So, today’s our last day in Hoi An before we return to the hustle and bustle of a Vietnamese city. The whole day was programme free, so, just like such days in Luang Prabang, we could choose whatever we wanted to do.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the Hué cycling activity, Claire and I opted for another shot at this, with the addition of a boat trip on the return leg. After a hearty buffet breakfast we were collected at 0730 from the hotel by our 12 year old guide/mechanic (he was actually a 19 year old university student, but looked really young) and travelled by taxi to the company’s office to pick up our bikes and the route. To our surprise, we actually returned to the venue where we had been cooking the night before – like most places in Vietnam, they seemed to have diversified their business!
Having gotten accustomed to our new bikes – which were equipped with gel seats so hopefully will be more comfortable – we set off along the back streets of Hoi An. We again had an insight into the varied lifestyle of locals and saw many examples of families, their homes and day-to-day activities.
After about 45 mins of cycling, we paused at a settlement located alongside a series of crop fields. We were introduced to the farmers – a couple who Claire estimates were about 200 years old! – who jovially demonstrated the techniques used to look after their crops including a shoulder-hung watering can system to hydrate the different vegetables being grown. This was very much a labour intensive approach, using simple techniques and really no technology, reminding us again of the developments within Vietnam that have yet to be realised.
Back on the bikes again and we were cycling throughout the fields, passing farmers tending their crops using the techniques we had earlier seen demonstrated and even prawn farms. We eventually came to a stop at our next calling point for an unanticipated activity: water buffalo riding!
Given her aversion to all things animal-like, this previously would have been a wasted opportunity for Claire. However, as she had demonstrated with the elephant riding in Laos, Claire has been up for trying new things and this was no different. Whilst still with some trepidation, Claire and I both took our turn aboard the water buffalo where we were led for a couple of minutes through water and rice fields by a couple of skinny old men riding in tandem with each of us, as we clung on with typically Vietnamese conical hats!
Our surreal experience over, we returned to our bikes and set off back towards the river and our return boat journey. We popped into a local cafe for a refreshing drink before concluding our ride with a 6km stretch to the jetty where our boat was waiting.
After loading cyclists and cycles aboard, we set off along the perfume river towards the centre of Hoi An, being served fresh rambutan and watermelon to quench both thirst and hunger as the many fish farms and paddy fields flowed past us.
We arrived back at the quay in central Hoi An where our trip ended, parting company with our guide and the rest of the group as we all headed in different directions to enjoy the remainder of the free day (given it was only 1145!). Having had a brilliant afternoon the day before, Claire and I had decided that a return to the beach was in order, taking full advantage of the tropical surroundings that would be available this one time only.
Getting back to the hotel for about 1220 and organising our free transfer to the beach, we grabbed our stuff and headed out. By pure coincidence, we ended up going with the same people as yesterday (from our tour group) and, in a repeat of the previous day, were soon positioned on the beach, with the same view of the sea from our sun loungers and ordered lunch from the restaurant. Today’s choice was pizza and chips, very tasty and filling what had been a growing hunger hole!
Fed and watered sufficiently, we were soon in the water and wave dodging again. Even as adults, this was surprisingly fun and time flew by to the point where it was time for us to return to the hotel. My desire for water not yet sated, I persuaded Claire to take a dip in the hotel pool, throwing in a pot of New Zealand ice cream to sweeten the deal!
As time marched on and darkness descended on Hoi An, Claire and I showered and changed for the evening. Arranging for a taxi, we travelled into the old quarter again in search of food, opting for the Banana Leaf cafe having been recommended by both Dat and other members of our tour group.
We both selected the Set Menu with spring roll starter, chicken noodles with aubergines and sautéed pork with fried green beans for Claire and I respectively, followed by pancakes with chocolate and honey (separate of course!). The food was delicious and we left fully satisfied to stroll amongst the crowds around the riverside, pausing only to take in some of the many illuminated sights within Hoi An before we caught a taxi back to the hotel to pack for our departure tomorrow.