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18 January 2012 / leggypeggy

Plenty of pedal power in Vietnam

A cyclo in Hué, Vietnam, gets a blast of new blue paint.

Cyclos, or pedicabs, are a great form of transport across Vietnam. They’re fun to ride in, cheap and easy to hire, and gentle on the environment. Plus when you hire one, you help to support the country’s little-guy economy.

I was told that all the drivers are male (although I’m pretty sure I saw two female pedalers in one city).

Many drivers come from the countryside to the big city, hoping to make a fortune and settling on making a living. These outsiders often rent their vehicle by the day—once they have paid the rental, the fares are theirs to keep. Others are father–son operations, with one driving during the day and the other at night.

We were pestered constantly to hop aboard a cyclo, but Poor John and I are big-time walkers—often 6 to 8 hours in a single day. All through Vietnam, I felt bad, even guilty, about not hiring a cyclo (except for the time I was ‘rushed’ to hospital in one). And that ride cost us an absolute bomb (we were cornered).

So before you ride, you should negotiate a final price to make sure you aren’t overly cheated. But overall the fares are so reasonable, it seems very stingy not to hire one. But I wouldn’t be able to call myself Leggy Peggy if I let my calves go to ruin. 🙂

On our walks, we encountered cyclo drivers everywhere. They hover outside hotels, hostels and markets, and cruise the streets around touristic destinations. They pedal up to you, offering to take you to the major sights. Even if you decline, they stay close, pedalling slowly as you walk along. Sometimes offering lower fares. There’s always a chance you’ll change your mind or, even better, your legs will give out or the heat will get the best of you.

Many drivers know ‘their’ city quite well and can take you to some of the out-of-the-way places and, if they have some English, explain the things you see. Others may try to cheat or mislead you—saying that a touristic site is currently closed (when it isn’t) and urging you to stay with them for the rest of the day. If a driver says a site is closed, be sure to check more closely—maybe they just brought you to a wrong gate.

A cyclo driver waiting for a fare near the Chinese Bridge in Hoi An, Vietnam

When drivers aren’t pedalling, they’re snoozing, chatting to one another or looking after their cyclos. All of them seem to do routine maintenance, but I think the paint jobs and major repairs are done by the owners.

The most elaborate cyclos I saw were in Malacca, Malaysia, and I’ll do a post about them soon. Fully decorated and sounding like a disco hall. Real works of art.

Also don’t forget to pick a number before 29 February 2012.

4 Comments

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  1. Feng C / Jan 20 2012 8:53 pm

    Hi Leggypeggy,

    Your blog is facinating and I have been following it vividly, particularly as I am due to make the same trip this summer! Hopefully I will get the chance to experience some of the things you’ve seen and written about.

    Are there any activities or sights which are not on the optional activities page that I should definitely make time to see? I’m budgeting to do most of the optional activities but wondered whether there’s anything extra that I should definitely include for. Similarly, is there anything not worth seeing? Thanks for your help!

    Feng

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    • leggypeggy / Jan 20 2012 9:45 pm

      HI Feng —

      So nice to hear from you. Glad you are enjoying the blog and finding it useful. I’m having a lot of fun writing it. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, and write blog items about topics that may have broad appeal.

      When you say you are doing the same trip, I assume you will be travelling overland from London to Sydney. Is that right?

      The two major things we did that weren’t part of the UK to OZ optional activities was to go to Hanoi for a few days (while the rest of the group went to two beaches farther south in Vietnam) and to the Ijen Plateau in Java (while the others went straight on to the beaches of Bali). I highly recommend both diversions. We went to the Ijen Plateau in 2010, so already knew how amazing it is. It was so good, we were keen to go return. I’ve written blog entires about both these destinations—and have more to add about Hanoi—so check the Indonesia and Vietnam categories for details.

      Australia has such wonderful beaches that we didn’t feel the need to seek them out in other countries. So we focused on sightseeing rather than swimming and sunbathing.

      When exactly do you leave? Does your trip take you all the way to Australia? See, I have questions for you, too. 🙂

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      • Feng C / Jan 24 2012 5:40 am

        Just read the Hanoi post – it looks like such as interesting place! Yes, I am doing the Explorer journey, departing mid-June this year and I am so psyched for the trip. Even each new piece of mundane kit (bought a half price Thermarest off Ebay today) adds to the excitement!

        The trip finishes in Sydney, and as for after that I haven’t given it much thought yet, depending on how much money I have left I’ll either spend a couple of weeks travelling around Australia and New Zealand, or find a temp job in Australia, earn some money, and then set off again. All in all, I’m taking one year off between finishing my degree and starting work to travel and see the world. My (current) vague plan is to go overlanding for 6 months, spend a month or two in Australia, then go back to China and intern for an international company (earning some much needed £) so that I can then go travelling solo around China and India for another month, before finally returning home.

        Travel reading is turning into my major anti-exam crack – my reward for revision 😀 And part of that includes avidly following your blog of course!

        Like

  2. leggypeggy / Jan 24 2012 11:59 am

    You’ll have a wonderful time, Feng, and the pre-trip preparations sure increase the excitement. June must seem a long way off. At least you have the studies to distract you.
    Feel free to ask questions, and if/when the trip creates a Facebook page (we had one), you should let your fellow travellers know about the blog. They might find it very helpful.
    I’ll see if I can find an excuse to meet the truck in Sydney—assuming I’m not off on some new travels.

    Like

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