Cycling Tour & Riding a Basket Boat in Hoi An, Vietnam
The Vietnamese love their two-wheelers, be it the ones with engines or the pedal-powered ones.
There are literally millions of bicycles on the roads of Vietnam, and this can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that Vietnamese drivers are used to having bikes around them on the road, therefore are generally more considerate towards cyclists. The bad thing is, for people who are not used to riding bicycles on busy roads, it can be nerve-wracking.
If you’re one of those people, yet would still like to experience the country on two wheels, I recommend taking a tour. You will be spoiled for choice. Every hotel/hostel is littered with brochures advertising cycling tours, from short excursions to multi-day cross-country expeditions. Most are combined with other activities, such as visits to farms or boat rides.
When I was in Hoi An, I chose Heaven & Earth Traditional Countryside Bike Tour because:
- They were the only one that offered an afternoon tour to the countryside. I am so not a morning person.
- The price was the most suitable for my budget.
- It included the basket boat experience
Heaven & Earth Tours was founded by Pascal (a French expat) and his Vietnamese wife, Thu. It was born out of a simple idea: to offer a variety of bike tours to hidden places in and around Hoi An, away from the well-trodden paths.
Ranging from 9 km – 50 km, the bike tours take you to the countryside areas in Hoi An where the inhabitants are often poor and tourism is pretty much non-existent.
By organizing these tours, Heaven & Earth has been able to develop activities, partnerships, and provide regular income to the families in need. Since their first year of operation in 2010, the company has donated more than USD15,000 to the people who live in the areas where the tours take place.
What to Expect on a Cycling Tour in Hoi An
This tour is easy, and even suitable for families with kids. You will cycle on small, mostly flat paths with very few cars. The only time I had to get off and push my bike was on an old wooden bridge that took us across a river. Some of the other participants continued cycling on it, but I simply didn’t trust my skill on the rickety structure.
9 km (5.5 miles). To those of you who are not used to cycling, this might sound like a lot, but you won’t actually feel it, as you will be making several stops along the way.
USD 19 for adults / USD 15 for children (6 – 12 years old). Children below 6 years old can join for free as passengers. The price does not include drinks or insurance.
Things to Bring
- Sunscreen lotion
- Hat or cap
- Cash for food/drinks/souvenirs
- Windbreaker for the months of November – January
The tour begins at 1.00 pm at their office, close to the river. There, you will sign an indemnity form, get your helmet, and listen to a quick briefing. If there are many of you, you’ll be divided into groups.
From the office, you will walk a short distance to the river, where a ferry will be waiting. The ferry will take you on an hour-long ride on the Thu Bon river to arrive at Duy Vinh island.
You will then start to cycle around the island, making a few pit stops along the way. There will be two guides in each group — one will lead the way, while the other will bring up the rear to ensure that stragglers (like me) won’t get lost.
In the course of the tour, you will learn how a traditional basket boat is made, how to weave straw sleeping mats, and how to produce rice wine from scratch (you’ll get to try some!). The rice wine factory also hosts a family of pigs.
After that, you will go to a river where you’ll get to try your hand at rowing the round-shaped basket boat. It’s harder than you think! A normal boat has an aerodynamic shape that makes it easier to move forward or backward. But with a hemispherical boat, it’s not quite as simple.
Anyway, you don’t have to worry — a very feisty (and flirty) old lady will guide you through the process.
Your last stop will be a local cafe/grocery store where you will take a break while sampling some local snacks. After that, you will be taken back on a boat to the starting point. The tour ends at around 6:00 pm.
Additional Info on Hoi An Cycling Tour
- The tour is available every day, all year round.
- Maximum 10 pax per group (unless otherwise requested).
- Helmets are available upon request.
- You can choose between a city bike and a hybrid bike.
- Children’s bicycles are available for 6 years old and older.
- Tandem bicycles and bicycles with child carriers are available upon request.
- The tour is also available in French (please indicate your preference when making your reservation)
- The fee does not include insurance. Although cycling is a low-risk activity, accidents can happen anytime and to anyone. Make sure you’re insured and that your insurance covers activities like cycling. World Nomads offers one of the most comprehensive travel insurance policies out there.
Final Thoughts on Hoi An Cycling Tour
Indeed, the best way to see Vietnam is on two wheels. And this tour was the perfect introduction to that. Although I’m not that great on a bicycle, I felt very comfortable throughout the tour because there was almost no traffic at all except for the occasional motorbikes.
The side activities were great, but the highlight to me was the exquisite landscape of rice fields that we passed through. It was truly an authentic Vietnamese experience.