We woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Hanoi, and after loading up with multiple banh mi we set off to a nearby park, where some people from Koto, Blue Dragon and VTV were waiting to see us off. Some time was spent holding banners, pretending to adjust bikes for the film crew and attempting to get everyone to say 'Tôi yêu việt nam' ('I love Vietnam') at the same time. It was great to see some of our friends from the charities there to wish us luck and to remind us what the ride is all about.
Finally it was time to go! We successfully managed to navigate through the crazy Hanoi traffic without any collisions and were soon onto a huge highway leaving town. It was 30km of nothing in particular, but everyone was so happy to finally be on the road that the first half of the day's ride flew by in no time. Once we were away from the city the scenery started to get more interesting, with regular sightings of water buffalo, rice paddies and the big rocky limestone formations called 'karsts' that are so recognizable in Vietnamese photography. We had a brief lunch stop with most of the team, where our fearless leader was brave enough to try maggots... gotta get that protein somehow! By this point we were well over halfway to our first stopover, but fortunately everyone was still smiling and had plenty of fuel left in the tank for the last 20km.
Although we encountered many trucks along the next piece of road, most of them gave us plenty of space and an occasional friendly wave as they drove past. We received lots of encouragement from the locals, some of whom drove alongside us smiling and waving before wishing us well on our trip. We finally got to Cho Ben and were greeted by an extremely formal nine-year old, who very politely quizzed us about what we were doing and who was 'winning the race.'
As soon as we were across the bridge we spotted some small rowing boats and decided to go straight out onto the lake for a post ride boat trip. We were taken out by a rather lovely lady with very impressive rowing skills, and saw exciting things such as ducks, goats and other lake users.
The scenery here is BEAUTIFUL, although we've been assured it will get a lot more impressive as the ride goes on, so everyone's feeling very excited and looking forward to more lovely scenery over the next few weeks.