Our second day in Hoi An was a lot of fun. We spent the morning on a countryside bicycle tour and the afternoon doing some more exploring, including a visit to the beach.
Cycling on Cam Kim Island
We joined a half day cycle tour with Hoi An Cycling and coincidentally were accompanied by a group of travellers on an Intrepid tour. They were on a route going north to south in Vietnam, followed by Cambodia, so are basically heading in the opposite direction as us. Apparently they had a great time in Hanoi, so that bodes well for the next leg of our trip.
The group met up at the Hoi An Cycling shop in the early morning, where we were fitted for our bikes.
Then we headed off to the riverside dock where we would board a ferry for a short ride across the water to Cam Kim Island. Our brief ride through the main streets of central Hoi An were the sketchiest part of the tour. Although the traffic here is a million times less hectic than in Ho Chi Minh City, the number of motorbikes on the streets is not insignificant and you do still need to stay sharp when navigating intersections. However, we have noticed that motorists in Vietnam are not actually aggressive; you simply have to figure out their natural flow of traffic and go with it. I have witnessed considerably worse road rage as a pedestrian on the streets of Toronto!
Cam Kim Island is located just across from Hoi An centre, on the other side of Thu Bon River. Automobiles are prohibited from crossing onto the island, so the roads and paths are relatively quiet. Lined with rice fields and a few local homes, it was an ideal setting for an easy, leisurely bike ride. Riding along the paths brought back memories of my cycle tour on Ukerewe Island in Tanzania, with little kids running out of their houses yelling “Hello!”, tickled by the sight of a bunch of funny looking foreigners passing them by.
The tour included a few stops along the 15 kilometre route. First was a visit to a rice wine maker. This was at the home of a man named Mr. Dau, who has built a rice wine production facility behind his home. He has a sad but inspiring story, from overcoming the devastating effects of a severe land mine injury while fighting in the Vietnam-Cambodia War, to rebuilding his life and developing a productive business upon his return home to Hoi An. He also taught himself how to play guitar and performed a lovely piece for us.
Our next visit was to a family that produces colourful straw sleeping mats. According to our guide, this is becoming a lost art and will likely disappear within the next generation. The mats take a lot of work to prepare and bring in minimal income, so the young people of this region are understandably seeking out better opportunities in urban settings rather than carrying on their family handicrafts.
The final stop was for lunch, where we tried to make our own rice noodles. We enjoyed our final product in a bowl of My Quang, a traditional noodle dish of central Vietnam.
An afternoon at An Bang Beach
After surviving our ride back into town, we said goodbye to our cycling mates and headed back to our hotel. We arranged for a ride to An Bang Beach, where we thought we could enjoy the afternoon.
An Bang is one of the better preserved beaches near Hoi An and is a perfect place for lounging and swimming, when the weather is right. It was very windy and overcast on the day of our visit, so there was none of that for us. It was still nice to walk along the sand and watch the ocean waves crash wildly, but we didn’t stay too long and quickly caught a ride back to our hotel once we’d had enough.
A couple other interesting sights
The rest of our day was quiet. For dinner, we ended up returning to a few of the spots we had visited yesterday as part of our food tour, including Banh Mi Phuong. The banh mi tasted even better the second time around!
We also wandered around a bit more of Old Town in the evening. I spotted a street food vendor with the tiniest stools we have seen so far. The Vietnamese people sure have strong quads.
Along our walk, we passed by a large Asian tour group and noticed several of the guests wearing stickers like this.
It must be tough to ‘look Chinese’ as a tourist these days. Even in Toronto, we have had several incidents of overt discrimination against the Chinese community and Chinese-owned businesses everywhere are really taking a hit. As an Asian person myself, I have been fortunate not to have encountered much trouble yet but the current climate does occasionally put me on edge, wondering if or when I will get that nasty glare or comment. Sometimes the world can be a terrible place, but I’m lucky to be having a good time for now.