It has been a while since we were last on a bicycle during this trip. Ruth reminded me that it was back in Cornwall and it was not that long ago , “remember, you fell off and nearly broke your arm and I was ready to finish you off because you made me ride up all of those hills”.

Hoi An is latern town, they adorn most buildings and whether day or night the array of colours is dazling.
Hoi An is lantern town, they adorn most buildings and whether day or night the array of colours is dazzling.

However, time not only heals the physical wounds but also the mental scars. She didn’t throw anything at me when I mentioned the “b” word and actually was very calm when I said that we had a day bike tour organised for our stay in Hoi An. A lot of shopping also helps to soften up opposition to a little bike ride.

To help ease us back into biking mode I suggested to Ruth a little “warm up” ride for the day before. The homestay had complimentary bikes, the terrain was flat and there was no more room in the bag for any more gifts, so all possible excuses were covered. Time to hit the road.

The homestay bikes were simple affairs, no gears and minimal brakes. With flat roads, the only issue we really faced was avoiding the other bicycle and motorcycle traffic.

So we headed off on a (thankfully) partly cloudy day, aimed for the coast as a starting point and before long we were sitting in our loungers sipping passion fruit juice and looking longingly at the South China Sea (we did not think to pack our swimwear). A few dark(ish) clouds arrived on the horizon so we thought we should head back. I had read about a more scenic route which took you off the beaten track so we duly found the lane and took a route back through water coconut plantations. The warm up ride was deemed a great success and we were pumped for the big ride the next day (the rain never did arrive).

Our warm up cycle took us out to An Bang beach, a pretty ride out and we found a road less travelled coming back which took us through water coconut plantations.
Our warm up cycle took us out to An Bang beach, a pretty ride out and we found a road less traveled coming back which took us through water coconut plantations.

Contrary to the climate data for Hoi An, October has not turned out to be their wettest month, in fact we have not seen any rain and the day of the ride dawned cloudless. By the time we had walked the 50 meters to our meeting place, the temperature was nudging 30c, but the heat should not be a problem because of the self made breeze when you bike. The guides confirmed that heat would not be an issue when they appeared decked out in sweatshirts, long pants and gloves (must be cold out on the Thu Bon River Delta).

Our guides Moon and Mia, they were dressed for winter even though the temperatures with around 33c. We permanently looked as though we had just been hit by a heavy shower of rain, despite several layers of clothing, they didn't.
Our guides Moon and Mia, were dressed for winter even though the temperatures were around 33c. We permanently looked as though we had just been hit by a heavy shower of rain, but despite their several layers of clothing, they didn’t.

By the time we got to out first boat transfer 30c was a cool and distant memory, however, we got that breeze as the old wooden boat pushed us slowly along the river. An hour later we (four of us plus two guides) were underway on our bikes. The surfaces ranged from concrete paths through to single tire tracks along the riverside or through rice paddies. We were in the heart of rural Vietnam, no cars to be seen, just people going about their everyday life.

Our cycling took us along little more than tyre track through rice paddies, fields and along side the river. We passed through many hamlets and locals working in the fields.
Our cycling took us along little more than tire track through rice paddies, fields and along side the river. We passed through many hamlets and locals working in the fields.

Being in a delta meant that we had to “island hop”. This entailed journeys across some interesting bridges and where a bridge was not available, a local would appear along with a boat, each of varying sizes. Forget seats, parking yourself somewhere in the boat and keeping still was the prescription for remaining dry. It was a biking experience like no other we have experienced.

Crossing the river by canoe did not seem so bad when it came time to ride over this bamboo bridge. Ruth wisely decided to walk but did fear that she was going to fall through in a couple of places. I did not attempt ti fiddle with the camera while riding over.
Crossing the river by canoe did not seem so bad when it came time to ride over this bamboo bridge. Ruth wisely decided to walk but did fear that she was going to fall through in a couple of places. I did not attempt to fiddle with the camera while riding over.
We had to traverse some interesting bridges, this was a floating bridge. Shortly after we crossed, the bike with the basket on the back followed us across, it took a steadying hand from behind to help the driver get the bike off the bridge. His cargo was a live pig in the basket.
We had to traverse some interesting bridges, this was a floating bridge. Shortly after we crossed, the bike with the basket on the back followed us across, it took a steadying hand from behind to help the driver get the bike off the bridge. His cargo was a live pig in the basket.
We were biking on islands in the river delta so several interesting boat trips were required to get us across varying expanses of water
We were biking on islands in the river delta so several interesting boat trips were required to get us across expanses of water of varying distances.

