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Bikes and beaches

Yesterday it was planes, trains and automobiles. Today it was bicycles.

I would like to say that I slept in, but Alex awoke far too early for that. When B eventually woke we had a Western/Vietnamese buffet breakfast at the hotel. Then we decided to do something we haven't done in a decade or more; ride a bike.

Alex wasn't forgotten as the free hotel bikes have rear seats suitable for his age or older. No helmets, no gears, though I doubt that these bikes were capable of excessive speed or need to climb in this environment.
Whilst the centre of Hoi An's old town is motorised vehicle free the surrounding streets have plenty of scooters and the odd truck or taxi. And the drive on the opposite side of the road to Australia.

That said, the drivers around here tend not to speed and are pretty forgiving of other traffic. The use their horns frequently to warn other vehicles that they want to overtake.

We started with a ride back around the old town before setting off on real roads towards the beach, four kilometres away, breathing in the fumes of the other traffic. It was okay while we were at speed, but once stopped the humidity really hit. Eventually we left the built up area and entered a bucolic river scene where fishermen in tiny wooden boats punted silently along the brown river. Buffaloes snoozed in the rice paddy fields, their muscular service unrequired this day.

One final push up a small hill and over a narrow bridge, then we entered the beach area. We were told (whether this is true or just a money making venture) to leave the bikes for a fee in a bike/scooter parking lot and walk to the beach.

The palm lined beach was pleasant but unspectacular. While Alex collected shells we sat and rested after our ride. One older lady tout struck up a conversation with us and we eventually bought some small fridge magnets. B and Alex fought over fresh coconut juice while I watched stupid Europeans swim in a no swimming area.

B decided to buy some clothes from one of the shops. They agreed to deliver the altered clothes to our hotel that night. Then it was time to reverse our trip and return the bikes to the hotel.

The return journey seemed to pass a lot faster, but we were absolutely knackered by the time we got back to the hotel. 

We had lunch opposite the hotel at the White Lotus restaurant, which supports the Project Indochina charity. The banh xeo pancakes differed from the Sydney versions in being wrapped in rice paper, but I can't say I particularly enjoyed eating the thick paper.

Late in the afternoon, after a nap, we thought we'd see some of the tourist sites. Along the way it rained a little, but that quickly passed. We only managed a couple of sites. The dark interior architecture of the Tran Family Chapel was an interesting blend of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese influences, but the guide was more interested in getting us to buy things. There were no guides at the Japanese Covered Bridge, but the crowds took away much of the atmosphere. The Cantonese Assembly Hall was full of garish decoration, but B was a bit freaked out by the funeral proceedings to one side.

Nevertheless it was fun to walk the length of the old town. We bought a floating candle lantern for Alex but it refused to sail out into the river proper. We had to hurry back to collect the clothes delivered from the beach, but they came a bit early and we missed them. Then we returned to the old town for dinner.

Vietnam manufactures many of the backpacks available in the rest of the world, but they are almost of branded "North Face" here and there's not much choice or quality.

We ate another wonderful dinner by the river, with Alex loving the egg on pancakes.

As we walked back in the lantern lit darkness we stopped for scoops of ice cream, including the delicious lemongrass flavour. The markets were closing and it was time to get some rest before tomorrow's early flights. Unfortunately, the internet refused to work in the hotel, so I couldn't check in online.

Sad to be leaving Hoi An. With its blend of so many cultures, a relaxed feel and great food it was a wonderful introduction to Vietnam.


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