Places - December 23, 2019 | 07:15 pm PT

The joy of riding the big bikes was considerably enhanced by the festive cheer they delivered to orphans in the Central Highlands.

Perhaps the biggest motorcycle charity event in the country, "Christmas Ride 2019", organized by big bikes distributor Al Naboodah International Vietnam, commenced early morning of December 13 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The ride took almost 200 big motorcycle riders on a long journey to the misty town Da Lat in the Central Highlands.

Christmas Ride 2019 also achieved a new landmark, including the first batch of female riders in the fourth edition of the event.

Organizers of the ride paid painstaking attention to all aspects of the journey, from technical preparation and inspections to the logistics of transporting rice, additional food, and backpacks to ensuring each and every rider had security and guidance.

"Everyone progressed at his/her own pace. There was always a road team member riding behind you to make sure no one gets lost," said lawyer Tuan, Road Team captain of the Harley-Davidson group.

The first leg of the tour lasted nearly five hours, with two stops for breakfast at Mekong Resort (Dong Nai) and lunch at Tea Resort (Bao Loc). The ride of over 200 km tested riders with little long-distance experience.

After passing through sharp bends and steep slopes, the meal helped everyone regain their strength and spirit. The riders included young and middle-aged participants, traveling individually, in families or in groups.

After lunch, the delegation traveled another hour to reach the Luc Hoa Orphanage, located on Highway 20, in Duc Trong District, Lam Dong Province. The 20-year-old institution is home to over 50 orphans of all ages.

Tam Hanh, who runs the orphanage, said: "There were times we were about to give up, but thanks to the support and enthusiasm of sponsors, we have persevered. Many kids have finished university and found stable jobs."

Around 4 p.m, with the sky darkening and temperatures dropping, the group continued their journey to Da Lat.

December to January is the best time to visit Da Lat, its cool air and clear skies having a rejuvenating quality. Around 9 a.m, tested and fresh, the riders set off from the Tuyen Lam Lake Resort to Ta Nung Commune.

On the way, they passed lush green tea hills and flower nurseries and pine forests as they cruised along at 60-70 km per hour. After navigating several small roads, the riders had lunch at Long Dinh tea hill near Phuc Tho Lake in Lam Ha District before proceeding to the Ta Nung parish that houses a center that has nurtured children of destitute parents and local ethnic minorities from several districts across Lam Dong Province.

An employee of Al Naboodah International Vietnam who went to site check said that after their team found the 30 plus children were in great need of physical exercise, the company has decided to build a playground for them.

After the second volunteer ride, the big group enjoyed a gala dinner to celebrate its success.

Leaving Da Lat after resting for the night, Christmas Ride 2019 began its return to Ho Chi Minh City. The weather was mild and sunny.

The big group was divided into 3-4 smaller groups, each small group included 40-50 riders, with support vehicles, riders could take a break whenever they felt they needed to. The temperature difference between the plains and mountains posed a challenge to some of the participants.

The journey finished at 4 p.m. on December 15 in District 7, right where it had begun.

Logistisc entrepreneur Vu Hoa Hop, who is riding Harley-Davidson Breakout 114, praised organizers for the trip that combined motorcycle riding passion with charity, providing riders with a more interesting, enjoyable experience.

"The professionalism was great. Technical experts and support teams helped a lot," Hop said.

Le Anh Tai, who had gone on charity rides earlier, said he enjoyed it more this time round thanks to improved road maintenance.

Ngo Hai Hang, meanwhile, decided to be with her husband Nguyen Xuan Diep for the entire tour.

"When I think about how happy the children were with their presents, I am filled with happiness, too. Besides, the mountainous scenery in Da Lat is so beautiful I simply had to navigate the route myself," she said.

He recalled that the first ride had just 25 people and it doubled to 50 the following year. Last Christmas, more than 100 riders participated in the journey, and once again, the number doubled to more than 200 this year, with bikers from the H.O.G. Saigon Chapter, H.O.G. Danang Chapter, H-D East Saigon, Boom Chapter, Road & Friends, Saigon Triumph Club, Saigon Triumph Riders and Royal Enfield riders.

More than 30 employees spent over a month on the logistics, determining the itinerary. The technical and medical assistance was entrusted to experienced professionals.

Archibald said volunteer group trips were part of the brands’ key strategies to create a thriving big motorcycle community.

"When the idea took root many years ago, we had many doubts, both in terms of its success and business efficiency.

"Many people told me you have to first fail to succeed. Christmas Ride has proved to be the opposite and has been increasingly successful because Al Naboodah trusts on the sincere and thoughtful character of the Vietnamese."

Bao An - Thai Hung