continue to this day. While many of the photos were quite graphic, we felt it was important to learn about this tragic history. Everyone left with a deeper compassion for the victims and everyone affected by the war.
We had some free time before dinner. Some of the team enjoyed an acrobat show while others explored the area’s markets.
We then gathered for our final meal, very bittersweet! After eating, the fun began! First, everyone received a postcard which their teammates then signed and wrote a small message. Then, our guide Tinh read through some trivia questions (both historical and pertaining to our group).
The real treat was when our teammate Alison performed her “roast”, a lighthearted, hilarious retelling of our adventures from the days before. She poked fun at each of us, which left us in tears of laughter. It was so clever, never mind the fact that the entire performance rhymed!
We then had our awards ceremony, where everyone was a winner. The evening continued late into the night, playing pool and foosball, as everyone happily celebrated our achievements.
We arranged to meet for breakfast, to share our final moments together! Our last day in Vietnam included a lot of last minute souvenir shopping and then repacking to make everything fit. Other team members just enjoyed wandering the streets of Ho Chi Minh City one more time.
Upon arrival to the airport in the afternoon, we sadly bid farewell to Tinh, our incredible head guide. We gave him some last final gifts and promised to keep in touch!
At our layover in Singapore, we had a surprise waiting. Alison had caught an earlier transfer and hide a package somewhere in the terminal, leaving us a riddle and some photo clues to find it! We were successful and found some chocolates, a note, and the best part–a spring roll (everyone’s favourite Vietnamese food)!
We then boarded our flight back to Australia. After the most incredible days cycling through the countryside, the thrill of the big cities, making lifelong friends, tasting (and cooking) new foods it’s finally time to say goodbye. It’s time for us to be with our family and friends now, but we have memories and inspiration that will last us forever.
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