Day 18: Hoi An – Tra Que Village

The first new business of the day was to reorder a luggage tag from Amazon. For some reason, one of the big beautiful blue luggage tags was missing from one of their checked bags when it came out on the luggage carousel. Since BeeBee always puts two tags on each bag, there was still one tag on it. However, every bag they carry has the same blue tag for easy identification. The replacement tag should be waiting for them when they get home.

At 9 am, Pati and BeeBee met their guide in the hotel lobby.  They each picked a bicycle from the row in front of the hotel, donned helmets, and set off through Hoi An to the Tra Que Vegetables village. Here, they wandered around observing many different types of vegetables which are used daily in meals. They learned the traditional techniques of farming organic vegetables. After enjoying a drink made from basil seeds, they each dug furrows in the rich soil and inserted some type of small seedlings before watering the newly-planted seeds. If they return in three weeks, they will be able to harvest the plants.

The guide told them that this family had lost three family members in the Vietnam war, and showed them the certificate for each one. He explained that, during the war, the Vietcong controlled the countryside and the government controlled the towns. The area immediately aroung the town was a buffer zone (neutral area). The Vietcong came to the people at night asking for rice and support. The government came to the people in the daytime asking them to move to the town. However, there were no jobs in town, so they did not want to move. The government then accused them of being Vietcong supporters.  Life was very difficult for them during the war.

 

They then continued biking along the narrow path through the rice paddies to Cam Thanh village. They stopped at a farmer’s house for a cool drink before  boarding  a round bamboo basket boat (thung chai) with the guide and a local fisherman, who rowed the boat through the water coconut canals. The guide explained the the Vietcong had their headquarters in this “swamp” of plants. Once free of the coconut plants, they watched a fisherman on his small boat cast a rounded net to catch fish. While this net throwing seemed to be mainly for the entertainment of tourists, he and his wife showed them the dozen or so small small mullets they had caught.

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(While in the boat, the local fisherman made rings for Pati and BeeBee out of water coconut leaves. They joked that he was now engaged to both of them.)

As the fisherman rowed them back to the starting point, he made several stops to fish for crabs with a small bamboo pole. Unfortunately, the crabs were too smart and he only lost the bait.

Returning to the farmers’s home, they had a delicious lunch prepared by the husband and wife. The meal included rice pancakes, pork prepared in a claypot, grilled fish with green chili and onions, clams, rice, and Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.

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After this, they resumed riding their bicycles along the path between ponds for cultivating fish and shrimp. Along the way, they came upon a farmer selling rides on his water buffalo. Of course, Pati and BeeBee each took a short ride. They resumed their ride along the grass and dirt path, and BeeBee fell off her bicycle only once, about 100 meters before the paved road.

Continuing on, they stopped at a pier on the Hoian River and boarded a small boat, taking their bicycles with them. Motoring up (or down?) the river toward Hoi An, they saw many huge fishing nets in the river. These nets are lowered to the river bed at night and lights are shown above them, to lure fish into the nets. Each net is owned by a family of fishermen.

They disembarked with their bicycles in the Old Town of Hoi An, and the guide walked them through several streets, pointing out good shops. They walked because the pedestrian, bicycle, and motorcycle traffic was too heavy for BeeBee to navigate. Riding farther once they left the busy area, they then stopped at a silk “factory” to observe the silk-making process (and, of course, to shop). Leaving the shop, they found that the guide had called for the car to take them back to the hotel, since traffic was now too heavy for them to bicycle back. He said that the hotel would come for the bicycles.

Back at the hotel, Pati and BeeBee stopped only long enough to leave their backpack, and then hopped in a taxi to go back to town. Once there, they visited shops they had studied on the internet. They had already decided that Hoi An was their town for souvenir shopping. They decided to take a taxi back to the hotel, but once they were out of the pedestrian area and found a taxi, the driver said it was only a kilometer to their hotel (meaning that he would not take them), and so, for the second night, they walked back to their hotel.

They were back at their hotel well before 7 pm. Too full from the heavy lunch to even think about dinner, they instead enjoyed quality internet time before bedtime.