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Meet the French club that travels Saigon on two wheels to sow positivity, kindness

Meet the French club that travels Saigon on two wheels to sow positivity, kindness

Sunday, July 09, 2023, 21:01 GMT+7
Meet the French club that travels Saigon on two wheels to sow positivity, kindness
On weekends, young people take part in bicycle tours organized by Sai Gon French Club. Photo: H. Hanh / Tuoi Tre

Every Saturday and Sunday, members of the Sai Gon French Club take a trip to a tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring Dong Nai, BInh Duong, and Long An Provinces.

Although club members range in age and come from all walks of life, they all seek to inspire others through positivity and kindness.

Exploring Saigon

In June, members of the Sai Gon French Club met at a bikeshare station in Tao Dan Park in District 1. 

By 8:15 am, they were busy introducing themselves and going over the itinerary for their 27-kilomter ride with notable stops at iconic landmarks such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, the Quang Trieu Club House, a fruit festival in District 8, and several of the city’s iconic bridges.

Club members have taken more than 30 bicycle trips together through Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring Dong Nai, Binh Duong, and Long An Provinces.

Nguyen Thi Phuong, 56, has been cycling with the Sai Gon French Club since its first outings. Photo: H. Hanh / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Phuong, 56, has been cycling with the Sai Gon French Club since its first outings. Photo: H. Hanh / Tuoi Tre

Members of the group range in age from 12 to 70, though the majority of them are middle-aged. Nguyen Thi Phuong, 57, is one such member.

Phuong appreciates the willingness of each member to go at a pace suitable for everyone, regardless of age – a characteristic of the group that has been inherent since its early days.

Inspiring others

Due to health issues, Phuong is limited to participating in trips of 30 kilometers or less. 

Despite her limitations, she is known by the group for the dynamism she brings to its vibes. 

At every meeting, she regales the group with stories from her childhood, Tet Festival, and the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

On weekends, young people from all walks of life join the French Club to tour the city by bicycle and practice their French. Photo: H. Hanh / Tuoi Tre

On weekends, young people from all walks of life join the Sai Gon French Club to tour Ho Chi Minh City by bicycle and practice their French language skills. Photo: H. Hanh / Tuoi Tre

As with locals of large cities all over the world, Phuong had never allowed herself to be a tourist in her own city despite spending her younger years cycling 25 kilometers each day for work. 

Now, though she is a bit older, she is able to cycle for fun and develop a more intimate relationship with the city she has lived in since childhood.

In addition to connecting with the city, Phuong has also used the Sai Gon French Club as an opportunity to build relationships with others at her age who share memories of the 'good ol’ days,' including Hoang Minh – a 60-year-old man from Hue City in central Vietnam.

Cycling for pleasure

Nhan, a middle-aged resident of Ho Chi Minh City, does her best to keep up with the Sai Gon French Club on every ride, whether it is a 'short' 30-kilometer trip or a long 50-kilomter journey. 

Her composure and perseverance notwithstanding the long rides and hot weather inspire the entire club.

On one past trip, the group cycled to the grave of late famed musician Trinh Cong Son. 

The 40-kilomter ride featured many climbs under the broiling sun, but while many young members struggled to push their bikes up the high, slippery hills, Nhan easily maneuvered her own bike up the slopes.

On another trip up a steep hill to the top of an abandoned park, Nhan inspired the grouping by declaring, “If we can’t climb up, we’ll crawl up instead."

Thanks to Nhan, the group seems to have discovered a newfound respect for strength, persistence, and perseverance, while holding distinct openness toward exploring the environment with others from all walks of life.

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Vinh Anh - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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