Collingwood’s Jana Rihova isn’t your casual cyclist.
No, Jana is on a personal mission to visit countries around the world and explore them all from the seat of a bicycle.
Jana is originally from a picturesque small town situated just outside of Prague in the Czech Republic. She has lived in Vancouver, Toronto and moved to Collingwood to open SanDiego Italian Restaurant on First Street, where they have just celebrated their 20th anniversary.
Her passion has always focused on the restaurant business. Her custom made desserts are incredibly delicious. Her culinary talents, many.
But Jana has another passion … cycling.
You have no doubt seen her riding through the streets of south Georgian Bay, from Collingwood to Wasaga Beach, Creemore, Midland, Meaford, Owen Sound … anywhere and everywhere the road will take her.
Those daily rides, as we found out, were just a warm up for what was to come.
Over the past fifteen years, Jana has put together an impressive list of cycling adventures including her latest, and probably most challenging ride of all, from the north to south Vietnam.
With approximately 95 million residents, Vietnam is the world’s 14th-most-populous country, and Jana couldn’t resist the temptation to see it all.
“I usually am on my own when I go cycling. That way I can ride and see what I want to see and visit places that a group probably wouldn’t want to go to.”
However, for a variety of reasons, Jana deviated from her usual game plan and joined a group of cyclists for what turned out to be an eventful trip through rural and urban Vietnam. What she didn’t realize was that she had signed up for what would be her most grueling adventure ever.
Good Morning Vietnam
“It was like I was training for the Olympics or the army! We’d get up at sunrise and we were right away on the road. We didn’t make many stops and certainly didn’t do the things tourists would do. I used to get in trouble for stopping to take a picture. We saw Vietnam at the grass roots level, ate at the side of the road, talked to the local people, ate their native food, stayed overnight in local houses, cycled through rain, around large potholes, weaved through large and small farm animals that were standing on the road and kept on going until dinner time.”
It was not uncommon to come across farm animals on the journey. Guess who had the right-of-way!
Jana’s group even had to work around a strong cyclone that blew through Vietnam causing heavy damage in its path.
Don’t get the idea that Jana was looking for an easy journey. Far from that. Jana always pushes the limits on her cycling adventures, but this trip through Vietnam was, shall we say, a bit of a marathon!
“I was the oldest person in the group so I wasn’t going to let them think I couldn’t keep up. Some of them were in their 20’s and others were in their 30’s, but I have cycled all over the world so I knew I would be OK … maybe a bit tired at the end of the day … but I wasn’t going to stop.”
And keep up she did. Jana finished the two week trip, and then went off on her own for a third week to continue to explore Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, setting her own schedule and enjoying the sights along the way.
Jana’s cycling trip from north to south Vietnam took her to many places usually reserved only for locals, but she was always made to feel welcome.
Between the conclusion of her group ride and the beginning of her solo ride, Jana’s adventurous side took over for a day when she decided to go off on her own to visit some historic churches and cathedrals in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
“I managed to flag down a taxi and explain to the driver where I wanted to go. He took me to the first historic church on my list, let me out, and I asked him if he would wait for me. He said no. So, I wasn’t sure what to do but decided to deal with it when I came out of the church. I tried to get a taxi after touring the beautiful church and met a man on a scooter. He gave me a green helmet to put on … it looked like it was left over from the war and it was so big it almost covered my eyes. I put it on anyway. He told me to get on and hold on. I did, and we flew through the city streets from church to church. What an adventure, a highlight of my trip. Flying through the streets in the middle of hundreds of other motorcycles and scooters was an incredible experience. He took me to where I wanted to go and stayed with me the entire time and then took me back to my hotel.”
Villagers going about their normal daily routine in south Vietnam
Prior to visiting Vietnam, Jana had visited and cycled through an impressive list of exotic destinations including all of the Canary Islands, Florida, Czech Republic, Madeira, Mallorca, France, Sardinia, Malta, Gozo, Slovenia, Turks & Caicos, Germany, Austria, Azores, Switzerland, Big Island of Hawaii and Bali.
Lanzarote – Canary Islands
Gran Canaria – Canary Islands
Gran Canaria is one of Spain’s Canary Islands, situated off northwestern Africa. It is famous for its incredible beauty including black lava and white sand beaches.
Breathtaking view in Mallorca
Mallorca is one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, known for beach resorts, sheltered coves, limestone mountains and Roman and Moorish remains.
An equally breathtaking view in Bali
Vietnam – taking a break from the bicycle
— Snake Wine
Jana has been in the restaurant business for decades, however, you won’t find this wine in her Collingwood restaurant!
Snake wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain. In Vietnam, snake wine, known as “Rượu rắn” is widely believed to improve health and virility.
(Just the same, I’ll have a beer!)
What destination is next?
Apparently it’s a secret. Jana doesn’t like to spill the beans on where she plans on going next.
So stay tuned, I feel an update in the works!
CLICK HERE to return to Main News Page