HOI AN SIDECAR TOURS: HOI AN HIGHLIGHTS
It’s difficult to think of a better introduction for newcomers to this fascinating town than Hoi An Sidecar Tours: Hoi An Highlights. In just over an hour this tour provides intriguing snapshots of local sights and sounds. Riding in a retro-soviet-style Ural sidecar is a nifty bonus where you can just relax and soak it all in or, with both hands free, record your journey photographically or on video.
Hoi An is blessed because traditional rice farming and other rural activity is interspersed with its built environment within a stone’s throw of its center. The rice paddies themselves are crisscrossed with cement paths and Hoi An Sidecar Tours takes full advantage providing in very quick time an extraordinarily diverse experience that wanders through several distinct environments before returning you to your starting point (usually your hotel).
The Rice Paddies
No matter where your journey begins you’ll soon find yourself rolling across the sizable rice paddy that stretches between Cua Dai Road and Hai Ba Trung Street. What you encounter will depend on the season. For us it was post-harvest: most of the hay had been collected, some of the fields had been flooded while others were being tilled using water buffalo, the odd tractor and rudimentary hoes in preparation for the next planting. Late afternoon means plenty of activity and often we had to clear the way along the narrow levee paths so the Urals could squeeze through.
The flooded areas attracted small groups of young men with fishing poles and one cheerful character, flushed ruddy with rice wine, proudly held a wriggling, one-and-a-half-meter viper aloft in his right hand while unsteadily piloting his Honda Cub with his left: dinner solved.
Tra Que, Water Buffalo Ride and Lotus Field
Suddenly the military-precise rows of Tra Que, Hoi An’s chief source of herbs and vegetables, were upon us with many cultivators hard at it late afternoon. Much to the delight of the kids a water buffalo ride followed … did you know these good-natured animals make sounds that resemble a duck quacking? Ours plodded along at a very sedate pace but she could actually hit 30km/hr if a tiger was on her tail!
Two large ponds of massed lotus, one of which showcased an extraordinary jumbo variety we’d never seen before, provided an idyllic backdrop for a smoko while in the other direction a vista back across the rice fields to the horizon delivered a mind-blowing sense of space only 3 kilometers from the city center.
Market Life, Thu Bon River and Old Town
Bustling markets and villages flashed by until abruptly, Hoi An’s Thu Bon River proper was in front of us – a barrier – and we trundled along its northern bank taking in barges and boats that were often submerged right up to their gunwales, laden with produce and mysterious cargo to the max. Finally, we drifted by the Old Town’s beautifully preserved hundreds-of-years-old buildings – now host to restaurants, cafes, and chic boutiques. Traffic was thick here and there was a sense of anticipation as afternoon turned to evening and the crowds began to build.
It was astonishing what had been achieved in just over an hour. The kids found the sidecars a great novelty and ‘much more relaxing than being on the back of Dad’s bike’ (so much so the little one nodded off towards the end). The Buffalo ride was a hit and although we’ve lived in Hoi An for four years we never tired of any of it. We still think that exploring the rice fields is one of the coolest things Hoi An has to offer – you just never know what might turn up – and the low-to-the-ground Ural gives you the best possible opportunity to soak it all in.
For newcomers this affordable series of snapshots of Hoi An life cannot be recommended too highly. If your visit is brief this is just the ticket but if you’re staying for a while this relaxed, fascinating introduction may well help you best fashion your stay with a little first-hand experience behind you.
And for those who want more than just an hour or so, Hoi An Sidecar Tours also offers two half day tours peppered with local culture – Wheels and Waterwheels (mornings) and Village Experience (afternoons). See website details below.