I'm not exactly the kind of girl that enjoys spending time at the gym, so I decided to spend my last week before the ride doing some training in a fun way.
My first stop was Halong Bay. It was amazing! I didn't realize how long I'd been in HCMC until I stepped out at night and there was complete silence. No motorbikes, karaoke singers, food vendors-just me, the sea, and the rock islands.
I definitely got a good warm-up workout during my 3 days at the Bay. The first day was just spent relaxing, sitting back and taking in the scenery. But, the second day was full-on. We did some kayaking in the morning (sore arms), then climbed a mountain in Cat Ba national park (sore legs and back), had some lunch, and did some more climbing around Monkey Island (entire body sore). It was painful but good, muscles that hadn't been used in awhile were starting to be used again, perfect way to get ready for next month!
My second stop was Sapa. I took the train out from Hanoi and arrived around 8 am. It was FREEZING. The only clothes I had were basketball shorts, a T-shirt, and some cutoff work pants. I haven't worn a jacket for the entire year and a half I've been in Saigon, so I thought I could just get by for a few days, but boy was I wrong. I rented a huge jacket and some rain boots and it was time to head out.
I spent the next three days trekking up and down the hills, mountains, and rice fields of Sapa. It was nice to see a different part of Vietnam. There are lots of minority hill tribes in the area, and each has their own language, clothes, and customs. We did a homestay in a village each night so we got to walk around and see the differences between the villages. It's so easy to forget that there are other people living here besides the Vietnamese.
It was hard work trekking though. It had just rained so for the first two days, the paths were really muddy. We hiked about 35km in two days, and my legs were so sore! But, it was all worth it. I was surrounded by green and breathing fresh air. We saw lots of butterflies, water buffaloes, huge grasshoppers, and even a poisonous snake! The last day was really nice because the sun came out and the views were spectacular. We did a short 10km trek then it was time to go back.
Back-to-back walking on the same sore legs hurt some, but by the last day I was used to it. I've been pretty scared about this bike ride because I'm definitely the slowest rider. I was the slowest walker during the trek, but I wasn't too far behind, and I still made it through and had a good time! After doing Sapa, I'm SO READY for this bike ride!!!
But, the best thing we saw was on the third day:
Apparently 4-leaf clovers grow in some rice paddies. The paddies along this one mountain we hiked along were filled with them! I felt like this was such a good omen for the next month.
Good Luck is on our side :)