Cyclist embarks on north-south Vietnam journey of rediscovery

By Ngan Duong   November 22, 2020 | 11:03 pm PT
Cyclist embarks on north-south Vietnam journey of rediscovery
Lan Nguyen Hue Trang and her bike used to travel across the country, July 2020. Photo courtesy of Trang.
Lan Nguyen Hue Trang has been amazed by people’s kindness although only halfway through her cycle trip from the north to south of Vietnam.

Trang decided to start off in May 2020 by cycling from Hanoi in the north to the southernmost province of Ca Mau, describing her journey as a means back to nature and ultimately, herself.

Quitting her job, it took the girl six months to prepare for the trip, plotting out destinations, learning about adventurous cycling, how to fix a bicycle, and self-defense.

"Those six months taught me the best preparation is simply following your heart. If you keep stalling, you may never set off," she said.

Trang’s belongings include a bicycle, clothes, a book, a notebook, canned food, camping equipment, a reflective jacket, a flashlight, a mini toolbox and some other personal stuff.

"The first day took the most courage. Because that was the moment I left my comfort zone to embark on an unpredictable journey," Trang recalled.

For the trip, she only brought along VND3 million ($129) in cash, to be used for when she fell sick or when her bicycle broke down.

"I didn’t want the trip to be too easy, eating at restaurants and staying at motels. My budget wouldn’t handle it."

Trang mainly eats and sleeps at the homes of local people. Sometimes she would even camp beside the road or in the shade of a tree, subsisting on her canned food supply.

"People gave me stuff like a tent, a sleeping bag, a charger and even tires. I’ve never had to stay at motels and have slept by the road six times already. I haven’t touched the VND3 million I brought along yet," she said.

Trang never imagined she would end up bonding with her host families, who often invited her to their wedding and birthday parties. Before she hit the road again, they would stock up her food supplies.

"I started this journey alone but have met so many people on the way. Everyone has been extremely kind."

Lan Nguyen Hue Trang (in green) and her new friends in Hue, central Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Lan Nguyen Hue Trang (in green) and her new friends in Hue Town, central Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Despite some tricky situations like her bike breaking down, very tough weather and even sexual harassment, the cyclist remains optimistic as she is more aware of the conditions local people have to endure year upon year.

"There were times that I cried, but I never intended to give up because there’s a voice inside that told me to keep going. This journey has connected my heart and mind deeply."

To date, Trang has made it all the way to the central province of Quang Nam. After reaching Ca Mau, the end of her journey as scheduled, she plans to walk from Hanoi to mountainous provinces in northern Vietnam.

"I have so many future ideas about living the life I want. Life is full of surprises, you just have to know how to keep yourself together."

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