The best route for cycling in Mekong Delta

Sorry but…cycling mood. I just wanna scream out loud and cycle straight for hours. I miss the feeling when I used to work for Grasshopper Adventures ^^

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This is a charity bridge in Tien Giang, one of the most scenic provinces in Mekong Delta for cycling. The feeling is still very vivid , something I can recall anytime. Embraced by water coconut sprouting from gentle system of rivers in the Delta, it is the route leading to sensation. Something, of course, I did take for granted while I was doing it. Feel like missing an ex lover.

When u cycle your calf is gonna be big as mine. Just kidding, my calves are always big, cycling will make it toned and leaner and maybe a bit longer cause u need to stretch.

Motorbiking is another experience. You will need a badass bike with great mountain/ coastal route. Cycling somehow is less demanding.

A friend of mine said “I would rather spend time doing exercises than playing music”, but I disagree. If possible, a human should strive to do both. If you can be creative and active at the same time, u have the power to change your inner world in an immense way and even feeling a sense of bliss without much twist from external environment.

Next, if u can dance…ok I shall stop here.

So, happy cycling/ exercising friends !

When I can’t escape

Felix exclaimed:

“Hi May, where are Luke and mom?”

My heart skipped a beat. The mom and her 10 year old child slowly dragged their bikes towards us with a frustrating look. The chain is falling out and the derailleur is broken in half, with the second half lying nowhere to be found

chain falling out

“I have searched for it everywhere. I didn’t see it”

I was panicked. Since the beginning I have acted the role of a poised, know-it-all guide very well whom won their affection and trust. Can I say something funny to twist their perspective of this shit – that I don’t know how to fix a broken derailleur?

The normally romantic rubber plantations are at their worst time of the year: rainy season when tree branches fall off, creating a messy backdrop.

From all corners mosquitoes are screaming, waiting to eat us alive. Two little boys, 10-year-old Luke and 7–year-old Felix are losing their cheerful face. I called numerous people for a few minutes when Felix started his rambling

Why does it take so long? Uh huh, ahhh, mosquitoes

 

Their mom says nothing.

Deep down I know they have all the rights to complain. I am delivering a service and this should not happen. In this case, they need a problem solver and not an entertainer as usual. I happen to be in a situation when I don’t have what it takes to solve and people who can solve are out of reach.

When you are expected to be a problem solver

Normally, I am an escaper. I just do things I like and meet people I care about. If there is any hint of mess or discomfort, I just say NO.

No. You deal with it. That is not my shit.

No, I will not meet you (because I have no interest at all)

No, I will not meet you (because I have so much interest that I am scared of rejection)

But there are cases when I have no choice but standing in front lines. Being a tour guide is one of that. I talk obvious things in different ways to entertain people and when bad surprises happen, I am expected to be a problem solver.

Problems expose our vulnerability

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If things go right, I will just make fun with Luke & Felix, listen to them eagerly sharing about their life in Singapore, act like I am so interested and then look at their satisfying mom’s face, happy that somebody is caring about her kids.

If things go right, I will just be poised, comfortable and in control. The mess kicked me out of that driver’s seat and just in seconds I became passive and frustrated. I felt so vulnerable, and somehow I feel that is a good sign. It shows me what I know I lack and force me to face it, find a way to deal with it, seeking help from others and grow from them.

If we feel stupid and vulnerable, that is a good sign. If we always feel confident, we are in the wrong environment.

Why am I still fat and metabolism

Life is not fair – Thin, fat and metabolism

Weight has always been my obsession since early age. The critical point was when I high school.

