Ever had the feeling that you’re not alone? No, we aren’t talking about ghosts. We’re talking about that sinking sensation you get as a tourist when your hidden ‘happy place’ is suddenly overrun by a selfie stick-wielding horde.
This happens in every big tourist destination in the world. However, one of the things we love most about Hoi An is how easily you can hop on your bike, put flipflop to pedal and discover a genuinely unique experience. Below, we lead you on a self-guided bike tour of some of the Cua Dai peninsula’s hidden gems.
Welcome to our Alternative Hoi An Cycle Tour, also known as The Abandoned Development Loop.
Stage A: Cua Dai Market
While Cua Dai itself may be home to some of Hoi An’s fanciest resorts, it’s also ironically home to one of its friendliest – and least visited – wet markets. The fact that it’s finished by 11am may be the reason it remains so unspoiled; those poolside sundowners tend to make tourists in the area favor a long lie the following morning.
Good news for early birds.
So, make this your first stop on your Alternative Hoi An Cycle Tour, get to the market early, meet some truly entertaining locals and stock up on provisions for the ride ahead. Banana power!
Stage B: Abandoned Hotel
As you’re leaving the market, be sure to make a blessing to the smiling Bodhi Tree for a safe journey before heading to the seafront. Hang a right at the towering palm trees, continue along Au Co and get your pedal on. The next ten minutes take you past some of Hoi An’s swankiest digs. All worthy of a refreshment stop but not today – today we aren’t looking for luxury.
Things start to get really interesting on the Alternative Hoi An Cycle Tour once you pass the white-washed wonder of the Sunrise Hotel. After a little bit of scrub land you’ll be met by a new sight – a building site, in fact. The ruins of an intended five-star hotel and villa development where – as rumor has it – the developers ran out of money leaving the site to slip into severe coastal erosion before it ever saw its first guest.
With a little stealth and a little luck, you can slip past the formidable security measures (a fallen-down fence and sleeping security guard) and get a glimpse of a forlorn, opulent world that, like its neighboring beach, is slowly slipping and disappearing in to the ocean.
Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come. Coastal erosion has seen vast stretches of Cua Dai’s once glorious beach returned to the sea, giving many a hotel owner on its peninsula a headache (and worryingly soggy feet). Waterbeds may soon be a necessity rather than a choice. I guess hotels made on sand fall into the sea…eventually.
Stage C: The Lighthouse
Once you’ve had your fix of exploring the post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque surroundings of the Abandoned Hotel (or been run out by the now-awake guard), jump back on your trusty two-wheeled steed and carry on trundling along what remains of the Cua Dai peninsula. Keeping straight and true will eventually lead you to its pretty little lighthouse.
Here you have a number of options. One being vertical – for just a dollar you can climb the lighthouse’s spiraling stairs for a view over the bay. Another is sea-borne, jumping on a ferry to Cham Islands or across the bay to Duy Hai. But as this is the Alternative Hoi An Cycle Tour, we are obviously going to take option three – heading back along Au Co for a few hundred meters before taking a left and venturing into the Phuoc Hai Fishing Village.
Stage D: Phuoc Hai Fishing Village
With so many tour buses so close by, it boggles the mind how little Phuoc Hai village isn’t overrun with cooking courses, tailors or tours. But for whatever reason, the village remains (thankfully) very local in flavor; home to many fisherman returning with the overnight catch.
There isn’t much in the way of traditional sights on this stretch of the Alternative Hoi An Cycle Tour but it’s a joy to pedal through, sharing hellos and waves with fishermen off-loading their morning’s haul. And, should your stomach be saying hello too, there’s a good selection of roadside food stalls and coffee shops to replenish those expended calories.
Stage E: The Wasteland, or Wheelie Wonderland
Keep spinning through Phuoc Hai village and just before you rejoin Co Au swing a left instead; in front of you will be a flat stretch of scrub land, crisscrossed for a kilometer or more by a network of empty roads. This is yet another failed development – this time it never even broke ground – gradually being reclaimed by creeping flowers.
Apart from the odd fisherman drying his catch on the unused tarmac, and the even odder sight of a water buffalo standing on the pavement as if waiting for a bovine bus, you’ll be completely alone. A perfect space for you to test out the limits of your rental bike to race your friends, practice your no-handers or pop a few wheelies.
Stage F: The Home Stretch
Rejoining Co Au, retrace your pedals past the now-empty Cua Dai market. The Abandoned Development tour officially ends here but we recommend treating yourself either to a lovely meal at the Riverfront or getting some of that lactic build-up professionally relieved by the expert masseuses at Ginger Spa. Or hell, why not do both?! You’ve earned it.
Many thanks to Sue Davis for this great concept.