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20060131_P_0088
Green rice fields outside Hoi An

Today we hired bikes from our hotel so that we could get out and about and see some of the local villages. The bikes weren’t great and neither of us was very comfortable although Stef’s bike was a better bet than my own. They did have better ones but they all had flat tyres and there was no sign that they could be pumped up so no doubt they all have punctures. We worked out that the last time we have been on a bike was a little over a year ago in Holland. Before that I can’t remember cycling since my teens, more years than I care to remember now!

We set off along the road to Hoi An so that we could take some photos of the rice fields along the way. They stretch for quite a long way back from the road and are very green and colourful at this time of year. I soon found out that with a day pack in the front my bike is not well balanced. An attempt at a 180 degree turn ended up with me sprawled on the road and Stef doing his best not to laugh too noticeably.

Heading back down towards Cui Dai beach we turned off left as we entered the village. The road here follows the path of the river and leads through several long villages. People here were simply sat outside relaxing and enjoying the Tet holiday. Their houses were small and modest but very neat and tidy and well kept. Through the open doors you could see that they were getting themselves set up for a Tet meal and the ancestor shrines were all full of New Year offerings.

As we cycled through the villages, shouts of “hello” and “happy new year” accompanied us along the way. We had the feeling that although Hoi An gets lots of tourists, not many make it out to these villages. After a while the road changed from a small village lane to a large new dual carriageway road that is still under construction. It seems to be there to link up the big new hotels that are springing up all along the beach. I doubt it will be long before the locals find that they have restricted access to their beach with large chunks being roped off for tourist use only.

The villages we passed through all seemed to be pretty simply affairs. They all had a very old fashioned petrol pump, only really geared to filling the tanks of scooters, the main source of transport. Most had some sort of meeting or communal hall. I couldn’t work out if they were being used for some sort of religious ceremony or whether it was a Tet karaoke competition. It definitely sounded more like the latter. Most of the villages also had a little café of some sort and we stopped at one to cool down and rehydrate.

We were met here by two little kids who went scuttling off to bring us bottles of coke. Next up was Granny who had been chewing some sort of nuts for far too long. Her lips and teeth were all stained a dark purpley red colour and the dribble running down her chin was the same colour. We got a very toothy grin from her and then her had was pushed out and she was asking for money. Stef being the kind soul that he is gave her some, intending it to cover the cost of the drinks as well as being a small Tet gift. Canny old thing that she was though was not going to part with any of it so we ended up handing over more money to her daughter who runs the café!

20060131_P_0096
Just to prove it!

From here we cycled back down along the beach road which is now the new main road. There was no traffic around which for me was just as well. I had one of those moments when your brain tells you you’ve got a problem and then instructs your body to do something totally stupid about it. I was cycling too close to the kerb. I knew I needed to do something about it but also knew that for some reason I couldn’t steer away and that I was going to hit the curb. I pre-empted the crash and took a dive off my bike onto the side of the road. Fortunately where I landed was one of the few places with clean sand rather than rocks, rubbish, dirty water or animal dung. My fall was cushioned and as Stef turned around exclaiming “what are you doing?” and all I could say was “I crashed”.

Just past our hotel there were another couple of large tourist hotels and then nothing. Here the land is still open country but there are signs that it won’t stay like that for long. Plots have been marked out and some have big bill board posters showing you the layout of a proposed new hotel or village development. It is probably inevitable that beach holiday style tourism will increase here because the beach is good and the sea is pleasant to swim in. Hoi An in years to come will be very different to today.

We went back to the hotel so that I could get rid of the sand that was in my hair and down my clothes. It looks like builders sand rather than beach sand and has left nice red stains on the back of my t-shirt (which now after several washed are still there!). Our little local café provided lunch and a local farmer entertained us by herding his cows along the road in front of us. We then headed back to the beach for a while, lazed about, swam, showered, had dinner and crashed. Another wonderful day!