Thursday, 2 April 2015

Hanoi Arrival & Cat Dang village

It's almost time for H2H 2015 to start riding! After a couple of days in Hanoi we're down to one final evening before we hit the road. A few team members flew up north early but the bulk of the team arrived Wednesday afternoon (including Carolyn, who went MIA with a dead phone for several hours). All of our bikes arrived in one piece and there were no major luggage mishaps, although Chris G. ended up with a bag of clothes smelling like fish.

Chuong, our trusty mechanic, set to work putting the bikes together, allowing us to enjoy the afternoon in Hanoi. After a filling dinner of xoi a number of us decided to stay out far too late and drink far too much before getting up this morning for a two-hour bus ride south to Cat Dang village in Nam Dinh province. This is where The Children's Initiative, one of our charity beneficiaries, helps support the local school system. Along the way Ms. Lien, the TCI coordinator in Hanoi, told us we would be meeting with the commune- and district-level authorities who are, and this is a direct quote, "real Communists."

Our first stop was the kindergarten, which has been massively improved over the years through funds raised by H2H. Since I first came here in 2012 they've added two lovely classrooms and an impressive kitchen. It's great to see where the money we raise goes in person.

The newest building
 After getting a brief tour some of the children put on a performance while the rest goofed around and mugged for the camera. I love seeing such pure joy in a nondescript town that most of us would consider pretty poor.

 Afterwards we were treated to a feast of rice, chicken, egg, tofu, stir-fried vegetables and soup. I recognized several of the officials from my visits to Cat Dang ahead of the 2012 and 2013 rides, but they were much more subdued this time around. In years past this lunch devolved into a boozefest, where the locals forced shot after shot of deadly rice wine on us until we could barely even put together a coherent sentence. Luckily, given the debauchery of the previous night, the forced liquor drinking was kept to a minimum. I think I only had five shots, which is certainly a record low for me in Cat Dang.

We were then brought to a middle school in another part of Cat Dang, where the team split into groups and played games with the students in various classrooms. Most of the kids were pretty wary of us ugly foreigners, but they seemed to get into the games eventually.

It was then back on the bus and back to Hanoi after an awesome afternoon. We're having a team dinner in a bit and then it's time for final prep - making sure our gear is sorted and our bikes are ready to go. Tomorrow morning we start early so we can have breakfast at KOTO before officially hitting the route. Day 1 takes us to the small town of Dai Nghia on a pretty flat 75km jaunt. I for one can't freaking wait to finally get pedaling - this will be my third H2H, and I'm just as excited as I was the first time. We've got a great team and I look forward to getting to know everyone over the next month.

We plan to post on a daily basis from here on out, so please follow our progress!

If you'd like to donate to H2H please visit

Words and pictures by Mike Tatarski

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the daily report! All the best to the team. Stay safe!