Hoi An's flat but varied countryside makes it an ideal place to jump on a pushbike or motorbike and explore. Pedal down narrow alleys past 18th-century shophouses, wheel through rice fields and along rivers to roads that skirt the beach.
Renting a bicycle is an excellent way to get around as it’s cheap and easy to park. Hostels and hotels often include free bicycle or a rental for next to nothing and they are allowed within the historic quarters; motorbikes are not. Those with motorbikes must pay to park at the edge of the town centre.
It’s also a very flat, straightforward journey to An Bang and Cua Dai beaches. However, cycling can be a misery in the hot season or midday sun and you can tick off a lot more sights with a motorbike. Rentals cost as little as US$5 but do check on the condition of the bike before you set out. Hoi An traffic moves at a more relaxed and easy pace than big cities like Da Nang, however, if you’ve never driven a motorbike before, a vacation in Vietnam shouldn’t be your first time.
Motorbike helmets are mandatory by law, no matter how short the distance or how good your hair looks. It’s considered very poor form for men to ride around without a shirt or women in bikini tops (plus, anything is better than nothing when it comes to road rash protection. And when filling up at the station, don’t fall for the old petrol scam.
By bicycle, the pottery village, pagodas, some of the islands like Cam Nam, Cam Thanh and Tra Que vegetable village are within reach. By motorbike, Cam Kim Island, My Son and the endless network of small lanes running through rice paddies are fun. Don’t forget the popular scenic Hai Van Pass and Lang Co. It’s easy enough to venture out on your own, but organised bike tours provide insight to local life, interesting hidden spots and support should you choose to tackle a challenging route.
Hoi An Free Tour is an organisation running free and inexpensive bicycle tours led by local college and university students as a way to give them practical experience to develop English, interpersonal and leadership skills. It also gets them out into the community. What better way to learn about Vietnam than through the eyes of a student, a great cultural exchange for both you and the volunteer. Their free half-day bike tour includes stops at the Kim Bong carpentry village, a rice paper factory, mat making village, gardens and rice fields. It excludes the bicycle, which you can easily rent from your hotel. Other tours aren't free but they are cheap as chips. Sample tours: Cam Kim Island US$9; Hoi An ancient town tour US$7; Tra Que Vegetable Village US$9; Walking Food Tour US$19.
Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours is a French-Vietnamese-run company that operates morning, afternoon and full day tours starting at only US$17.
Energetic folks will love Phat Tire Adventures' two-day ride (US$218 per person) from Hoi An to Hue, which includes the Hai Van Pass. They also do mountain biking, with off road in the countryside and some single track along the river, three hours for US$26 per person.
For something decidedly more relaxed, Sleepy Gecko, a bar over on Cam Nam Island, offers full- and half-day bike tours through the surrounding area. In addition to taking in the sights of rural Vietnam, stops include a fish sauce factory, a rice wine business, a peanut plant, woodworking village and a village specialising in making reed mats, to name but a few. The half-day course follows a similar but abbreviated route. It’s taken at an easy pace, so there’s no need to worry about being left behind. The owner Steve has lived in the area for years and goes on every trip. Pricing works on a sliding scale depending on numbers. It’s US$100 for a day, sliding to US$35 per person with six people involved.
There are countless motorbike companies operating tours in and around Hoi An and never fear, all of them offer the Hai Van Pass. The Easy Rider scene is always shifting so try asking other travellers for recommendations.
Vespa Adventures offers something just a little different with their fun fleet of retro cool Vespas, a part of Vietnamese culture of a bygone era. They recommend that guests ride pillion but for some tours, those who are experienced with a clutch and have a copy of their motorbike license from the home country can drive. The half-day Rural Villages Experience (13:30-17:00) costs US$69.
For maximum cool factor, Victoria Hoi An Resort does tours and multi-day adventures with classic Ural Russian sidecar motorcycles. A 60-minute roll through the countryside is 848,000 dong, while a two-hour early morning trip to the photogenic fish market is 1,200,000 dong. A day trip along Hai Van Pass is 2,500,000 dong.
Heaven and Earth Tours: 57 Ngo Quyen St, Hoi An; T: (0510) 3864 362; www.vietnam-bicycle.com; email@example.com.
Hoi An Free Tour: 591 Hai Ba Trung St, Hoi An; T: (0961) 278 730; www.hoianfreetour.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phat Tire Ventures: 62 Ba Trieu St, Hoi An; T: (0510) 6539 839; www.ptv-vietnam.com; email@example.com.
Sleepy Gecko: To 5 Thon Xuyen Trung, Cam Nam, Hoi An; T: (0908) 426 349; www.facebook.com/sleepygeckobiketours.
Vespa Adventures: 134 Tran Cao Van, Hoi An; T: (012) 2299 3585; (093) 850 0997; vespaadventures.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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