Cycling in Hoi An, Vietnam: Beaches, Rice Fields and Rural Life
2016 was a quieter year of travel for me. I spent close to half of it in Vietnam, working hard on becoming a professional travel blogger and living cheap in Hoi An. I came to love this historic city and its laid-back countryside surrounds. On a few occasions I rented a bike, grabbed a map and explored the rice fields, small rural communities and beaches outside of Hoi An. If you’re visiting this part of the country it’s a great way to spend a few hours — here’s a quick guide so you can do it yourself without a tour.
Cycling through the countryside
You can hire a bike for the day for the princely sum of 20,000 VND, which is just under a dollar in American money. They’re your typical Southeast Asian bicycles — gearless and rusting, which is fine for the flat roads in and around Hoi An. The first couple of kilometres in either direction is small scale urban sprawl. I was staying just off Hai Bai Tran, one of the main roads in Hoi An, and my usual route started on that road, which runs all the way to An Bang Beach. This road cuts through the heart of the rice growing area outside of town but it’s best to get off the main road from time to time. When cycling this way you’ll come to a bridge — cross it and immediately turn left. This road / path takes you along the banks of the river, past small communities and quiet rural scenery. That little stretch was by far my favourite area to cycle through.
The parking women of An Bang Beach
As you approach this long expanse of sand by the South China Sea you’ll see, and hear, women imploring you to get off and park your bike. This is the end of the road. Actually it’s a few metres from the end of the road — you can take your bike only as far as the small security booth. I parked at the first little garage and was greeted by two ageing women who seemed to be in competition with each other. I chose one at random and agreed to pay her 5000 VND
(around 25 cents). She then turned away to greet another customer and the other woman asked me for the money. It seemed like she was trying to screw over her rival so I told her I’d wait and give the money to its rightful owner. She found it hilarious — it turned out they were actually partners.
We all had a good laugh about it and on the way back to fetch my bike I even pushed another couple of customers their way. Maybe I should have received some commission — 10% of 5000 VND wouldn’t have bought me much though. There’s also a shop where you can park for free if you buy a bottle of large, overpriced water, which is a good deal if you’re thirsty.
An Bang Beach
I was surprised at how good An Bang Beach looked — clear blue skies definitely helped in that regard though. The sand was clean, golden and fine, and while the water didn’t look all that inviting, I enjoyed the vibe of An Bang Beach. It’s easily the best of the beaches in Hoi An and is a great place to get a drink or some lunch and lounge about in the beach beds, which are free as long as you buy something.
Cau Dai Beach
This beach was disappointing. At first I couldn’t even find it, instead there was a big section of sea wall. Apparently a recent cyclone really messed this place up. I did eventually find the sand but it was average – if you’re looking for good beaches in Hoi An I’d stick with An Bang Beach, it’s so much better.
The ride home
The road back to downtown Hoi An from Cau Dai was a little more urban than the one leading to An Bang Beach. It makes sense to come back this way though, as it’s a nice ride, it’s a shorter route home and it’s always a good idea to avoid backtracking if you can.
The route I outlined above gives you a good introduction to rural life in Vietnam. You’ll see some great scenery, peek into the lives of the locals and get a bit of exercise. It does get hot though so it’s a good idea to do it early in the morning or in the late afternoon. There is so much more to do in Hoi An, check out my post below if you’re planning a trip there.
FURTHER READING: Things to do in Hoi An: The Ultimate, Best, Most Awesome Guide
Have you been to any of the beaches in Hoi An? Do you like cycling through rural areas? Let me know in the comments below!