Bamboo Bicycle tours leading the way for Mekong Plus
For almost 5 years, Bernard Kervyn, Founding and acting Director of Mekong Quilts, a social enterprise focused on handicraft, quilt-making and creating employment for the underprivileged women of the region, has led regular bicycle tours for locals and foreign tourists in Vietnam and Cambodia.
From places like Ho Chi Minh City’s remaining green areas in the metropolis’ District 12 to cross-border tours that take participants from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region to Siem Reap‘s Angkor Wat, the veteran cyclist insists that these activities are distinctively different from regular tourism.
“We are not a travel agency!” He reminded.
Humble beginnings as Vietnam’s first Bamboo Bicycle
About a decade ago, Mekong Quilts’ team started working on a project that departed heavily from the brand’s initial focus on quiltwork. Motivated by the successes of a bamboo bicycle company based in California, Bernard began questioning why the same couldn’t be achieved in Vietnam, where high-quality bamboo grows in abundance.
“Wehad to design and re-invent everything ourselves. Later, with our increasing success, we got the support of with a French bicycle designer ” he explained.
After more than 20 trials (and failures), Mekong Quilts launched a bamboo bicycle that is almost 100% bamboo-made, except for critical joint connections reinforced with a combination of epoxy and plant-fibre.
Today, the Mekong Quilts line of bamboo bicycles has been greatly expanded—“From fat bikes, children’s training bicycles, to battery-operated [bicycles], we believe that there is something for the whole family!” He exclaimed.
To promote the bicycles and the social enterprises’ decades-long mission and efforts, the Mekong Plus organised its first bamboo bicycle tours in 2014, covering both Vietnam and Cambodia.
Soon after, Mekong Plus’ team came to realise that the greatest motivation behind the tours was how effortless it became to spread the message—participants could traverse the countryside and come into close contact with locals of both countries to understand the culture and way of life in the Mekong Delta.
An experience marrying both recreation and human development
With ecotourism increasingly popular in the region, the bamboo bicycle tours provide an attractive and balanced approach to sustainable tourism— effectively combining casual sporting with cultural tourism and a glimpse into Mekong Plus and Mekong Quilts’ human development projects.
For example, bicycle tours in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuận province take travellers into Vietnam’s Chăm ethnic-minority villages, where Mekong Plus’ projects are being conducted with the support of local leaders. After that, visitors participate in trekking and rafting activities for an all-rounded experience.
Depending on the season and the time of the week, participants will also visit environmentally-focused projects, especially in the Mekong Delta.
Biogas installations helmed by Mekong Plus’ collects methane gas from animal waste into fuel that can be used by locals to cook, and other more agricultural-inclined efforts involve refurnishing pigsties into dry ones which utilise anti-bacterial straw treated with naturally-occurring Trichoderma fungi to reduce water wastage; typical methods of swine-rearing traditionally involve a lot of water for bathing.
“It goes beyond just the sustainable vegetable gardens and mushroom farms that Mekong Plus has helped develop [with the locals],” Bernard added.
Younger participants may benefit from experiences that allow them to contribute physically, such as composting and building a vegetable garden for school children, and even building an outdoor latrine in a primary school from scratch if time permits.
Join the tours to make a difference
Currently, two highly popular tour destinations have been scheduled;
- 1st–3rd April 2022 to Ninh Thuận’s ethnic chăm area (3 Day 2 Night).
- 12th–13th March 2022 to the Mekong Delta in Hậu Giang province (2 Day 1 Night).
Participants typically take a night bus starting from the evening the day before or depart early in the morning on the first day of the tour.
Regular tours in Ho Chi Minh City are also available on most Sunday mornings.
The cost of the tours includes bamboo bicycle rental, meals, and accommodation. Participants opt to use their own bicycles if they wish.
“Biking together builds a strong sense of team spirit… a target to achieve!” Bernard reminded me.
Email Mekong Plus firstname.lastname@example.org (email) or visit Mekong Plus’ Facebook page for more information on how to join the tours!
Mekong Plus grateful for evergrowing support
Visit Mekong Plus’ website to discover the beneficiaries you can help, and how you can make a difference to change lives in Vietnam and Cambodia.