GRASSHOPPER ADVENTURES: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK BY BICYCLE
True to its name, biking with Grasshopper Adventures is a genuine adventure.
After a warm welcome of hot tea and fresh water I was joined by a couple and their young son who were gushing about the other Grasshopper Adventures they had been on: ‘This is our third! We love them!’
Our guide, Tien, made sure everyone felt prepared for the ride, giving us a full rundown of the gears and brakes on the brand new mountain bikes that had been customized for each participant. She was especially attentive to the little one in our group and made sure he felt comfortable and knew what kind of terrain we’d be on.
Once ready, we headed out on a path less-traveled by tourists. Clearing the streets of Old Town, we crossed a commuter bridge stretching over the glassy Thu Bon River. Motorbikes laden with goods for local markets whizzed past and, as we meandered along the dirt roads of a quiet hamlet, ‘Hi’s and ‘Hello’s drifted out from the houses.
Tien motioned for us to stop next to a field where she showed us the flowers she played with growing up, and identified the crops being harvested by the local farmers chatting and working around us.
At a backwater market we were invited to try anything and everything from bunches of rambutan to the specialty mung bean rice cakes made for Vietnamese New Year. Later, on another back road, a bashful baby calf waltzed right up to our bikes and, around a corner, the next bridge was packed with a crowd cheering on a dragon boat race. The fans happily helped us make our way across. My only obstacle was a woman transporting a box of baby piglets on a motorbike and, as I waited for her to pass, I asked myself if I had ever been on a ‘tourist’ tour quite like this one.
The biking portion of the tour ended with a relaxing break for fruit, water, and baguettes. Then it was off to the ruins of My Son. There, Tien transformed from responsible and attentive guide to incredibly knowledgeable guru. Steeped in the symbolism of this mysterious and impressive Champa Hindu site she brought to life a lost civilization that peaked over a millennium ago.
A smooth, air-conditioned bus transfer took us back to Grasshopper Adventures and the tour was over in a blink.
From start to finish every detail had been taken care of so, as each of the unexpected delights of the tour emerged, we were able to appreciate them fully. And genuine delights just kept on coming in a way that’s rare on the tourist trail. Grasshopper Adventures took us where tourists don’t normally go and showed us snapshots of Vietnamese life without touts or trinkets. My only regret was that I hadn’t opted to go on all their tours in Hoi An.