Vietnam’s Unique Mekong Bike Tours

Vietnam’s Unique Mekong Bike Tours

Vietnam’s Unique Mekong Bike Tours

Slightly more than two decades ago, Bernard Kervyn, founder and director of Mekong Plus, began to ponder what more could be done to improve the lives of beneficiaries of the non-profit organisation that focuses on community development in some of Vietnam’s poorest villages. 

A family who has received help from Mekong Plus.

“We were already actively involved in developing infrastructure through co-funding with locals, as well as education and micro-crediting,” Bernard explained.

“[But] we believed we could do more.”

Mekong Quilts's success spurred the development of its bamboo bicycles

Eventually, Mekong Quilts was inaugurated in 2001 as a social enterprise spin-off of Mekong Plus that provides quilting work and training to underprivileged women in the Mekong Delta.

With flexible employment at quilting workshops, struggling women found means to create a sustainable income while tending to the family at the same time. Their nimble hands helped Mekong Quilt produce some of the highest quality quilt work the country has ever seen. By 2010, Mekong Quilts had established workshops in two Vietnamese provinces and also Svay Rieng province in Cambodia, benefitting at least 100 female artisans annually.

Three women artisans working on quilts in the Mekong Delta.

In 2010, Bernard chanced upon bamboo bicycles through a documentary on the BBC.

“Bamboo is a traditional home material in Vietnam,” he explained. This was when he decided to embark on a mission to produce the region’s best bamboo bicycles under the umbrella of the Mekong Quilts brand. 

 

A participant is holding a bamboo bicycle during one of the Mekong Delta Bike Tour.

Together with a celebrated bicycle designer from France, Mekong Quilts embarked on a three-year Research & Development phase filled with trials and tribulations. After a few initial failures, Mekong Quilts released its first bamboo bicycle in 2012. Thanks to passion and the drive to innovate, Mekong Quilts now purveys a full line of almost completely bamboo-made bicycles from commuting and kid bikes to a bamboo Fat Bike with a range of 80km per charge and a max speed of 40km/h.

“Our bicycles are completely made of bamboo except for joint connections made with a mixture of hemp fibre, synthetic fibre strengthened by epoxy,” Bernard exclaimed.

Mekong Quilts’ electric bamboo Fat Bike.

Returning to Roots - Touring Long My village in Hau Giang province with Mekong Quilts Bamboo bicycles

One of the first villages to have benefitted from Mekong Quilts is Long Mỹ in Hậu Giang province. To pay homage to the place that made Mekong Quilts possible more than a decade ago, Bernard and his team organise near-monthly bamboo bicycle tours for eager locals, expats and tourists to witness how Mekong Plus and Mekong Quilts operate.

“We have more than 1,000 projects in just this rural district,” Bernard informed.

Each tour lasts 2-3 days and prices start at VND2,000,000 per participant -VND1.000.000 for all logistics, food, hotel, the bike etc. AND a VND1,000,000 donation to the projects visited. This, beyond the opportunity to ride Mekong Quilts’ naturally dampened and comfortable bamboo bicycles, a large part of the participation fee goes into further funding and development of the area.

A lady is out working in the fields, a daily life scene in Mekong Delta.

The tours depart from Ho Chi Minh City, bringing participants to the rural district via coach. They will first visit Ánh Dương Centre, a social organisation that has spent almost two decades supporting social and economic development in the area. Volunteers at Ánh Dương Centre will take guests on an enlightening journey where they will discover projects spearheaded by Ánh Dương Centre together with Mekong Plus, including the Mekong Quilts quilting and papier-mâché handicraft workshop.

Phu, crafting papier-mâché decorations using scrap paper collected from surrounding areas.

Beyond that, guests will visit agricultural initiatives that have benefitted locals, including sustainable eel farming, mushroom cultivation and many more. Guests will also participate in a teeth-brushing session at Vĩnh Thuận Đông kindergarten; a 15 year-old project that remains one of the most successful helmed by Mekong Plus to improve the health of local children.

A group of children is ready to learn how to brush their teeth properly.

To end the first day of the tour, participants will enjoy an assortment of fruits and local specialities produced through these efforts and spend the night in a farm stay located at the heart of the province’s lush nature.

On the second day, guests will depart at dawn to traverse the Ngã Năm floating market via boat, reaching a 300-year-old Khmer temple while enjoying the bustling sights and sounds of locals going about their daily routine. Cycling resumes before lunch and participants will have the chance to visit a unique facility that converts farming waste to biogas which locals use for cooking.

 

“More than 20 of our staff members were born in this area,” Bernard reminded. It was no coincidence; Mekong Quilts has changed the life of many in the delta, and the tour provides a chance for everyone to understand the importance of social development.

How to join the Mekong Quilts Bamboo Bicycle Tour

For more information and to find out more about the tours and departure schedules, you can contact us by email at sales@mekongquilts.com or call us at . Mekong Plus and Mekong Quilts’ Facebook Page also publishes regular video and photo updates about the tours that happen once a month. votre titre ici

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