Unfortunately the self made breeze tended to disappear when we stopped peddling. Our second stop was to watch a family making rice noodles. Now this takes place in their home, it involves a fire and a lot of heat and the homes are not very big. When the self made breeze is removed and replaced by a man made wall of additional heat, the result is like self-made rain. So we watched the noodles being made through the heavy self made rain pouring off our brows (and everywhere else) and this was to pretty much set the tone for the day. Pleasant while moving but as soon as you stopped your personal rain shower caught up with you.

We enjoyed lunch at a local house, watched the dying hand crafts of making sleeping mats, crafting inlaid mother of pearl furniture and ornaments, making rice paper and we also got to take a basket boat for a spin with our tutor in tow to ensure that we did not drift off out into the South China Sea - Ruth proved to be a natural and now wants one for Christmas.
We enjoyed lunch at a local house, watched the dying hand crafts of; making sleeping mats, crafting inlaid mother of pearl furniture and ornaments, making rice noodles and we also got to take a basket boat for a spin with our tutor in tow to ensure that we did not drift off out into the South China Sea – Ruth proved to be a natural and now wants one for Christmas.

When we first set off we thought that the large water containers provided to each of us was a bit of overkill, by halfway though the trip I was resorting to supplementing my liquid intake with cold beer.

We had to make way for this mobile haystack, there was a bike with two people attached to the hay.
We had to make way for this mobile haystack, there was a bike with two people attached to the hay.

We also saw traditional boat building, the large wooden variety and the smaller basket boat variety. They showed us how the basket is weaved, stitched together and made water proof with a secret ingredient. They then showed us the paddle action required to power these unusual boats along. The bit where we all started to pay attention (unfortunately too late) was when it was mentioned that we were now heading down to the river to show what we had learned. A lady (we found out she was 63) with a rather wicked sense of humour appeared, escorted us to the river, gave us a dazzling demonstration of her basket boat skills (the spinning top move drew loud applause) and then we each proceeded to learn how hard it was to move the boat in the desired direction. Ruth was the star, maybe it is her small stature, but she was whizzing around the river like a true basket boat pro. It was mentioned that maybe it was a hint as to what to get her for Christmas.

This 63 year old lady gave us a demonstration on the art of skippering a basket boat including how you can make them spin like a top. She of course made it look easy which we were later to find out was not the case.
This 63 year old lady gave us a demonstration on the art of skippering a basket boat including how you can make them spin like a top. She of course made it look easy which we were later to find out was not the case.

Hoi An has been a very different destination, much more serene than the others we have visited to date. The train ride from Hue was along some very spectacular coastline sandwiched between mountains and sea and through dense jungle.

The town is adorned with lanterns which day or night add a lot of colour to what is already a colourful scene. We managed to fluke being in town for the monthly Full Moon Festival when the river is covered with floating lanterns (each with a candle). Very colourful. We are staying on An Hoi Island so not only is it a very short walk into town, at night it takes us through the night market and over the brightly lit bridge where visitors can launch their lantern into the water. There are many many lantern sellers, in fact no matter where you are there is always many hawkers no far behind you. We even had one come along side Ruth while we were biking along a reasonably deserted road trying to sell her a “spa”.

There is always plenty of colour, day or night. We were interested to see that, like Greece and Turkey, the boats had eyes. In Greece and Turkey it was to help the boat
There is always plenty of colour, day or night. We were interested to see that, like Greece and Turkey, the boats had eyes. In Greece and Turkey it was to help the boat “see”. When we asked why Vietnamese boats had eyes we were told there were many stories, in the Mekong it was to scare crocodiles away, here it was to scare the monsters under the water.

Most importantly, Ruth has given Hoi An the “shoppers seal of excellence” award. Foolishly, we went down to the Post Office in Hue and endured another marathon parcel sending experience (four sets of forms) which opened enough “free” space to let Ruth loose on one final fling. No more parcels home and I think the bags will once again be full. Looks like more biking may be in store.

We caught the ferry back to Hoi An from the last Island in our ride. It was peak our and each of the ferries headed to the island were packed with motor and push bikes. The motor cyclists added a new dimesion to the
We caught the ferry back to Hoi An from the last Island on our ride. It was peak hour and each of the ferries headed to the island were packed with motor and push bike commuters. The motor cyclists added a new dimension to the “roll on roll off” ferry concept, as the boat pulls up they just ride their bike off the jetty straight onto the bow of the boat.

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