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Middle-aged man holds cross-Vietnam bike trips

Middle-aged man holds cross-Vietnam bike trips

Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 15:27 GMT+7

A middle-aged Vietnamese man initiated a cross-country traveling campaign among local youths back in the 1990s and has since held several similar trips on bicycles and motorbikes for young people.

Dao Kim Trang, 52, nicknamed “the King of Traveling Trips” in the 1990s, founded the Ho Chi Minh City Young Travelers Association and has held several trips on bicycles and motorbikes across the country.

After 20 years of “disappearing” to concentrate on his tourism business, he marked his comeback to the local traveling circle with his 17-day bicycle trip in May from Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam’s Dien Bien Province, where the country’s milestone Dien Bien Phu battle victory took place in 1954.

Trang has now cherished his plan of founding the country’s first traveling association.

The ‘nomad’

Trang nurtured his passion for traveling during his school years. 

As a teacher, he began giving serious thought to the plan of holding bike trips for his students and others interested.

In 1990, he discussed his plan of holding a trip from Ho Chi Minh City to central Vietnam’s Nghe An Province, the hometown of the late President Ho Chi Minh to celebrate his 100th birthday. 

His plan was met with dubiety from others, as such a long trip was an absolutely new thing that year, when the country remained in financial straits.

However, in May 1990, 16 youths turned Trang’s 36-day dream trip to Nghe An into a reality.

In 1991, he held another successful trip along the historically important Ho Chi Minh Trail, which crosses 20 provinces from the country’s central to southern regions.

His third trip, to Pac Bo Historical Relic in northern Vietnam’s Cao Bang Province, which lasted 42 days, established Trang’s nickname as the “King of Traveling Trips.”

In May 1993, he gathered his like-minded friends and other youths and founded the HCMC Young Travelers Association. His association began holding trips in which participants could immerse themselves in nature and have fun while mingling with native communities and discovering the country’s traditions and culture.

He chose cycling for its health benefits and challenges. The ability of people to ride for so long on a bicycle proves humans’ great resolve to overcome hurdles.

Trang’s trips not only appealed to the youth, but also to those in their 60s and 70s.

At one point, the association had a membership of almost 800.

Trang’s memorable trips

Trang would plan each trip one year before actually holding it.

One of his most memorable journeys is a 46-day trip to former battlefield Dien Bien Phu in April 1994. 

The toughest hurdle was Trang’s and other participants’ quest to scale Fansipan Mountain, Vietnam’s highest mountain. The peak, which is 3,143m high and is dubbed “The Indochinese Roof,” is some 9km from Sa Pa resort town in northern Vietnam’s Lao Cai Province.

As there was no trail to the peak at that time, ethnic guides took the members on a shortcut, which was so precarious and physically demanding that one could easily trip and fall to their death.

At 1:00 am, when the group was asleep in their hammocks at a height of 2,600m, hail suddenly fell on them, destroying all of their food and leaving them bitterly cold.

Trang and his group had no choice but to quit, with their dream of being the country’s first conquerors of the peak shattered to pieces.

During the same trip, they also cycled some 50km from 2:00 am to 9:00 am under persistent rain to reach Dien Bien Phu on time.

During their trip to Truong Son mountain range, the country’s longest, which measures roughly 1,100km in length, they had immense difficulty locating which path to go in Kon Tum Province in the Central Highlands, as they were surrounded by forest. All they could rely on was a map, their memory and youthful will to overcome obstacles.

Apart from several lengthy trips, Trang also held shorter forays on motorbikes for university students.

In 1997, he left the HCMC Young Travelers Association to run his tourism business.

However, he still held many cross-country trips on motorbikes in 2006, and two motorbike trips to Cambodia and Laos in 2007 and 2008.

The man is not successful as a businessman, and he shared he has always yearned to return to his wandering years.

In late April, he cycled a distance of some 600km, mostly passes, from Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu.

Trang and his like-minded friends are now proposing to start a Vietnam Traveling Association, which will be open to all culture-loving adventurers ages 18 and above. Bicycles will be a favorite means of transport for members.

He will also add charity work as a major focus of future trips.

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