Friday, February 17, 2017

Cycling Vietnam: Hoi An Ancient Town & Beyond

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Vietnam: Hoi An Ancient Town & Beyond
Cycle Ride Hoi An : 4th February 2017

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions & Ride Conditions
Vietnam traffic is left-had drive, so ride on the right hand side of the road. Same thing applies when crossing the road, so do take care.
- The route is quite flat with early morning temperature around 24ºC.

2. Bicycle Rentals & Ancient Town Entrance Tickets
- Bicycle rentals in Hội An is cheap at between USD1-00 to USD1-50 per day. There are usually some bicycle rental shops near the larger hotels. And if the vendor knows where one stays, no deposit is required. Some hotels do provide bicycles for their patrons.
- When crossing the pedestrian Cau An Hoi Bridge over to the Hoi An Ancient Town, one could be required to pay an entrance fee of 120K Dongs. One can take a longer detour and use the two traffic bridges on the West without paying; but be happy to pay up as the fee goes towards the maintenance of the old town.
- The streets in Ancient Town are narrow, whenever parking your bicycles ensure it does not block traffic or someone's entrance.

3. Places of Interest
Hoi An Ancient Town (GPS: 15.87806, 108.32862).
- Japanese Bridge (GPS: 15.87712, 108.32603).
Phung Hung Old House (GPS: 15.87719, 108.3258).
Cam Pho Temple (GPS: 15.87818, 108.32415).
Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall (GPS: 15.87716, 108.32655).
- Phuoc Kien (Hokkien)Assembly Hall (GPS: 15.87752, 108.33056).
Hoi An Central Market (GPS: 15.87728, 108.3313).
Yaly Couture (GPS: 15.87802, 108.33402).-
Thu Bồn Riverside (GPS: 15.87645).

4. Food
Lunch delightfully served Vietnamese street food at the Morning Glory Restaurant (GPS: 15.87662, 108.32762).


PRELUDE

I love cycling, and whenever possible I would bring my bicycle when I travel out of town. This time round we were on a family holiday to Hội An in Vietnam and had wanted to bring our Bromptons over from Malaysia, but our stay here was short and weather forecasts predicted rain for most of the time, so our bikes stayed put back home.
So we did the next best thing, the previous day we joined a guided cycling tour which took us on a ride to experience the rural scene of the place. It was a very enjoyable ride and having not enough, Lynn and me decided to rent a couple of bicycles to do some exploration of the Ancient Town and perhaps slightly beyond. Bicycles rental here is cheap, and we got ours from a shop run by a Mrs. Van at USD1-00 for the whole day (morning till 5:00pm). Cutely put, Mrs. Van does van rental too 😆.

THE RIDE
Cycling Distance: 7.19 km.          |             Level: Very Easy
The route takes us from An Hoi islet across the Cau An Hoi Bridge and around Hoi An Ancient Town. It then continues out to the eastern suburbs with a short detour across the Hoang Dieu Bridge over  to Cam Nam Island before heading back along the Thu Bồn Riverside for lunch in town.

First let's have a look at some of the streets we went through:
To the east of the Japanese Bridge is Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street, named after the Vietnamese Revolutionary leader, Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai. Although this street is slightly away from the town centre, it not be missed. Lining this street are many souvenir shops, bistros, lantern shops and art shops.


The narrow road on the Hong Dieu Bridge leading over to Cam Nam Island. From here are nice views of the Thu Bồn River.


The main roads on Cam Nam Island are busy, stray away from these and one will find nicely shaded side streets.


The Thu Bồn riverside is nicely paved and easy to cycle along without having to encounter motorised traffic, riding here one will see colourful boats moored at the river banks and other riverside activities. This paved stretch starts from behind Hoi An Central Market and lead all the way to the Cau An Hoi Bridge.


The streets of the Ancient Town are lined with well maintained old houses from French colonial days. The streets here are narrow and often there are many pedestrians during peak hours. Cycle here during the earlier part of the morning as there are less pedestrians around then.


