Expatriates love Vietnam's "city for bikes"
By Nhan Tam
|A Spanish family cycling around town – PHOTOS: NHAN TAM|
Expat Life escorts expatriates riding bicycles around the ancient town of Hoi An—a paradise for cyclists to get around on their bikes
Paul Thauvin, a Frenchman, together with his wife and three children, last week traveled to Hoi An after celebrating the New Year in the port city of Bordeaux, his hometown. They had planned to stay in the ancient town for one month in order to experience the local way of life. The French family had also heard praises of Hoi An from their friends. "Hoi An is so peaceful," says Thauvin. "The green fields remind me of the French countryside." Thauvin is taking a break on An Bang Bridge after cycling along the rice fields on Hai Ba Trung Street.
Cycling along the Hoai River to discover local rice fields, visit Tra Que vegetables village, have lunch at An Bang beach and return to the hotel in the downtown area is their itinerary. Thauvin is very impressed with the cultural and historical values of Hoi An as well as traditional craft villages like Thanh Ha pottery village. During their one-month stay in Vietnam, the couple will try to make the most of it together with their children.
Unlike this French family, who are first-timers to Hoi An, a group of seven young Americans visits the ancient town because its members are curious about the city. Jackie, a member of the group, says they all are students. What prompted them to make the visit was that "Hoi An has a small local population, no high-rise buildings, little dust and smoke like in modern cities," says Jackie.
During their day in Hoi An, the Americans cycle from An Bang beach to Cua Dai beach and take a coracle ride to visit Bay Mau Nipa palm forest. In the evening, they sit at a food stall along the Hoai River to experience Quang and Cao Lau noodles (Hoi An specialties), take a sip of beer and enjoy Hoi An by night.
|Expatriates love to cycle in Hoi An’s peaceful ambience|
Gracey, another member, says she and her friends are interested in folk games here—such as Bịt mắt đập niêu (pot hitting) or Bài Chòi (which literally means a deck of cards (bài) and a bamboo hut (chòi), and is a half game and half theater performance)—although they could not understand exactly the content in Vietnamese.
When traveling around Hoi An City, it is not difficult to see groups of foreigners who cycle on the streets like what Thauvin and Gracey do. Expatriate cyclists are from different countries in the world—France, Britain, Spain, the United States, Brazil and so on. Tourists from Japan and Thailand also love cycling here.
Bikers can be family members or groups of friends. Sometimes, there are also solo cyclists. Each choose for him- or herself a different itinerary, but they share a common sense that Hoi An is a great place for a bike ride.
Hoi An, a city for bikes
Cyclists explore every corner of Hoi An—especially Cam Thanh, Cam Ha or Cam Kim which are the city's peaceful, smoke-free rural areas with green fields and beautiful rivers.
Christopher Dunn, an Aussie, has been living in Cam Kim Commune for three years. He says that in addition to riding motorbikes to visit garden houses in Quang Nam and Danang to promote permaculture, he has chosen bicycle as a means of daily transportation. Dunn rides his bike to buy personal necessities or visit a friend's bar to enjoy a glass of beer while listening to music on a weekend night. In fact, Dunn has started a bicycle club whose members are expatriates living at a villa providing homestay services in Cam Kim. "I love the nature here," he says. "I always want to promote the life associated with nature here. This place is not for urbanization." Dunn explains the reason for running the club, saying that he wants to lend a hand to expatriates who choose to live in Hoi An.
Dunn and some foreign tourists say they are happy when being informed that Hoi An will become the "Bicycle City" after the "Establishing a Comprehensive Bicycle Plan and Free/low-cost Bicycle Sharing Program in Hoi An City" project is completed by the end of 2019.
Robert Coles, an American, has lived in Hoi An for over three months. A retired engineer, Coles had visited many places outside the United States before traveling to Hoi An where he and his wife have stayed for a long time. One of the reasons for his preference of Hoi An is that he was very fascinated when seeing many foreigners getting around town by bike. Then Coles used a bicycle and found it very interesting. "I am very pleased with the idea of a city for bicycles," he says. "Perhaps, my wife and I will be here until the project materializes."
According to Nguyen Van Lanh, head of the Hoi An Culture and Information Department, the Government of Germany has provided funds worth 178,000 euros (about VND4.1 billion) to help implement this project. The local government is in the process of collecting information before the project can get off the ground later this year.
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