A roadtrip of a lifetime

A year on the road, 18 countries visited and 16,000 kilometres covered. As cycle rides go, you’d be hard pressed to find one tougher.

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But that’s exactly the journey two newlyweds made cycling from France to Vietnam to raise money for charity.

Tran Nguyen Khanh Nguyen and Thibault Clemenceau decided to spend their honeymoon not on the beach or relaxing by the pool, but instead on the open road.

When they set off from France a little over 12 months ago the world was a very different place than it is today.

As they rode across Europe things began to quickly change as the coronavirus spread on a global scale, and they only managed to reach Vietnam in the nick of time.

“We started to hear about COVID-19 when we were in Thailand, and then it started to get stronger when we cycled through Laos,” said Thibault, 30.

“At the beginning we were worried we couldn’t enter at the right time in Vietnam, but we managed to enter maybe two weeks before they closed the border. So we were really lucky, if you consider the trip of one year.

“We were so happy to be back in Vietnam on time.”

Getting into the country was simple, but Thibault did notice a change in attitudes from people as they continued their cycle trip from north to south.

He added: “After we left Hanoi there were more cases coming from the UK and Europe, and people, within one day, completely changed their behaviours towards foreigners and especially travellers on bicycle.

“In the countryside people started to be very worried about me, even if I had a mask. It was very challenging to find a hotel, even to stop for food.

A roadtrip of a lifetime
The couple on a street in HCM City. Photo courtesy of Thibault Clemenceau

“But we just asked for help from our community on Facebook, Instagram, and we were very lucky that a lot of people were willing to welcome us in their hotels or homes.”

As for Nguyen, apart from the adventure of cycling from Europe to Asia, she also learned valuable lessons from the experience of meeting different people from different countries. Lessons she hopes she can use in the future.

 

“In countries like Iran, even though we were strangers, if they met us on the road they would invite us to their houses and invite us to have tea or stay for a meal,” she said.

“In Vietnam I rarely see things like that, but after this trip I realised we need to open up more to people.

“The second thing is I have overcome my own limitations. There were times I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but gradually, as I persisted, I was able to complete a journey that I didn’t think I could.”

Their journey raised more than $17,000 which will be used to build a school in HCM City’s District 1.

The project is being completed by Poussières de Vie, a non-profit organisation helping Vietnam’s most disadvantaged people through funding and managing a variety of projects.

“Our goal at the beginning was to raise $1 per kilometre,” Thibault said.

“We’re very glad that we managed to reach that goal, even more. We have roughly gathered $17,500 for an NGO. We were very glad, because many people participated from all around the world, not only the French and Vietnamese but also people from the US, Canada, Australia, even in Iran.

“The fund will be used for a new school of this NGO in HCM City, which is in District 12. They plan to welcome more kids in better conditions.

“The first year will start in September this year, 2020, and the fund will be used to buy all the materials, the tables, the uniforms, and help the NGO run their school in this first year.” VNS

Bao Hoa & Paul Kennedy