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|On the cyclo, visitors will have an unobstructed view as they move slowly enough to see everything along the street, while learning all about the city through the drivers’ guidance.|
“For just VND150,000, you can travel across the city.” The ads spoken in an authentic Hue accent by cyclo drivers are too attractive for visitors to deny.
On the cyclo, painted green or purple, visitors will have an unobstructed view as they move slowly enough to see everything along the street, listening to the clicking sounds when pedalling while learning all about the city through the drivers’ guidance.
There are around 5,000 registered cyclos in Hue, which are available at every corner of the city’s tourist attractions: around the Imperial city, along Huong (Perfume) River, Truong Tien Bridge, and Dong Ba Market.
Not only serving tourists, cyclos are also used in weddings and engagement ceremonies in Hue.
Looking back to the past, when living conditions were more difficult, cyclos were the major means of transport for ordinary people, particularly among the poor who couldn’t afford to have their own vehicles.
As urbanisation and modernisation have gradually reached the city, xe om bikers and taxis have become dominant on the streets. It was thought that cyclos would be replaced and disappear. However, the cycle rickshaws are still busily pedalling across the city.
Since Hue has become an attractive destination for visitors to Vietnam’s central region, cyclo tours have received more appreciation from both tourists and local authorities, helping to improve the living conditions of cyclo drivers.
According to a veteran cyclo driver, a standard cyclo should not be so high as to subject passengers to strong breezes, while it should not be so low that passengers are unable to take in the sights.
During the tour, visitors can stop by any place they want to take photos or taste local dishes while the drivers wait politely nearby.
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A standard cyclo should not be so high as to subject passengers to strong breezes, while it should not be so low that passengers are unable to take in the sights
According to cyclo driver Nguyen Van Tuan, who has 50 years of working experience, the job is seasonal, from Tet (lunar New Year) festival to the seventh lunar month, when the weather is favourable for passengers to take a cyclo tour. From the seventh lunar month to the end of the year, it is rainy season.
Visitors often dub cyclo drivers in Hue as a living dictionary as they can narrate detailed stories about the imperial city in the past as well as present day. They also have a bunch of great tips, what to do, where to go, what to eat, where and how to buy souvenirs at the most reasonable prices.
Often serving foreigners, it is not surprising that some drivers can speak both English and French fluently.
Since the 1970s and 1980s, every cyclo had to be registered with a number plate. However, over recent years, a number of cyclos have been operating without registration, and they often play tricks and show bad behaviour towards tourists.
Consequently, the unregistered cyclos, which have been reported in local newspapers as well as on tourist forums for foreigners, can leave international visitors unwilling to use the service and it can also damage the image of the city’s tourism sector.
To address the problem, trade unions of cyclo drivers have been established, which run under the management of Hue City Trade Union, in order to provide proper training in communication skills and the provision of tourist information for the drivers.