High school, yeah the period of insecure self-image and peer comparison. I never dared to wear jeans because of big legs, jealous of rising female school beauty stars. But that is pretty much everyone of us. I just went a bit further out of stupidity spectrum. One day, after a binge-eating evening, I looked at mirror realizing that Doaremon is actually not fiction. Too depressed with that fact, I held my face, decided to skip classes to…go to the jungle behind my house in the countryside so that I do not have to see anyone else, including my parents on that day and returning home exactly at usual off-class hours. That actually happened. :)))

Of course, when I got out of the jungle, nothing changed: my face still looked like a Chinese Bun.

fat face

 

However, other than observing anxiously if my pants get looser to sign a relief, or my face gets chubbier to get anxious, I have never really did any researching to break down some very health principles. Why do some people lose weight easier than others? Why some gain weight easily and need constant exercise increase (energy)  yet some east like elephants but remain slim?

Why? Why ? I just wanna cry. Then I found out the criminal called metabolism

Metabolism – who are you?

Metabolism is a criminal. He must be born in Greece because his original name is “Metabole” which means “Change” in Greek. He is a change agent in our body. He can be friend or foe. You better be friend of him.

What are you doing to my body?

We can compare human body with a car. Just that we are more efficient than internal combustion engines because our muscles can turn chemical energy into work without making our body hotter than the external environment.

A car takes up petrol to run the moving engines and exhales fume, while us humans take up food for physical and mental activities.

Sim­ply put, metab­o­lism is the body’s way of con­vert­ing food into energy, and then using that energy to sus­tain and build the body.

(Personalfitness)

Crash Course did an excellent video (by which I mean videos I can understand ha ha) about metabolism. I find no better way then breaking it down to help me understand.

                    Our body needs energy for physical and mental activities. So we need input (Food)1. Food

To turn food into energy, our body need chemical reactions

There are 2 kinds of chemical reactions

catabolic reaction

anabolic reaction

Still confused aren’t you? Forget about this bolicikik term, we can just consider it as this: to build something (anabolic reactions), we need to demolish something (catabolic reactions)

Together with digestive system, these processes make up metabolism

together

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Do skinnier people have higher metabolism?

To be fair there are people with opposite concerns: they seem to burn energy so fast that they are underweight constantly. But I am not one of them so I do not care.

What makes the difference is not body weight but the muscles in your body. Relatively speaking, bigger people also have more muscles inside the body (other than fat) so we burn a lot of calories while at rest. So it iis not metabolism to blame. What nobody wants to admits is that us fat people tend to underestimate the amount of food we consume (maybe due to psychological self-deception)

Other than this, there are so many factors that define our metabolism, body type, some overactive gland. If we smoke or under stress, we also burn calories faster (that is why smokers gain weight after they quit smoking).

 

How to boost metabolism

So it boils down to the main question, how do we boost our metabolism in 3 main areas of life energy channel: energy intake (food), rest and activities?

 

Due to laziness, I decide to copy this inforgraphic from Shutterstock. Maybe some of the tips are myths too ha ha but for now, I want to believe they are true ^^

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This topic is worth digging deeper because it will linger forever, until we die.

 

Reference:

http://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Metabolism.aspx

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8871.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolism

http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/59316/human-as-a-heat-engine

 

Hanoi Cyclists – From Classic to Hippy

With more than 4000 active cyclists, various lakes to stroll around and diverse options to get away, Hanoi can satisfy any demanding cyclist if he/ she know hows 😉

Hanoi Cycling Nostalgia

Before turning into a motorbike-crazy city, Hanoi used to be a haven of nostalgia. Decades ago, in subsidy period, bicycles were considered a great asset of families.  As the main transport means at that time, the bicycles are memories, romance and even pride of generations. Bicycle riders had to pass the test to earn driving license, have their bikes installed license plates. School boys carried their girls on the back of a bicycle with red flame flowers on the front basket, marking a classic icon.

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Long Bien bridge, icon of a generation
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In front of a cinema where bicycles have proper parking space
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A decent driving licence for…cyclists.
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An old bicycle kept in a Hanoi Museum

At that time,  the most desirable brands are  Peugeot, Aviac or Mercie with value can be compared to a car driving registration paper nowadays. A great source of nostalgia.

