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The media circus

Saturday, March 8, 2014

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.

Recording the Talk Vietnam show

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.

MC Mike at the Couchsurfing Hanoi meeting

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!

Meeting Liem brought back painful memories.

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.

Proudly wearing the THBC shirt, given me by 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.

Members of the Couchsurfing bicycle club

The Couchsurfing football team

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:

My lovely guide, Mai Anh

The water puppet theatre, Hanoi

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.

Turtle Steles at the Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Local artists at the Temple of Literature draw amazingly quickly.

The drum tower, Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Inside the courtyard, ToL with Mai Anh

Sheltering from the rain in the Pavilion, Hanoi

Structure outside the Ho Chi Minh museum (which was closed)

The One Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi

Swan paddle boats, Hanoi

Bonsai tree, 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.

The shared meals were a real treat

So that’s it for now, I’ll tell you more about the upcoming TV talk show in my next update. More soon…

13 Comments
Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 9:24 am

Fabulous stuff Derek. Vietnam has been on my hit list for while, even more so after reading that.

    Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 9:37 am

    If I tell you that out of the 29 countries I’ve visited so far, it is probably my favourite, you get some idea of how much I love this place.

    ps – I like your blog!

      Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Thank you Derek. We could form a mutual appreciation society of two!

gerben
Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 9:49 am

Wow, it all sounds lovely, Derek! I was already thinking about traveling there one day, but now I’m quite sure of it!
Have a great trip to the south! Hope to hear from you again.

Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Sounds great. Glad all is going okay and are enjoining Hanoi. Wonderful photos as always.

Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Derek, I am really happy that you enjoyed the past two weeks in Hanoi. It has been a pleasure to be living at Mike’s with you and to share in your touching and especially inspiring story! Hear from you soon Derek, take care!

Ian A
Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Derek
Great to hear about your latest experiences,you certainly sound much more upbeat more like the Derek I have known for years.
Look forward to the next installment,take care of yourself .

Ian

Mai Anh
Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 7:04 am

Very nice to be a part of your trip with some nice picture ever, you really have good eyes. today you will continue your trip to South, wish you enjoy your journey, meet more wonderful people and places!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Awesome photos and another awesome post, Derek.

Can we view your talk online at all? I’d love to tune in or watch it on Youtube or something similar.

All the best,

Jack.

    Monday, March 10, 2014 at 12:26 am

    It will air later this month, I will give details in my blog. Yes, it will be put on YouTube.

Hansi
Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Hi Derek! Glad to hear about your times in Vietnam. I think it’s a positive thing that more people hear your story. Every time I read your blog update it feels like a small holiday. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures in Vietnam and about the great people you seem to meet in every single place! Safe travels!

    Monday, March 10, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Thanks Hansi. I’m meeting so many great people and making new friends, it helps me so much when things are tough!

Monday, March 10, 2014 at 11:08 pm

hello !!! je découvre your trip, your nice trip !!! and it’s YES !!!!!!! wonderfullllll !!!!

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