So your second tailor fitting isn’t until tomorrow, you can’t face another day of the Old Town crowds…and the sun has just come out! “What to do today, Hoi An Now?!” I hear you cry…
Well, grab your bike and pack your trunks because we’re off cycling to An Bang beach. With a slight detour to Hoi An’s most pleasant village thrown in for good health. Get ready you are about to meet the farmers!
Stop 1: Duck Farm
To get our cycle to An Bang Beach going, set off out of town along Cua Dai and when you see Dingo Deli take the next left. Pedal for a few moments and the houses will soon begin to fade away – leaving you riding along one of the narrow raised farmers’ lanes with fields spread all around you.
At the crossroads ahead is your first stop of the morning, a charming duck farm. You’d be absolutely quackers not to park the bike for a moment and snap a few pics. If you’re lucky you may even catch the duck shepherd herding his feathery flock from pond to pond. Now hop back on that bike and continue on north.
Stop 2: Tra Que Village
Ever ponder where those delicious leafy herbs that accompany your evening meal come from? Well, wonder no more. Tra Que, known locally as the ‘Vegetable Village’, is the likely source of much of that lovely green nutrition you’ll chow down when in town. And lucky you as it’s your next destination.
Located on an island surrounded on all sides by the Đế Võng river, Tra Que is about as pleasant a place as you’ll come across. Farmed by generation upon generation of the same few hundred farming families, you’ll be greeted by the sight of conical hats bobbing busily over neat green rows of the freshest produce. If it wasn’t for the odour of nearby water buffalo, you’d almost think you’d wandered into a farm-themed amusement park. Visit another time for the great Organic Farm Cooking Class.
Those with green fingers will tell you what makes Tra Que special is the rejection of chemical fertilizers; all the plants in front of you are grown using a type of seaweed found only in the pools around the island. Arrive early enough and you may see farmers waste deep in the waters collecting their precious resource.
Dotted with numerous homestays and boasting an array of cooking schools and spas, Tra Que village is not exactly ‘pure’ countryside like you’ll find in say, Cam Kim, but it’s a pleasant miniaturised version of the real countryside. Did I mention how pleasant it is?
Tip: As you cycle Tra Que’s narrow lanes on the Eastern side of the island, keep your eyes peeled for an impossibly old farming couple tending to their herbs (or more likely posing for photos); chances are you’ll recognise their crinkly faces from postcards around town. The pair, Mr. Le Van So and Ms. Nguyen Thi Loi, are both creeping toward their century and have been married almost seven decades now. After a lifetime together farming, the twosome are enjoying a second life as possibly the most-photographed old couple in Vietnam (if not the world).
Stop 3: The Beach
Once you’ve had your fill traversing Tra Que’s labyrinth of little lanes it is time to finish your short tour with a bang – An Bang, if you will. Wave goodbye to the smiling farmers and head north from the Vegetable Village over a bridge. An Bang is just the other side of a busy highway crossing (triple-check before attempting this; traffic lights in Vietnam just dictate who gets to honk their horn loudest, not who actually stops.)
A minute or so more and you’ll enter An Bang; now the premier beach destination in Hoi An, thanks to nearby Cua Dai’s erosion issues. An Bang is not only home to the softest – yet ironically, more durable – sand, it also houses some of Hoi An’s best eateries and live music venues, check out our quick guide here. Park up, feel the sand between your toes and enjoy the water. Your worries for the day are done.
Tip: If An Bang is a little busy for you, hop back on your two-wheeled wonder and head 10 mins south. Look out for signs for Hidden Beach. Whilst effectively still An Bang beach, this stretch of shoreline is decidedly less populated whilst still boasting a handsome choice of amenities.
The Return Leg:
After cycling to An Bang Beach the return route is completely up to you. The quickest way back to town is all the way back along Ha Bai Trung but the more fun way is to head back to Tra Que and pick an alternative route back through the fields. Which one you ask? Well, any of them. They are all worth it.
I know it’s hard when you’re at the beach and handed a cocktail menu, but please don’t drink and cycle. Just don’t. No one likes waking up in a ditch next to a water buffalo!