A bunch of young Hanoi cyclists have apparently mainstreamed the phrase "pain in the ass" by naming their club ÃŠ Mông, literally meaning "buttock pain."
Buttock Pain was founded in 2008 after a group of cycling lovers met on the web site ttvnol.com and organized a successful trip to Truc Lam Tay Thien Zen Monastery in Tam Dao District, some 80 kilometers from the capital.
A female member, who calls herself Paper_hn, suggested forming a cycling club and quickly got the nod from others. Their second trip was planned soon after, to Kim Boi mineral hot spring in Hoa Binh Province. And the club has continued to grow since.
"We chose that name just because it describes the most typical problem affecting cyclists," Ngoc Anh, one of the club's first members, said about the name.
Club members now have their own forums on social sites like xedap.org, xedap.vn, and phuot.net, but the most active ones recently launched their own website, emong.org, so that the others can share in all of the group's activities.
Nguyen Ngoc Linh, 34, of the Hanoi University of Transport used to be considered the head of the club on ttvnol.com's forum for his active role in organizing trips.
"Now we have gathered in our own house at emong.org, where we have some 300 active members and 2,000 other registered accounts," Linh said.
"We usually form a group of 10 to 20 people living near each another for trips, which are usually around 100 kilometers, on weekends and holidays. Anyone can join if they love cycling and are fit."
Nguyen Van Manh, a student at the Hanoi University of Law, said that he has had a great time since joining the club.
"I love discovering new places by bicycle. It is a bit tiring, but we get a much closer look at the site and have a lot of fun on the road.
"And more importantly, cycling is good for our health and for the environment."
Another member, Phuong Xuan, said in one recent entry on emong.org that she likes adventures and often joins on the most challenging routes.
"I've just come back from a two-day trip to Moc Chau District in Son La Province," she wrote.
Cyclists on their way to Hang Te Cho Waterfall in Yen Bai Province. Photo: ÃŠ Mông Club
"It was thrilling. The fields were full of colorful flowers, the wooden houses of the H'Mong people, and the breathtaking mountains were all great. I don't think that I lost any energy on the trip, but in fact gained some."
Nguyen Hoang Long, an architect who often takes photos on the trips, said he could find stunning sites just 30 kilometers away from Hanoi, in Dong Anh or Gia Lam districts.
"I love the peaceful rice fields and the quiet rivers," he said. "We have a small group of eight people who share my hobby. We ride our bikes around every weekend to some neighboring province of Hanoi, sometimes as far as Thai Binh (some 180 kilometers away) or Thanh Hoa (more than 200 kilometers away) if we have more time."
Truong Ngoc Ha, who works for a public relations company and joined the club two years ago, said she has formed some of her best friendships through ÃŠ Mông.
"With a common passion, we have together overcome many difficulties as well as shared a lot of joy through our journeys," Ha said.
She has even persuaded her husband and some friends to join the club, and they are having a great time as well.
Ha recalled a trip to the Kim Boi spring last summer. It was a terribly hot day and the ride took so much time that they could not reach their destination by lunchtime as planned. A long and rough hilly road was ahead while there was no food or water left.
"We were all really exhausted at that time, but encouraged one another to try our best," Ha said. "That was one of my best trips."
According to senior member Linh, ÃŠ Mông went on a number of incredible trips in 2011 with the most recent being a five-day journey to Hang Te Cho Waterfall in Yen Bai Province in early November.
"We had 10 members on this trip, who went through chilly mountain roads and icy streams during the night despite feeling ravenous to find a place to sleep," he said.
But the cyclists had compensation in the form of a "stunning day of sightseeing."
"It was among the hardest trips and also the most memorable in 2011.
"We are going to start the new year after Tet with a ride along the Red River."
WHERE TO GO
The winding mountain roads to Mai Chau (Hoa Binh Province), Sa Pa (Lao Cai Province), Cao Bang, and Yen Bai are always the most attractive to cyclists from Hanoi. The routes may be challenging, but they are compensated by the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and hills.
Cyclists in the north can also opt for easier trips to rural areas along the Red River - to Nam Dinh, Hai Duong, or Ninh Binh provinces, all of which also offer a great deal of beautiful scenery.
In the central region, no cycling lover can resist the charm of the Hai Van Pass, which offers a breathtaking view of the sea from atop the mountain. A ride round Hue or Hoi An Town is also a nice experience.
The southern region has many ideal routes for cyclists from Ho Chi Minh City, such as Tien Giang, Phan Thiet, Da Lat-Phan Thiet, and Can Tho.