Monday, May 14, 2007

From this week's Timeout, with kind permission...

Get your Minsk running 'cos it's ....


Frank Patterson dusts off his dancing shoes and revs up his Minsk in preparation for the annual Minsk Olympics at Thac Da resort, which has been the party of the summer in the north for the last four years

The more the merrier
Before you start picturing pole-vaulting Belarussians or tattooed bikers pulling off Evil Knievel-style wheelies, I should point out that the Minsk Olympics might sound a tad misleading. For starters you don’t even have to ride a Minsk motorbike to come! Although the event is organised by Hanoi Minsk Club the weekend rally is less about motorbikes and more about letting your hair down with a bunch of fellow Vietnam residents (both Vietnamese and foreigners) in the great outdoors for a change! The actual Olympian events, which are on the Sunday, are also just for fun (mind you, I do happen to know a man who might be running a book).
Hanoi Minsk Club has operated since 1998 and this year’s Olympics rally on May 26-27 will mark the 40th official gathering of the Club. Now in its fifth year, the Minsk Olympics weekend rally has been lauded in Hanoi circles as the party of the summer for the previous four years. Last summer over 150 people made the short trip out to Thac Da resort, which sits in the foothills of Ba Vi Mountain, near Son Tay, about 50km west of Hanoi. Club organisers will be hoping to surpass that tally this year.

Fitter, happier... slower?

Most people head out to Thac Da at around noon, or early afternoon, by motorbike. After arriving and grabbing a beer you can head up to the football pitch to watch the Minsk Club’s football team take on Thac Da FC at 4pm. Last year, the Minsk Club players, distracted by the breathtaking scenery and failing to adjust to the high altitude, eventually succumbed to the fitter (and, yes, better) local team, eventually losing 2-0.
As usual in the evening, there will be a slap up buffet dinner whilst enjoying dirt bike videos from around Vietnam and Mongolia, then you can slip into your dancing shoes or out of your dep, and check out the live music. After the bands a host of Hanoi’s most cutting edge DJs, including the boys from the CAMA Soundsystem, will be twiddling the knobs and playing tunes that will keep you smiling through the night.
The next morning the games begin. First, the Piston Trophy is up for grabs for the winner of the individual time trial (slow race). Defending champion Vu The Vinh will be out to go slower than ever before in a bid to claim his third title – but there’s no shortage of competition with the likes of Donny Anh Nguyen (last year’s runner-up) and the undisputed Queen of the Minsk, Maeve Nolan (people’s champion 2003) in hot pursuit. After lunch it’s time for the Comrade Struggle. In this doubles event the pillion passenger is blindfolded and has to hurl inflated inner-tubes into a goal while being driven around by his or her partner. At the end of the day, it’s the Comrade who can get his ring over the trophy, ahem, who wins.

Tell me more!

The Minsk Club is a not-for-profit organisation and the weekend costs only VND400,000 ($25) which includes entry to the resort, bike parking, buffet dinner, breakfast, picnic lunch, stilt house accommodation and all live entertainment. Click onto for directions and a downloadable map. Email for more details or reservations (private air con rooms available on request).
For those looking to link with other riders there is a group scheduled to leave from the Highway4 Restaurant, 575 Kim Ma, at 1pm on Saturday 26th May – again, contact the club to book a seat or find out more.
Remember, it doesn’t matter if you drive a Honda Charly, Vespa or Penny Farthing – everyone is welcome and it is the more the merrier! If you want to rent a Minsk for the weekend, try Cuong’s Adventure Biking, 1 Luong Ngoc Quyen, 04 926 1534 or 091 3518772.

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