Editor’s note: Jon Aspin/Tuoi Tre News traveled to Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands to take part in the first LAAN MTB Jamboree and caught up with the Singaporean responsible for the design of Vietnam’s first fully sustainable downhill mountain bike trail.
Hui Min Lim has been a professional mountain bike trail builder for the last twelve years.
A lifelong rider and devotee of the sport from Singapore, since 2005, through his company Dirtraction, he has been building ‘purpose-fit destination trails’ in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan and India.
Now, he can add Vietnam to his resume, with the opening last week of the country’s first fully sustainable, all-year-round downhill trail at La An Resort, just outside of Da Lat in the country’s Central Highlands.
“Mountain bikers seek a range of experiences,” ‘H.M’, as he is known in the biking community, told Tuoi Tre News, “uninterrupted flow, technicality, safety and solitude. With this trail in this location, we’ve tried to be inclusive of all of those aspects.”
|Trail builder Hui Min Lim at the LAAN MTB Jamboree on November 11, 2017 at La An Resort, Lam Dong Province
'Blue square intermediate'
Built mostly by hand, thanks to the determination of the Vietnamese staff at La An, and others brought in to get the job done, what H.M. and his team have delivered is a 2.1 km downhill run, incorporating approximately 250m of descent.
He describes it firmly as a ‘blue square intermediate flow trail,’ which translates to a fast, winding run that’s challenging for novices, but a whole lot of fun for anyone with a bit of experience, and a modern mountain bike.
“It’s extremely fast and flowy if you want it to be, or extremely slow and technical if you want it to be,” H.M. says smiling, “you choose.”
|Junaidi Bin Hashim takes on the course at the LAAN MTB Jamboree on November 11, 2017 at La An Resort, Lam Dong Province
Making it happen
The brainchild of another Singaporean, Nicky Tay, it was Nicky who enlisted H.M. on behalf of the property’s owner, Mr. Viet, to design the trail. For the last three months, the trio has been putting everything into bringing it to life.
Breaking ground in August inside the 150 hectare La An Resort, an eco-adventure tourism destination 25km northwest of Da Lat City, the project to deliver a new home for mountain bikers in Vietnam ‘all happened quite quickly,’ according to H.M.
“From concept to delivery was a short period of time,” he explained, “about three months, but the attitude of the owners was very can-do, so we did our usual master plan, taking into account the local topography and ecology, and then went straight into construction.”
|A rider takes on the trail at the LAAN MTB Jamboree on November 11, 2017 at La An Resort, Lam Dong Province
Working closely with the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Solutions program, H.M is one of a kind in Asia, and one of only a few hundred professional trail builders around the world, he says.
Learning his craft in the backyard of Kent Ridge Park in Singapore, before graduating to the rest of Asia, H.M. has traveled the globe with the sport, and been inspired by some of the meccas of mountain biking – most of them in North America.
Like the investors behind him, he sees the opportunity for La An to become a ‘must-see’ destination for Vietnam’s growing community of mountain bikers, as well as for competitors across the region.
|International riders at the LAAN MTB Jamboree on November 11, 2017 at La An Resort, Lam Dong Province
“The biggest asset in mountain biking is the natural resources around you,” he explained, “and in Vietnam, there is so much of this type of remote wilderness that I think this trail and this park can become a permanent gateway for the sport as it grows in this country.”
Testing out the trail at the recent invite-only ‘LAAN MTB Jamboree’ was four times Singaporean national cross-country champion and six times SEA Games representative Junaidi Bin Hashim. He gave the course his thumbs up.
“It’s definitely fast and flowy,” he said, “not so technical compared to other tracks I’ve ridden, but I know they are planning on building more lines in the future. It’s safe enough for all levels and a great place to explore.”
Local rider Quoc Cuong Bui was equally enthusiastic.
“I hope La An will become an attractive place for international and domestic adventurers,” he said. “The course was interesting, there are beautiful landscapes, nice cool weather and the event was very well organized.”
|To find out how you can get to La An Resort, go to their Facebook page, and check out the below. For those already interested in the sport, the next round of the local Vietnam MTB Series is on at Nui Dinh Mountain in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province on December 3rd. For more information on this cross-country event, go to vietnammtbseries.com.