Dad-of-two Stuart Cooper, 43, a property developer from Hutton, and his nephew Alex Davies, a plasterer and part-time firefighter from Euxton, have taken on an epic cycle ride across Vietnam, involving 19 days of cycling through the cities and countryside, to raise more than £2,000 for St Catherine’s Hospice. Here, they talk about the amazing adventure.
We spent 19 days cycling and staying in different accommodation every night from Hanoi to to Ho Chi Minh City, with the one planned rest day in Hue. Because we had put extra kilometres in we also had an extra unscheduled stop off and rest day in Da Nang, an afternoon and evening stay over in Hoi An, a rest day in Buon Ma Thuot and an additional stop off and rest day in Dalat, so we got to enjoy the sites and cultures.
Vietnam is a really diverse country in all aspects, from the lower temperatures and rain in the north to the sun baked beaches on the coasts and the further south you get, to the scenery and how it changed so much every few hundred kilometres. The Vietnamese people despite going through much hardship many years ago I found to be so friendly, helpful and engaging, especially in rural areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail. I will never forget the children’s smiles, waves and ‘Helloooooows’.
There are so many experiences and memories which I will never forget, from a cheeky roadside worker who taxed me of my energy gel, to the lady who showed us the art of Vietnamese beekeeping. We also ‘crashed’ a wedding, witnessed a moped accident and bandaged up a man’s foot using our first aid kit, got chased by dogs, and visited some amazing sites. We also tried some unusual foods, but really enjoyed the variety.
I would like to thank everyone who kept in touch and wished us support throughout the tour and to all those who donated to our charity. We set out to raise £2,000 and so far we have raised in excess of this amount for St Catherine’s Hospice.
There will certainly be memories from my time in Vietnam that I will never forget as long as I live. I have been asked a couple of times already since I arrived back in the UK: ‘So, what was the one thing you liked best about Vietnam?’
The cities and tourist areas spring to mind, such as Da Nang, Dong Hoi, Hue, Hoi An and of course Hanoi and Saigon, which where all amazing places. The real remote sections of the Ho Chi Minh trial were also spectacular, with water buffalo being used to plough fields, our little bee hive discovery, crossing Phong Nha-Ke bang national park, coffee and tea plantations galore. The list is endless but the best part about my experience in Vietnam was the people. They are so friendly, so helpful and so happy too. The children especially where a highlight. The more remote the villages we passed through, the louder and more meaningful where the ‘hellooowssss’ and laughter from the local children. They certainly managed to bring a smile to our faces.
There were a few tough days with long rides and some climbing, but there is always somewhere to grab a bite to eat and lay your head for the night, and we saw some amazing scenery.