HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, April 4, 2015

H2H 2015: Cat Dang charity visit & Days 1 and 2

I've been too busy to post for the past few days, but H2H is off to a good start. After painting Hanoi red Wednesday night we visited Cat Dang, a village in Nam Dinh province, on Thursday morning. H2H has supported The Children's Initiative, which works in the village, since 2009. Over the years money raised by H2H has built two kindergarten classrooms and a kitchen. Seeing the facilities is great, and I can't believe how much the place has been improved since I first saw it in 2012.

 The kids were hilarious.

 As usual the local People's Committee came out in force to feast with us and drink rice wine, although this year they were much more subdued. When I visited in 2012 and 2013 they forced shot after shot on us until we were obliterated, but no one even got slightly drunk this time.
 We visited a middle school as well where the riders entertained classes for a bit.
 After a final evening in Hanoi we were ready to go for Day 1, a 67km ride from the capital city to the small town of Cho Ben. We were treated to breakfast at KOTO, another charity beneficiary, before stretching and heading off.

 We followed the construction of Hanoi's metro system out of town through the sprawl before the road switched to a two-laner through the countryside. Traffic was awful, with trucks and buses careening past with horns blasting. After about 40km we reached the town of Xuan Mai, where we turned left onto the HCM Highway
This is easily the best road in the country - beautiful condition, light traffic and stunning scenery. In the north it is hemmed in by limestone karsts and mountain ridges. Some of the karsts had scars gouged out of them by mining activities, but most are absolutely stunning.

 I rolled into Cho Ben, an extremely dusty town run through by a ruined dirt road on which heavy trucks run constantly as they avoid the police on the highway to transport rocks from the mountains. The hotel we stayed in was...interesting. They only let us use half the rooms, as the rest seemed to be reserved for either prostitution or incredibly loud karaoke. There was no A/C either, so needless to say we all slept like absolute shit.

Today, day two, was a 76km ride to down the HCM Highway to Cam Thuy. The weather was perfect and the scenery once again amazing, although a handful of climbs and a headwind in Cuc Phuong National Park made it more difficult than the previous day. I felt fine and arrived in town (which didn't have power) in time for lunch. The team struggled a bit more with this one, but everyone is alive and in one piece.

It's great to be back on H2H again, and the cycling has been mostly fantastic. The team is coming together and I'm having a great time...although a good night's sleep tonight is definitely needed. If you'd like to donate to H2H and provide some extra motivation (I've only gotten one since we started) please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/Michael-Tatarski3

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