From being classic to being hippy

Decades passing by witnesses the huge transformation of Hanoi from an elegant cycling city to a crazy motorbike metropolis. I felt so sad when recently expensive imported pollution masks have been hunted, as a sign of trendiness and even..fashion. In rush hour, Hanoi is a nightmare, full of motorbike hubs.

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Well this girl has eyes worth dying for, but beautiful babe, do not turn this into a fashion icon

Nevertheless, a new generation is rising: youngsters who are health conscious are bringing bikes to the transportation scene. They are forming groups, actively participating in events, roaming around the city and out of it, either in their close-knit groups or in bigger gangs. They even connect with each other and support Cross-Vietnam youngsters in a mission to explore their home country and at the same time, themselves.

Tom, trainer of Hanoi Elite Fitness with his 6-pack friend on an early morning in Hoan Kiem Lake. Are they also the little boys in the picture? You wanna find out 😉 ?

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Emong, an active cycling group, in one of their cycling charity Emong,trips to mountainous areas

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Minh Tran Anh, a member of Hanoi Banabike Club, set up by the French expat Yoann Forsure for Hanoi youngsters to try dirt jump
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Banana Bike members dig the dirt paths themselves
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A huge farm right under the city bridge
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Trang Kiu, a biking enthusiast in her cross-Vietnam cycling trip

 

Hanoi is definitely not a cycling city compared to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, yet will not disappoint you when you know who to play with. Cool cyclists there welcome you with all their arms 🙂

 

A weird day out

Upon writing this, I have been torn between two decisions: polishing all images and telling an exciting, fun journey, or just pouring out thoughts about nothing but a weird day cycling out. I think about 10 years later when I read it again, and present audience I have in mind will already have vanished. Having acted a lot in work and life, I want my words to just be plain, no matter how fucked-up they appear.

When “the leader” does not want or prepared to lead

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This day out all started from an impulse of mine. Having biked enough for a month, a getaway  to wherever does not trigger desire or excitement. I had enough of being a tour leader in my work, so when it comes to a casual event, I really let it loose. Nobody pays me for this, no cash flow pressure, great.

In other words, I anticipate problems, a certain level of people’s disappointment, guilt from irresponsibility, bad bikers. And on top of that, I chose to make no effort whatsoever to connect team members, cheer them up, prepare in advance, or networking afterwards, or talking to them, or adding friends. Nothing.

So as predicted, 7 human beings showed up with their expectations ebbed and flowed, like a snake with a drunk head, leading to Can Gio in a 100km round trip, not knowing they are about to suffer, not knowing that the organizer actually does not give a damn. Probably the worst one they have encountered in their lives.

Interesting mix of characters

Nevertheless, the people that joined the trip are all interesting people. We had a German chef who has lived in Vietnam for 7 months after 4 years in Thailand with a diverse point of view, his adorable manager, a Hoi An young slim girl who is pro-active and firm in her own way. With them are interesting Saigon youngsters, a 18-year-old girl currently studying under graduation in Arizona and her 14-year-old silent brother. In an ideal scenario, someone should explore each of them then connect them in conversations, but I did nothing. I just wanted to observe and be an outsider.

Along the way we met a couple in their 50s but can beat everyone else in terms of style and stamina. The white ninja biking couple who always watch out and observe for other members.

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Together we formed a vast spectrum of age and riding skills. Some have been biking frequently and savvy as hell, some are first time long-route bikers who are still not ready to stretch. Stories of why they end up doing what they are doing and their reactions to various situations on the route, as well as exchanges about Vietnam are things we can take home. Brief small talks nevertheless, those interactions are worth to be thankful for.

 

To me personally, what I will keep remembering is how interesting the white ninja bikers are, which confirmed my perception: you can age elegantly, healthily, influencing others in a positive way just by being who you are. It is not youth which is worth worshiping, it is actually age added by stories and experiences that truly can leave legacy on others.

For people that are still young, maybe it is time to remove the illusion of youth. Youth may mean enthusiasm, but very often mean stupidity. The privilege of having optimal health or much time ahead for stories unwritten does not guarantee anything.

