Much has happened since my last blog and I have not had an opportunity to do an update until now. My visit to Hanoi is finally over, as I move further south and onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I had stayed far longer than planned due to a huge media interest in my story, which involved many interviews for the newspapers and magazines, as well as an appearance on television for a talk show! While I’m not happy with becoming something of a celebrity here, I carried it through because it was too good an opportunity to miss in getting my message across.
I had originally stayed in a hostel, but when I lost my debit card and ran out of funds I desperately contacted the local Couchsurfing group here in Hanoi, run by Mike (Le Minh Hieu) and was offered free accommodation. This started the whole ball rolling with what then became the media circus, as at first I attended the Couchsurfing meeting and then a series of interviews. It quickly snowballed and I was working full time on filming and giving interviews, leaving me after five days in a state of total exhaustion.
I’m not complaining, as even though it wore me out I think I have done some good here and the highlight was being given the chance to visit one of the cancer wards in a local hospital and meet up with Liem, who lost his leg to bone cancer and now has lung cancer. His battle began at the age of sixteen and interrupted his schooling, but despite this he went on to university to complete his studies. An amazing person who remains very optimistic and very inspiring to me. Click Here to visit his Facebook page.
While there has been much interest in my story, I’d like to make an appeal to the locals here in Hanoi: contact Liem and show him your support, or even better arrange to go and see him!
Another highlight was meeting up with a fellow RTW cyclist called Guim from Barcelona, who met his wife here (strangely enough during a media interview) in Vietnam and now runs The Hanoi Bicycle Collective (THBC), the best cycling shop in the city. Anyone passing through should definitely pay him a visit and sample some of the best food in Hanoi (in the cafe), while getting the bike checked over by his very experienced mechanic, George. The THBC produce a bike magazine called Mbike (printed in both English & Vietnamese) and I have been asked to write a feature about the Ho Chi Minh Trail and given a regular slot to talk about my travels. All good stuff. The magazine is also on-line Here.
Of course a special mention should go to Nick Ross, chief editor of Word magazine who came along to the shop to interview me and took the excellent pictures of myself and Guim.
It’s been a fun time here in Hanoi, meeting new friends, trying the amazing food and seeing something of the sights. There’s a vibrancy here that I’ve not found in other large cities (Which let’s be honest, I mostly shy away from) and the youngsters have such hope for the future. I think our western view of Vietnam is skewed, it is very different in reality and there is no doubt in my mind that Vietnam is a destination not to be missed, and I still have much to see! As for the youth, well I’ve gone out of my way to interact and joined in many events which have made my time here pretty special.
Speaking of the youth, I was very lucky to have one of my new Facebook friends offer to show me around the sights of Hanoi on a very wet Friday. Despite the rain we had a great time, I ate some of the best food of my whole trip and we got to see the water puppets at the theatre. Thank you Mai Anh for taking the time to show me the city and taking me to the best food in Hanoi!
Here’s a selection of photos from our day out:
Dating back to 1070, the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is the oldest university and was for centuries the place where the emperor recruited his mandarins for his goverment. It’s dedicated to Confucius (his ideas were taught here), sages and scholars. These days it’s a museum open to the public and well worth a visit if you are in Hanoi.
My time in Hanoi really has been amazing and back at the accommodation I was blessed with being able to meet some really nice people who I may well meet again on my travels. It’s been my longest period in a city by a huge margin, but I don’t regret a single moment. Now I just have to get used to riding the bike again (actually I did do a fair amount of cycling for the film crew!) and plan my route south. Guim has been kind enough to help me with this.
So that’s it for now, I’ll tell you more about the upcoming TV talk show in my next update. More soon…