Biking Bliss

Last winter when I was home in America for Christmas, I went to visit my friend Melissa who I teach with in Vietnam. As we played games, ate delicious homemade fish tacos, and walked round her farm, I whined that I didn’t want to return to Vietnam. I was feeling the looming sadness of continuing a long distance relationship and nostalgia for life in the States. But, Melissa assured me it would be the best semester ever because we would take up weekly biking. It took us until March to organize a bike outing with our friend Elaine, but since then, it has been an almost weekly occurrence. If you are my Facebook friend, you have seen far too many photos of my crew on bikes, but it is one of my highlights every week. Unfortunately, we only know a few loops, but we love them dearly and never tire of the wonders of Vietnam city and country life. Despite doing the same 40k loop the last two weekends, I was struck this Saturday by how vividly green everything became in just one week. It was thrilling to see that the rice had grown and the water levels had risen.

Despite the fact that it is the rainy season, Vietnam is having the worst drought conditions in a long time. Due to the rains coming late,China building some new dams upriver, and the low elevation of the Mekong Delta region (just south of HCMC), the salt water from the sea has permeated the soil of much of the arable land and polluted the well water. Farmers and families here are facing extreme economic hardship. My sister Megan came to visit, and we went on a tour of the region with a speedboat tour company called Les Rives (highly recommend). Our knowledgable guide explained the current situation, and now, I am advising one of my seniors on her Extended Essay about the effects of the drought on locals. My heart aches for the farmers down south, and we are planning to take a bike ride weekend down to the delta soon. Hopefully, we will be able to find someway to contribute to some families during this rough time. On normal weekends though, we don’t make it to the delta, so we pass farms much closer to the city.

Three weeks ago, we resumed our weekly trips and started with a little loop that we call the bridge loop because we get to bike over about 30 bridges along the way. Bridges are the only sort of elevation change happening in southern Vietnam, so it gives us a little challenge. Along this route, we have a lot of traffic through a developing neighborhood called Nha Be, but eventually we reach some rural land. The past 2 weeks we have done what we call the double ferry route. It starts by biking up the biggest bridge in the city (feel the burn), and then takes us through some of the outskirts of the city to a ferry. We take a big ferry over to some rural land and bike to another ferry that returns us to District 7 about 25 minutes from our neighborhood. I love being part of this biking community which grew from about 5 to a record 16. What a great way to start one morning of each weekend!

 

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First bike ride of the year!

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Chilling on the bridge

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Everyone is so friendly

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Our favorite spot for coffee

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Despite being afraid of heights, I climbed up the bridge for a good shot, but I wasn’t going to do it twice just because Heidi was doing a selfie in a selfie. 

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Sometimes we stop at temples and pagodas we pass. This is a Cao Dai temple which is a combination of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. This is the smallest Cao Dai I have been too, but not the most colorful. 

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Drinking coconuts on the ferry. 

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hardworking rice farmers

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Boats in Vietnam have eyes to ward off evil spirits. The ones down south have rounder eyes than the ones up north. 

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There is a many paddling a circle boat in the top left corner. I love watching river life from my bike. 

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Melissa waves as she approaches the second ferry. 

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Sharing the ferry with some motor bikes. 

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I loved the explosion of colors on this bridge thanks to a pinwheel seller. 

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Until next time…

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful pictures as they help us to visualize what you are explaining. I feel for the farmers, and we are in a similar situation as we are very dry here due to lack of rain. At least we don’t have the Chinese building dams upstream and salt water back flowing over our fields. There is still much for which to be thankful.

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  2. Agree with Cindy on the droughty conditions. Gardens are really suffering, especially my one in sandy ground, and no rain in sight. Some folks get way more than needed or wanted and we’d be happy to share away a couple inches from them. Been cooler at night for a few days, but we have some 90 degree stuff still coming this week. Uggh.

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