Yet on the other side of the coin, you can also become a freaking boring old person with no stories. Being old does not guarantee wisdom either. Neither youth or aging itself is something to be proud of.

Great 32 km route across Can Gio forest

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To be fair, when removing all unnecessary interpersonal details, the 32 km towards Can Gio deserves to be a path in dreams: lush green forest on two sides and clean street in the middle, with many bridges crossing various rivers along the way. If I can change, I will use Doaremon’s magic door to teleport there, ride for 32km then be back on bed immediately.

A route I would not mind to ride again.

 

 

 

When life gives you rubber dust…

Meeting me at the new pier of Cu Chi tunnels, Adrian immediately asked with his broken English:

How many kilometer is our ride today?

I was stunned. Oh man, not again, I thought. With just 6 hour’s sleep and the boredom of riding the routes over and over again, now my customer is even bringing me more trouble?

Fixing my mindset in seconds, I patiently and professionally explained to Charlene and Adrian the riding route, step-by-step. Charlene fell of the bike after 2 minutes and decide to just get in the van. We look at each other’s face, each get lost in our own thoughts.

“We will see her after 17km. It’s okay”

Most of my ride with Adrian was predictable. I tried to clear my head, riding past by rubber plantations now turning ugly and wet after yesterday rain, stop by our frequent interest points now all becoming meaningless in my numb mind.

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After the second rubber plantation, after we stop to see people harvesting latex and exploring that meticulous process. Suddenly, Adrian asked me:

Are you married?

OMG why is he asking that? Isn’t he going with his GF? I thought. Something is wrong here.

“No.”

“I just got married 3 weeks ago. I am 25.”

@@ Really? I am 25 too. So, this is your honeymoon trip?

I felt an incredible guilt.  If I were Charlene, just got married and have a honeymoon trip, the last thing I wanna do is to let my husband go with a girl then be waiting for them in a van.

After a few small talks question of why I end up here or what I think about HCMC, I asked

So what do you do in your country (I cannot remember the name of that country, an island in Europe)

I am a firefighter.

Really? Do you like your job?

Yes. Very much.

Why do you like it? I mean, Isn’t it a job of danger?

Yes, my dad is a firefighter, too. But when you take people out of buildings and see expression in their face, it is incredible.

Do you keep in touch with people you rescued?

No. Not very often.

That moment shifts my perception forever. Believe it or not, grass looks greener now, sky looks bluer, everything smells good and waiting seems not be an annoyance anymore.

After we met Charlene, we decide to explore a mushroom farm nearby.

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The trip was brief, none of us learned much, and I will never see them again. In fact, very soon I will clear them out of my mind, as the rule of this industry. But nevertheless, with every interaction with people, we all have the choice of letting it turn sour or spicing it up.

So why not the latter?

 

 

Bike Rental in Hanoi

A short guide of bike rental in Hanoi for locals, expats and visitors alike 🙂

Green Wheels (West Lake/ from 5$ per day)

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Set up by two expats whose enthusiasism for bike riding. Bret & Travis start with just two bikes and increase their collection naturally to meet up the needs of their friends. Now they have all kinds of lovely city mountain & road bikes  and often organize Sunday Bike ride in Red River Delta. Bret & Travis are also energetic hosts if you need to book some guides with different perspective yet full of love for this city.

Area: West Lake
Types
: mtb, road bike.

Rental conditions

Contact: (+84) 90 173 00 82 (Travis Johnson)

 The Hanoi Bicycle Collective (West Lake, from 6$/ day)

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Area: West Lake (29 Nhat Chieu, Tay Ho district).

Price Range: From 6$/day

For more details of rental conditions.

A cute lake facing shop. Clean and well organized with a collection of different bike types. The owner is an experienced biker from Spain who fell in love with Vietnam and decided to settle down here with positive contribution to the cycling culture in the city. One of his notable contributions is Positive Mass (a variation of Critical Mass), a fun biking event  organized on last Friday of every month.

