Cyclo, anyone?

One of the places I visited in Vietnam on my recent trip was Hoi An.  It has a beautifully preserved ancient town in its centre which somehow miraculously avoided the devastation that surrounding areas suffered during the Vietnam War.

As anyone who has been anywhere in Vietnam knows, one of the more popular ways for tourists to get around is to hire a cyclo.  What is a cyclo, I hear you ask?  It’s basically a rickshaw, but instead of having someone dragging the vehicle in front of you, it is attached to a bicycle.  The cyclo driver sits behind you and pedals frantically – I felt very sorry for the cyclo drivers I spotted with – erhemm – “larger” tourists on board their cyclo.  Now there’s a recipe for strong quad muscles if ever I saw one.

I couldn’t bring myself to flag down a cyclo.  It seemed a charming, old fashioned way to get around (apparently cyclos are a leftover remnant of the French colonial days) but somehow the idea of forcing another human being to exert himself so greatly simply so that I could save myself the effort seemed to smack with a sense of imperialism and uncalculated insult.  At the same time, I was conscious that the cyclo drivers relied on tourists for their living, so was I perhaps doing them a disservice by not hiring one? 

I ended up justifying my decision not to hire a cyclo by telling myself that I could do with the extra exercise that strolling through the ancient town would give me.  Nevertheless, I was glad to come across the congregation of cyclo drivers in this photo, resting in the shade on an extremely warm afternoon – it seems it’s not always burning quad muscles and fat tourists for the cyclo drivers in Hoi An after all.