We ventured out of Hoi An’s ancient village by biking through rice paddies on our way to An Bang Beach and then through Tra Que Vegetable Village on our way back to our homestay. In the evening, we went to the same vegetarian restaurant for dinner and ambled through a few more historical houses open to the public.
Breakfast at the Hoi An Ngo Homestay was great, we sat on the patio and got vegetarian cao lau with its delicious lemony dressing, small pineapple pancakes, passion fruit juice and a lot of fresh fruits including pitaya.
We left the homestay around 10am, renting bikes from the homestay that were old and rusty. In fact, the first bike I got had pedals coming loose. I rode for 1 block and noticed that the pedals were not aligned against each other making it very difficult to pedal straight. We switched the bike with one that had working pedals but the seats could not be adjusted for my height, too rusty. Maurice and I switched, compromising on bikes that more or less fit our heights. Good enough for us, we didn’t complain. We were off to An Bang Beach which is only 5km away. It was a very pleasant bike ride. On the way we saw rice paddies and a farmer on a water buffalo, his friend standing by the road told us to come get a closer look. It all happened very fast, we stopped for a few minutes and both of us took turns climbing on the buffalo.
I even got to feed the buffalo a stalk of rice.
Then came the sales pitch. The farmer’s friend told us the buffalo was having a baby and asked for a donation of 500,000 VND to each of the men. They wanted us to pay them almost $50. No way, we eventually gave them a 200,000 VND note to the farmer and told them both to share. Our photos on the buffalo cost us $5 each. Also, the buffalo was male, so I don’t know what baby they were talking about.
Then we continued on our way to the beach along the main road north of Hoi An.
An Bang Beach was pretty and clean. It was lined with simple beach restaurants and cabanas and there weren’t too many people around. Unlike some of the famously beautiful Thailand beaches with calm crystal clear turquoise water and powder-soft white sand, the water here on the South China Sea was a duller more opaque shade of blue with big waves and powder-soft golden sand.
We walked for about an hour south along the beach and then back up north until settling on Banyan Beach Bar and Restaurant for lunch. The food was average, it was all about this view from our dining table.
After lunch we used their beach chairs and umbrella. We swam for only 15 minutes since the water was cold and the air temperature was relatively cool due to a strong wind. It would have been fun to row out into the ocean with these giant floating coconut shells. They were actually baskets. We saw at least one of them floating far away in the water, but the waves looked too choppy for it to be safe and easy to row.
We left the beach in the late afternoon. We took our time to bike around Tra Que Vegetable Village, really taking the time to enjoy the bucolic scenery of rural Vietnam.
We stopped at this water buffalo (yes, another one!) grazing in the rice paddy.
Saw this lone duck fanning its wings.
And continued biking through the residential areas. We didn’t book any Tra Que village tours or cooking classes, so we just calmly observed things from the seat of our bikes.
Straying away from the main road, we were all alone most of the time.
Unlike Laos and Cambodia’s yellow dried out paddies, Vietnamese rice paddies are lush and blessed with good irrigation even in dry season.
A silly animation of the ride of course.
And a video.
We passed by a duck farm next to one of the irrigation channels.
Finally we connected back onto the main road to Hoi An. The sun was setting and we were smack dab in the middle of rush hour. Workers, students, and us were all on the road jammed tight onto either the public buses, motorbikes or bicycles careening fast through the narrow city streets. It was really stressful and we both had to stop on the side a few times to look for the other person. By sunset, we finally made it to the bridge connecting Hoi An ancient town with the island where our homestay is. The sunset side of this particular bridge shows a section of modern day Hoi An, however,
We returned our bikes and set out again in the evening for dinner. Right outside our homestay towards the bridge to ancient town, vendors set out hundreds of bright lanterns for sale.
As if the ancient town’s streets don’t have enough lanterns.
We saw a cute black dog that looks like our Lulu.
It was dark on the inside of the Fujian Assembly Hall complex, so we took a picture of the outside street through the courtyard’s gate.
We passed by another ancient building on the way to the restaurant.
After looking through reviews of other restaurants in the ancient town, we decided to go back to Minh Hien vegetarian restaurant again. The restaurants in ancient town seemed to be overpriced and not necessarily better than the tried-and-true restaurant we went to yesterday.
This time we ordered less food, I was completely stuffed last night after both of us ordered and consumed their large set menu.
We finished with mango shakes, coconut ice cream and red bean ice cream. I couldn’t resist slipping a note advertising yolomimo.com under the glass table.
Walking back to our homestay, we noticed one more historic house, a family home, that was full of domestic tourists walking around. Someone tried to help us as a guide but our Vietnamese is nonexistent.
We were a little sad to leave Hoi An tomorrow as it has a little bit of everything that we like when traveling: history, culture, interesting architecture, great food, bucolic scenery and beautiful beaches all wrapped into a small, accessible package.