Our traveling companions may have thought we were crazy to rent bikes in Vietnam. Sometimes it seems like you need a helmet just to cross the street here. The rental bikes only come with one gear; helmets are definitely not part of the package. We were getting anxious to get out of town on our own power, other than our feet, however, so I threw my helmet rule aside and we rented a couple of bikes in Hoi An one day.
Atypical intersection in Hanoi -- they actually stopped for the light
Biking almost seemed easier than walking in Vietnam. Instead of trying to cross the flow of bikes, scooters, and cars, we were part of the flow. The courtesies and protocol that apply to wheeled vehicles now applied to us and it no longer seemed like everyone was out to hit us. When the road gets a little crowded, overtaking vehicles give a quick toot of the horn to let you know they're going to pass. You can look to see what's oncoming to determine if you have to get far to the right or hit the ditch.
the famous China Beach, a great bike get-away mid-week in the "winter"
We pedaled out to the beach, about 5 kilometers out of town, and explored the coast north and south for another 10 kilometers. This was the winter season and mid-week, so the beaches were almost empty (except for a few of us from northern continents). As we passed a school, kids were hopping on their bikes to go home for lunch. We followed a few who turned off the main road. We rode through a small village and found a stretch of beach with a dozen almost-empty restaurants that were trying to get a little business in the mid-week, winter season lull. We wheeled to a table, toed the kick-stands into place, and sat down for a stir-fry of fresh fish.
Click here to see more SE Asia bikes (including a Hello Kitty cruiser!)