Hoi An has long been a hotspot for tourists who flock to the charming town for its historic architecture, delicious cuisine and numerous tailor shops. Hoi An is more than just its famous white rose dumplings and handmade dresses however, as Luu Thi Ngoc Anh , senior sales staff of Diethelm Travel Veitnam, discovered while taking a unique tour in Hoi An.
A major Southeast Asian trading centre during the 16th century, Hoi An is home to a unique blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cultures resulting in a charming atmosphere filled with distinctive architecture – with low, tiled-roof houses and narrow streets, the original structure of some of these streets is still virtually intact.
I fell in love with the gem of a town’s small alleys, souvenir shops, local cafes, street food stalls and more during my first visit in May 2012, however my latest trip to Hoi An was my most memorable and exciting as my family and I had a chance to discover Hoi An in an alternative way – on the back of Vespa scooters!
Forgetting all about convenient transfers by air-conditioned vehicles or visiting touristic attractions the UNESCO World Heritage Centre is known for, we experienced an authentic, local Hoi An few tourists are aware of.
To kick off the tour, we got on a local ferry crossing the river to Cam Kim Island. Here we had the opportunity to take a short talk with local people who were farmers, boat builders, fishermen, housewives and little kids. They were friendly, smiley and easy going. Since many couldn’t speak foreign languages, it was the perfect chance to learn and practise some Vietnamese words with them.
Getting off the ferry, our Vespa guides drove us to the first stop of the tour at a traditional boat-building yard where we were introduced to the process of building a fishing boat manually – it can take months to complete one boat! Saying goodbye to the boat builders, we set off to explore the sleepy island villages, surrounded by idyllic scenes of rice paddies and farmland, and enjoyed the cooling breeze.
The next part of the trip included the most interesting activities. We learned from friendly local families the art of mat weaving and how to make (and eat) the perfect banh dap rice crackers. The feeling of successfully learning how to weave the mat correctly and make the thin, fragile rice crackers was fantastic! Coming from big and modern cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, it is rare for us to see, hear and smell rural life in such a truly authentic way, so taking part in local traditions in their original environment was an incredible experience. I left feeling thankful for the opportunity and to be able to support the local families who are still trying their best to protect and preserve their traditional work, although they cannot gain much profit from their finished products.
After snacking on rice crackers, we visited a local café to fuel up on local drip coffee. At this café there were no tourists, just residents talking to each other about their farming, fishing and so on.
Next, we geared up for an adrenalin-inducing bamboo bridge river crossing. Completely made of bamboo, the bridge was privately built by local residents to help people cross the river and solid and safe enough for Vespa scooters to pass by.
After that, we drove along roads lined with casuarina pines and cashew nut trees heading back to Hoi An town. We crossed over the new bridge which offers spectacular panoramic views of Hoi An to the coconut palm-fringed Cam Thanh. The final stop of the trip was a sensational seafood lunch on Ha My Beach, one of the nicest and less touristic beaches in central Vietnam. Remember to bring your swimming suit, sunglasses, sun cream, etc. to prepare yourself for outdoor activities such as beach volleyball and swimming.
I have been to Hoi An three times and each time I learned new things, experienced unique activities – like the Vespa tour in Hoi An – and discovered different aspects of the little town that just keeps me going back for more!
To learn more about the Hoi An Vespa Tour or other tours in Hoi An, please visit our Vietnam Page