Hanoi Cycling (West Lake – 5$/ day)

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Area: West Lake (81 Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho district)

Price Range: From 5$/day.

Contact: (+84) 975 908 227

Facebook page

Set up by a local young woman. After years studying overseas, she came back and choose to set up her own little business in West Lake, a poetic corner of the city. Busy just enough to still have time smiling and interacting with her guests and maintaining the pleasant rapport between Hanoi bike lovers.

 

 

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A Lady from the South came to Hanoi selling noodles. Hah already feel that bike early morning, rolling from one corner of the city to the other.

Habit is a wierd thing. That little piece of metal & that little noodle lady used to pop up in my default thoughts every morning.

Not anymore. Current things & people will evaporate the same way in the future.

Or do they? Ahhh I still miss Hanoi. Miss that ease of autonomy. Cafes, friends, hidden corners, west lake, rain. Everything is just a thought away, or 1 hour riding away. Miss being cold enough to crawl under a heavy comfortable blanket & admire your own breath turning to fog form.

Miss riding in the rain just to wake up the next morning wondering why being so stupid, and yet would have done the same again.

But will not miss that dirty river :))). No romance can make up for that.

Hi May, do you like cleaning bicycles ?

“Well, it’s part of the job ;)”

The memoir of Urban Discovery tours series…

The first working day in the Hanoi Bicycle Collective. As expected, Guim pulled me to a corner and said:

“As a guide you need to know all the basics. Guiding bicycle tours is not only about telling people where to go but also knowing how to fix a bike, at least at a basic level when troubles happen along the way. You must know differences between a mini bike and a mountain bike, for example. If a person pointed a pink city bike like this and ask “Can I go from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh city with this bike ?”, you must know enough to answer him why NOT?”

“I need you to absorb as much information as possible in two weeks, if you are quick”

And that’s how the journey in The Hanoi Bicycle Collective started. Not all glittering for sure. I still remembered very clearly two weeks ago when I first stepped inside: strong impression from watching the video about Guim and Thuy Anh still there, creating the halo effect all over the shop. “Wow, all bikes look fancy and modern, with fashionable clothes and a cool mechanics’ corner”, “wow, the wall clock looks so nice”, and the list of “wow this”, “wow that” just keeps going on…

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And now here I am two weeks later, cleaning bicycles. The particular task is so boring that I have to keep myself motivated by imagining me a few months later riding on a mountain with a group, after the rain when the road is slippery and muddy. If the bike has a flat tire at that time I would have been more professional with hands-on experiences to change a new one and continue, to be on-the-go again.

And that works pretty well. Huyen, the sister in the shop with her carefulness sets a good example of how to turn monotonous chores into something more enjoyable. (?)

Well, not that so. Monotonous chores are monotonous, in the end. You can’t change the fact that at the moment in front of you are various parts of a bike waiting to be cleaned, and your future projection cannot linger for too long.

In that case I use people interactions to keep things more interesting and try to dig deeper to the why-s and what-s. If you keep observing (in a way, for distractions 😉 ) then interesting things keep showing up: I found out that Lai, out mechanic master has such an interesting background and sharp eyes for business stuff (he just favors not talking and not care enough to apply them), that Esther (our multi-tasker) can speak 4 languages (English, Dutch, German, French and a bit Vietnamese as well), that Tham — our accountant, the softie lady turns out to be the manager (oops), and one more important thing:

Bicycle components can be fun !!

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The working shifts ends at 6:00 PM when most of our customers are free, what a pity. Though very short, it was so nice to find out a man bringing his bicycle to fix for Danang Ironman:

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/ironman-70.3/vietnam.aspx#axzz3fm7Rv7XA

Another customer named Ramsay is here to help engineers fix soil erosion facilities in mountainous areas

Well I would love to end up this journal with a quote about mundane things:

“Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”

Enjoy all the mundane details of life, cause it is beautiful that way.

Written on 24/3/2015