Be adventurous and explore the narrow side streets, many of which are too narrow for cars.


Park your bikes, and walk around the even narrower alleys, who knows there could be hidden treasures there?

Of course, it's the people that add to the old town vibes of the place, here's some that we met/saw:
A lady fruit-seller carrying her wares in two baskets slung from a kandar stick.


Pretty local tour guides dressed in simple traditional costumes. This cute lady was seen at the Nguyen Tuong Family Chapel.


An old lady, face wrinkly weathered with age, sweeping the side compound of the Cam Pho Temple. It wasn't hot but she was used to wearing her Asian Conical Hat, which made this photo more rustic.


An old well-dressed gentleman waiting for his Vietnamese coffee. I like some of the shops like these, their old roof green with moss, some even had creepers growing on them.


A bridal couple on the Japanese Bridge. This couple were dressed in modern bridal suites, but if one is lucky one could catch couples dressed in traditional Vietnamese bridal costumes.


A sampan lady at the Thu Bồn Riverside, harking for customers to hop on for a river tour.

And some of the sites we visited.
The Japanese Covered Bridge, this is a very old bridge dating back to the 18th Century and was opened by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu in 1719. The bridge was built by the Japanese as a shorter way of getting over to the Chinese quarters.


The bridge is of wooden architecture, withing it are statues of dogs and monkeys, establishing that its construction began in the Year of the Dog and was completed in the Year of the Monkey; i.e. taking ten years.


A view of Thu Bồn River from the Japanese Bridge.

The Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall. This was in 1885 by the overseas Chinese who came from the Guangdong (Canton Province) of China.


Unlike Chinese temples, the dragons that adorn the roof ridges are usually a single colour, yet beautiful. Looking closely, the surface of the dragon is made from shards of porcelain.


At the front of the of the fountain, a dragon twirl above the water while a fish jumps out. These are more colourful.


The scales of the dragon are made up from shell-shaped green glass.


More dragons at the rear compound, nearby is a large statue of a goat. I wonder what significance these two animals has on the history of the temple; for me it had a personal significance as these were the years in which my sons were born.


 A close looks of the dragons head shows that the dragon is made up of colourful shards of broken porcelain.

The impressive and definitely easily recognisable pink archway at the Phuoc Kien (Hokkien)Assembly Hall. This hall, built in 1759 by the Fukien people, the largest ethnic Chinese group in Hội An. I tried to speak to an old man stationed in the temple in Hokkien but he just nodded his head; I guessed he could not understand my Penang Hokkien.

Other than the distinct old buildings, along many of the roads were shops catering for tourists, both local and foreign:
A shop selling lanterns.


Many shops sells art at Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street, some catering to a distinct art style...



... like this one with rice paper paintings.



As we headed further away from the town centre - the Cho Hoi An (Hoi An Central Market) the section nearer the street has stall selling textiles and clothes. The rear section next to the riverside is the wet market.


About a kilometre away along the same street is Yaly Couture, we rode in not to have suits (of which Hoi An is renown for) made, but more to admire the architecture of the building.


The Lantern Hotel, really full of lanterns.


The extreme end of our route on Cam Nam Island, the So9 Restaurant. The serve Vietnamese fare here. It was a bit early for lunch so we skipped eating here but did go to the far end of the restaurant which has a nice river view.

A bit of food we ate:
Soy bean curd (Tofu Fah) sold by a street side vendor. It was good but not as good as the one from Funny Mountian in Ipoh, Malaysia.


Refreshing combo of lemongrass, cinnamon, ginger, ice-cool drink - very invigorating during a hot day!


Part of our lunch at the Morning Glory Restaurant which serves fusion Vietnamese street food in a comfortable setting. This is a deep-fried Red Snapper garnished with strips of mango.


Bamboo bicycle at the rear entrance of "Reaching Out (Hòa Nhập) Arts & Crafts".
Cycling was a good way to discover more of Hội An, at a slower pace one get's into the nooks and crannies and see more of it's people.


Tạm biệt!


(That's Goodbye in Vietnamese)


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