Tourists support VN children
by Minh Thu
This is not just a motor-cycle adventure through wonderful parts of Viet Nam, it's a chance to contribute to the well-being of children that still live with the legacy of war.
Raising the bar: A group of foreign adventurers enjoy a trip to mountainous regions and old battle fields to discover the country and help poor children. — VNS Photos Glenn Phillips
An exclusive group of committed bikers from the US and Australia last month participated in Rally Indochina, a trip along mountainous paths in the North, down the remnants of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail in central Viet Nam, to raise money for local children.
Over 10 days, they rode classic, Soviet-era motorcycles through spectacular mountainous countryside, past verdant rice fields, grazing buffaloes and dramatic, jungle-clad and limestone karst mountains.
They enjoyed the friendship of countryside folk, the comradeship from other riders, the delights of local's excellent food and the comfort of well-appointed hotels.
"Very satisfied" is all Paul Sylvester said after the trip.
He received a notice about the rally six months ago and immediately reached out to the organisers, Blue Dragon Children's Foundation and Explore Indochina to sign up.
Sylvester has been to Viet Nam three times, but focused his attention on the major cities of the north, south and central parts of the country.
"I have always wanted to see more of the countryside, small villages, and historical sites, and this ride was a perfect opportunity to get a better feel for the country," he said.
At first, he was attracted to the ride, but the charity gave it a sense of meaning and purpose that he wasn't expecting, and really enhanced the experience.
"It was a nice way to get an understanding of the plight of some children in Viet Nam, and witness firsthand the difference that Blue Dragon Children's Foundation is making and see the value of our contributions," he said.
Having enjoyed his time in the beautiful country, his best memories are of the beautiful people that they encountered on the trip, especially the children in the villages who were so curious, friendly and happy, he said.
"Viet Nam looks to have a great future with those kids," he concluded.
History professor Paul Arthur Hunt from Australia joined the first rally last year and this time he brought his family along on the absolutely fantastic trip to help them understand more about Vietnamese history, he said.
While Sylvester has rode motorbikes in Viet Nam many times, Hunt hasn't, but on a three-wheel motorbike on which he felt safe.
Hunt and his family visited the Blue Dragon centre in Ha Noi and Hue City where his sons played football with poor local kids.
This time, Hunt brought a photo of a little girl in Hoi An City that he took 18 years ago with the hope to see her again.
They knew it was a slim chance, but they still wanted to try. They walked up and down the river front markets asking every stall lady, but no one knew her.
"We had given up when a lady named Chau came over to my seven-year-old son to talk to him and pinch his cheeks," said Hunt.
"My wife pulled out the picture and she said she thought she recognised her, took the picture and knocked on every door in town. Chau is friend with our girl, whose name is Vy. Chau showed us other photos of Vy and we knew it was her."
"We were so happy, we cried. Chau arranged a meeting for us with Vy. You cannot believe how amazed and grateful we were that we actually found her, a happy, healthy, successful 24-year-old soon to be married! Our hearts literally leapt in our chests. It was like finding our own child again after 18 years."
Hunt and his family had a wonderful trip in Viet Nam, they enjoyed the landscape and culture, contributed in charity and met the little girl they love after 18 years.
"I could not be happier with all the people, restaurants and cafes that we encountered along the way," Hunt said.
"You have a wonderful, beautiful and spectacular country, even all the war stuff is important to know and remember," he said, "it was the trip of a lifetime and I'm sure I will return someday." — VNS