We cycled out of Hanoi on day one in rainy weather, and came back in today the same way! Full circle. Wearing our ponchos, we rode along the highway into the city, which was actually surprisingly pleasant. Since bicycles are still a main form of transportation here, there is a lane on the highway dedicated solely to bikes and motorcycles. This is one of the only cities I know of where you can ride your bike along a main thoroughfare into the city center! Riding through the sea of motorbikes in Hanoi was frustrating at times, but a little confidence and knowledge of the Asian rules of the road goes a long way.
We made it back to our awesome coach surfers’ house and began the process of taking our muddy panniers and other equipment off our bikes. Semi-clean, and with much lighter loads, we decided to be touristy and went to the Women’s Museum, where we learned about marriage ceremonies in different Vietnamese minority groups, admired elaborately embroidered clothing and read about women soldiers who helped fight in the “American War”. After getting our bikes cleaned, we went to the bike rental shop so that Margaret could say goodbye to the trusty bike that she rented, and I could put mine back in its box for my flight tomorrow. Our bikes deserve a note of recognition. We never had any problems with them- not even a flat tire! Amazing!
Getting a taxi back to our home for the evening worked out surprisingly well. The driver simply folded down one of the back seats, shoved the massive bike box in, and after a little wiggling and putting the front seat up as far as possible, he was able to close the little hatchback. Margret sat in the remaining back seat, and i sat up front with my knees against the glovebox. We got stuck in Hanoi rush hour traffic, which reminded me how glad I was to be getting out of the city again soon…
To say that this trip has been life changing might sound a little dramatic, but I think it’s actually true! It wasn’t the most amazing scenery or the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten or friendliest people I’ve ever met, but it was a challenge; a challenge that seemed almost impossible at first, but that became a reality, slowly but surely. I knew that biking was a great way to travel, but I never knew how manageable it could be. Margaret and I are already fantasizing about the other bike trips we’d like to do… I’m sure that my future travels will involve two wheels more often than not.
And speaking of Margaret, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I couldn’t have done this trip without her. She was the planner, navigator, pacer, cheerleader, photographer, bargainer, and the holder of the dong pot (our collective allotment of money). Her enthusiasm, persistence and fitness are an inspiration to me. I’m so lucky to have been able to do this with her by my side (well, usually she was a good deal in front of me… haha). We had a great time living and working together last year in Dalian, and I’m glad that our friendship has continued despite living in different parts of China this year. She’s an amazingly generous person and someone I’m glad to call a lifelong friend.
I guess while I’m at it, I should give a few other shout outs. My mom deserves a lot of thanks for setting me up with the complete biking package: her bike, panniers, bike calculator, water bottles, pump, tools, snacks, clothing and the list goes on. (And all for one low price of…FREE!) She’s a great role model and one of the main reasons that I became interested in cycling. I hope someday I can be as cool as her!
Thanks to Sander for planting the seed in my head about biking through Vietnam. He’s another biking idol (and friend in Kunming) currently riding from China down into Thailand.
Thanks to all of my faithful followers and frequent commenters- Grandmom, Aunt Suzy, Aunt Noreen, and Aunt Anne… It’s been my daily treat to read your notes of encouragement.
Ok, I feel like this is getting really sappy, so I should probably end it now. I’ll probably have a few more posts about post-biking thoughts, and Margaret will eventually post some of the amazing pictures she’s taken. But I think it’s time to take a healthy rest from posting for a few weeks. Thanks for coming along for the ride!