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Discovering Hanoi By Cyclo

If you’re visiting Hanoi to discover its interesting history, one, if not the best, way to do so is by riding a cyclo, itself an integral part of the town’s culture for thousands of years.

How the cyclo came about is quite a mystery to this day. Both the Americans and Japanese claim that they invented the famous ride. Both countries state that the first cyclo was made between 1848 – 1868 by blacksmiths by order of the church. In Vietnamese history, it was mostly used, and even bought, by French and Hanoi officials. 

In the past, people in Hanoi travelled by palanquin, hammock or horse. When the cyclo was invented, it greatly changed the world of transportation in the place, making it easier and faster. In fact, it became such an important part of the locals’ everyday life and culture in general that even today, thousands of years later, it is still used as the major means of transportation around town.

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The cyclo played a vital role in Hanoi’s history that it was even an active participant to two wars. It was used to transport goods, ammunition, medical equipment, food and even injured people. A director of one cyclo manufacturing company, the Sans Souci Sarl Traveling Cyclo Service Co., Ltd., was a personal witness to this event.

Today, even with the presence of ultra-modern vehicles like cars and motorcycles, the cyclo is still very much used in Hanoi, probably because there is a certain charm to it that people, tourists and locals alike, find endlessly appealing. With the fast pace of today’s world, riding a cyclo around Hanoi gives a sense of serenity and oneness with nature.

Tourists in particular prefer riding the cyclo when in town than in contemporary automobiles because it gives them a feeling of learning about Hanoi firsthand. Unlike cars, a cyclo can squeeze in tight streets, taking its passengers to the oldest, even secret, spots in town. Unlike cars too, cyclo riders can easily take pictures or videos of Hanoi while enjoying the natural air and appreciating the beauty of the structures and of the local people themselves.

Aside from its authentic feel of Hanoi, the cyclo is much cheaper compared to the other modes of transportations to tour around town. Cyclos today are also designed to be more attractive but also safe, with beautiful decorations, gold hoops and red cushions to attract passengers and make them comfortable during the ride, but also with safety measured like handrails to avoid accidents.

Cyclo drivers in turn make sure to service their passengers properly, making them feel comfortable with the ride and admire Hanoi as they go along. Today, they wear a simple, traditional uniform for an even more authentic feel of old Hanoi. During festivals, they accentuate with a suit, cavat, jacket or turban for a jubilant appeal. Moreover, they have learned to speak other languages like English, Chinese, French and other foreign tongues in order to communicate with their clients better.

The cyclo has come a long way since it was invented, different yet the same. It has survived thousands of years, lived through wars, gone through renovations, leveled with modern cars, all the time bringing its passengers a true experience of Hanoi. It is the ultimate tour guide in Hanoi, both a personal witness and participant of the town’s history and culture through time, and for many years to come.   

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