Some of the team are getting emotional about the ride coming to an end. For my part, as much as I’ve enjoyed the ride and its challenges, I’m looking forward to getting back to Saigon and resuming normal life. Despite being a shambolic city with increasingly charmless architecture and psycho motorists it was my first home and returning to it always feels like a home-coming. And besides, who wouldn’t want to come back to giant rats, 99% humidity and sewer-water floods? I don’t know what the others are complaining about.
The route today takes us first from Gia Kiệm to The Boat House, a riverside restaurant in District 2, in Saigon. From there we’re all meeting for lunch, and taking our luggage back to our homes, then reconvening at 3.30pm to set off for the finish line, the Saigon Central Post Office.
It starts off badly for Andrew who, in the last 24 hours, has been assailed by an awful stomach bug and after a valiant 20km he joins Mr Cường for some Van Time. (I’m immensely grateful that my body has managed to hold itself together for the last four weeks after a bout of violent food poisoning on the eve of departure. )
There’s some confusion about which route we should take and at an intersection outside Bien Hoa some of the Team take Võ Nguyên Giáp Street (apt I suppose, as we’re heading into the Reunification Day weekend), while others continue on the QL1A. At a hammock stop, a lady charges us 20K VND for a coke! They’re usually half the price, even in Saigon. (I won’t be going there again *shakes fist*.)
We look to be making good time until we rejoin the QL1A just before the Dong Nai River, and the section of road between Bien Hoa and D2 is basically Hell on a stick. Maps have it down as the QL1A-QL52, but let’s just call it by its real name: THE VOLDEMORT ROAD. It is about 13km of road packed with trucks, lined up bumper to bumper. There is a designated lane on the far right for two-wheeled vehicles only but because the rest of the highway is so rammed, the smaller trucks have decided to use it too. So we ride a 13km, single lane gauntlet with motorbikes, buses, trucks, and cars; it’s like the Crazy Asian Traffic Edition of Tetris but absolutely no fun to play and the only thing you’re likely to win is a nervous breakdown. I’d rather ride ten consecutive lengths down the Bao Loc Pass than deal with this. Thankfully, Storm and her infallible sense of direction get us to the Boat House in one piece, where frayed nerves are settled with food and drink.
 I never thought I’d be thankful to see the sterile, expat streets of Thao Dien – but I was.
 A blurry photo of Tan as we rode into expat land.
We set off on the final 8km of our ride just before 4pm having packed off young Tun in a taxi with his bike. Tun had an unlucky fall on the Great Gravel Descent of Day 7, which took him out of the ride. But he rejoined us in the final week in BMT, riding with Mr Cường and Hoa in the van and was determined to finish what he’d started. We met him again outside the Saigon Zoo at the top of Lê Duẩn Bvld so that we could all ride together to the Post Office, with everyone riding around him as a buffer against Saigon traffic. I’ve no doubt he’ll be back in future to complete the whole Ride.
For once, we’re early so stop part-way down Lê Duẩn for photos. Zak is carrying his dog in his backpack having picked him up at the Boat House; the flag for Blue Dragon, one of the charities we support is planted in the back of his bike. We turn left at the Cathedral of Notre Dame and do two laps of it (during which, I may have teared up a little) before cycling into the Post Office and surprising a whole bunch of tourists and ruining their holiday snaps.
There’s a whole lot of cheering, and crying, and speeches, and TV crews, and chanting the names of our excellent sponsors , and singing Bohemian Rhapsody. People from the charities we support  are there, as well as friends and family and riders from previous years who have donned their H2H jerseys and brought us bottles of water and donuts. Also present is the British Consul who Amy, our friend Emma and I had met about a year ago at a university stage production of Atonement.
Amy and I are called over for a photo with some of the dignitaries, and I’ve a half-eaten donut in my hand. Riders are to squat in front of the standing dignitaries. Unsure of whether a half-eaten donut should be in a photo with the Consul and our charity representatives, I put it behind my back only to wipe some of the icing onto the leg of the nice lady from KOTO. Both Amy and I are having donut related dilemmas because she turns to me and whispers,
“Hey, have I got icing in my teeth?”
“No – but I just wiped my donut on the KOTO lady’s leg!” The KOTO lady is a good sport about having streaks of yellow icing on her and just laughs. (Someone posted a copy of the photo later, and you can still see the offending donut peeking out from behind me.)
A security guard from the Post Office approaches me to ask that we clear off because we’re on government property and need permission if we’re going to be parking our bikes there, shouting and generally making a spectacle of ourselves. At first, I think he’s denigrating our singing when he says ‘shouting’ (we Harrieted the hell out of Bohemian Rhapsody earlier) but in hindsight I think he was referring to us chanting the names of our sponsors – I suppose if you were a Vietnamese security guard at a public building you’d be nervous too if a bunch of people with banners turned up and started chanting in a foreign language. Especially on the eve of the Reunification Day long weekend.
Before anyone is arrested or awkward diplomatic incidents can occur, the celebrations move on to the Pasteur Street Brewery and J U S T and then well into the weekend.
 Our splendid sponsors for the H2H 2017 are:
Family Medical Practice
California Fitness & Yoga
 The charities supported by H2H 2017 are:
SAIGON CHILDREN’S CHARITY: this organisation is our principle charity partner. SCC helps disadvantaged children receive an education through building schools, giving scholarships and vocational training. Read more about SCC here: http://www.saigonchildren.com/what-we-do.aspx
BLUE DRAGON is an organisation that assists children and youths by rescuing them from traffickers and works to prevent at-risk children from being trafficked. Where possible/appropriate the children are reunited with their families or are provided with shelter, given counselling, and supported in their education. The legal team at Blue Dragon assists with prosecution of traffickers and lobbies the Vietnamese government for stronger laws to protect children from such situations.
Read more about Blue Dragon here: https://www.bluedragon.org/what-we-do/
You can read about some of the children who have been helped by Blue Dragon here:
KOTO stands for “Know One, Teach One”. It seeks to empower at-risk youths to break out of the cycle of poverty through practical and meaningful training programmes in hospitality. Read more about KOTO here: http://www.koto.com.au
LIVE AND GIVE: a charity based in Belgium that also aims to assist disadvantaged children in Vietnam by building schools and kindergartens. You can check out its terrific accomplishments here: http://www.liveandgive.eu/home.html and read about our visit to one of its school, on Day 20.
ILA COMMUNITY NETWORK (ILACN) is the charitable arm of the company I work for in Vietnam. It is a non-profit organisation that co-ordinates fund-raising activities to support disadvantaged children in Vietnam. Its volunteers provide English language lessons at orphanages. You can read more about the ILACN here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/ILA.CommunityNetwork/about/?ref=page_internal