A countryside bike ride is one of the best way to explore rural Vietnam. Dusty roads lead to clusters of houses set against a backdrop of green fields and blue skies. Roosters strut past dozing buffalo, young children play beside their mothers as they hang their washing in the midday sun and families sit together, chattering and laughing over food. It’s easier to see and take in the everyday life of those living in Vietnam’s rural countryside when travelling by bicycle.
During our time in Hoi An we went on a countryside bicycle tour with Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours, which took us on a 9km bike ride around the islands surrounding Hoi An.
We started our day by taking a short boat ride before visiting a family who create beautiful pieces of artwork from the inside of shells. These shells are cut in various shapes, then stuck onto carved wood, creating a base. The shells are then engraved and marked before being sealed, creating intricate pieces of artwork that are truly mesmerising.
We then continued on our bike ride, taking in the beautiful Vietnamese countryside before arriving at our next stop, which was to a family who weave basket boats. We learnt about the process of making each boat and were then taken down to the river to test the boat out for ourselves. The lady who took us out on the river made it look so easy, but it was actually incredibly difficult to make the basket boat go in the right direction and neither myself of Mr. C did particularly well. It was good fun trying though, even if we did spend most of our time going in the wrong direction.
We then continued on to meet a man who made rice wine, where we learnt about the process and had the option to try some. It was both fascinating and a little saddening to learn about the process, which included feeding pigs fermented rice causing them to be drunk for a majority of their lives. The waste of the pigs is stored, the methane extracted from the waste and then reused to heat the pots and pans to cook the rice in the early stages of the process. While I found the whole ‘zero waste’ intriguing, the idea of pigs being drunk all the time didn’t sit well with me.
Our next stop was to a family who weave sleeping mats on a traditional loom, using dyed grasses. It was such an amazing process to witness and we were even offered a turn on the loom. Bear wanted to have a try, so I helped Bear with pulling the block of wood down the loom, which was an amazing experience to share together.
Our final stop on the tour was lunch with a local family. Before we sat down to lunch we washed our hands using the traditional method of filling water from a jug using a coconut. The boys loved filling up the bowl and washing their hands, which made the whole process of washing up before lunch much easier. It was such a calming environment, that was very welcoming for families. When we arrived, we noticed a baby sleeping in a hammock, while other family members bustled around preparing lunch, cleaning and chatting. It all felt very homely and was wonderful being in that environment.
At the end of our tour, we took a short walk down to the river and boarded a boat that took us back to Hoi An. The route back was slightly different to the one there and was very scenic. The route took us alongside the fishing areas, where we were told about the way people in this region catch fish and the style of net they use.
We all had a wonderful morning exploring Vietnam’s beautiful countryside by bike with Heaven and Earth Tours. Our guide was very insightful into the traditional ways of rural Vietnam and told us a lot about the changes in Vietnam and the amazing developments happening around the country both in terms of social and economic change, which gave us a deeper understanding of Vietnam. If you are looking to get away from the tourist centre while in Hoi An, a countryside bike tour is a great way to spend a morning to afternoon.