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Touring Hanoi by Cyclo

These days, one can see the most modern vehicles on Hanoi’s streets but the three-wheel cyclos are still a familiar image of the thousand-year-old city for many local residents as well as visitors to the charming capital of Vietnam.
To learn more about cyclos, we called on the man who is dubbed “the king of cyclos in Hanoi”. Do Anh Thu is the owner of Sans Souci cyclo, the earliest cyclo company founded in Hanoi.

Thu said that Sans Souci is a French word meaning “carefree”. He hoped that both the drivers and the customers of his cyclo company have an optimistic and leisurly outlook on life. At the present time, Sans Souci is the biggest cyclo company in Hanoi with over 160 cyclos in action.

A cyclo is a human-powered form of transportation with a seat  in the front for passengers and the driver sitting on a seat and pedalling in the back. It was originally inspired by rickshaws pulled by humans that were used to carry French and local mandarins during the French colonial period. The cyclo first appeared in Hanoi in 1939 and was the popular means of transportation for Hanoians in the past. In the early 20th century, only the elite or rich people could afford cyclo rides. 

Cyclos, a popular means of transport of Hanoians in the past,  are now used mainly for serving tourists.
Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Foreign tourists enjoy a tour around Hanoi by cyclo. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Visitors take photos of Hanoi when touring the city by cyclo. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Tourists discover streets in Hanoi on cyclos. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Visitors chat with cyclo riders during their journey. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Visiting food streets by cyclos. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Touring the Sword Lake by cyclos. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Passing through Hang Quat Street, which is famous for stamp seal making. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Tourists call on Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

A cyclo can carry two people. Photo: Tat Son/VNP 

According to Thu, since the 90s when the number of foreigners coming to Vietnam started to increase, the cyclo gradually  became used to carry foreign tourists while still being a means of transport for Hanoians. Getting around Hanoi by cyclo allows visitors to discover the daily life of the city in intense emotions and enjoy not only its sights but also the smells and sounds that one cannot do when travelling by taxi. The cheap, convenient and unique three-wheel vehicle provides people with an unforgettable impression as everyone is attracted by this means of transport.

The world largest guide book, “Lonely Planet”, says that taking a cyclo tour is among the top things to do when visiting Vietnam. The site adds that cyclos are available near big hotels and drivers can speak rudimentary English. The Swiss travel organisation Kuoni which has branches in many countries suggest a cyclo tour around Hanoi as a unique and interesting memory for visitors.

That may be the reason why many Vietnamese expatriates use the cyclo as a symbol for their Vietnamese restaurants abroad. Such restaurants are seen in many big cities around the world like Paris, London, Munich, Rome and Tokyo. This means of transport serves as a symbol of Vietnam in foreigners’ eyes, like Pho or Ao dai

Story: Thao Vy - Photos: Tat Son
Source: Vietnam Pictorial

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