Dates visited: December 25, 2014
Hội An, 17 miles southeast of Đà Nẵng, makes for a nice day trip though some people prefer to spend a couple of days here. We visited Hội An for its Ancient Town, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because it is a well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and street plans are still intact and reflect the unique architecture and history of this trading port and commercial center.
We were here in the middle of the rainy season and the weather gods gladly obliged. I just haven’t been able to make my peace with rains while traveling so I had to make a special effort to put on that extra smile on my face! So wrapped in bright-colored ponchos, we walked the streets of the ancient town. This Vietnamese town has been primarily influenced by Chinese and Japanese cultures. In fact, the town’s icon is the Japanese Covered Bridge that was built to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarters. Interestingly, all the buildings here are painted yellow… …a tradition carried over from the French colonial days. We visited attractions such as Phung Hung House, a house built in 1780, that displays architecture with elements of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese styles, and Fukian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien), a 1697-built assembly hall in a Chinese architectural style that has a main temple dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea. I wasn’t particularly impressed at the end of the entire city tour so I’m glad I had dedicated just one day here.
But the best part of Hội An was what we did after the city tour. We had booked a rice farming tour that introduced us to a day in the life of a Vietnamese farmer, along with the process for farming rice. Jack Tran is the owner of Hoi An Eco-tours, and works with local farmers to run this eco-tourism business. We started this tour with a bicycle ride through the rice fields until we got to the farm. After donning traditional Vietnamese clothes with a nón lá (conical hat) et al, we were introduced to Xe, the gentle and lovable water buffalo. We spent the next four hours learning about farm life and actually doing everything that a farmer does for planting rice… …using Xe to plow the field, clearing the water using traditional buckets, leveling the puddled field, sprinkling rice seeds, replanting rice seedlings in rows, and so on (the pictures below show the actual sequence). We also cooked dinner with the farmers and the fresh hot food was just awesome… …my favorite being the rice pancakes. Even plain rice freshly prepared in banana leaves tasted out of the world when mixed with peanut powder. Rohan absolutely loved riding Xe, and we came back with an appreciation for how much hard work goes into bringing rice into our house. It certainly was a day to remember!Click here for a write-up from Rohan about his experience on the Wet Rice Farmer Tour:
We were going to the Wet Rice Farmer Tour on the farm in Hoi An, Vietnam. So, we got the bikes ready to bike to the farm, for the tour. All the bicycles were too big for me, so I had to share the bike with the tour guide. On the bike ride I saw farmers working on the farm with buffaloes. I also saw ducks paddling and quacking in the water happily. We were almost at the farm to start the tour. I wonder how the tour will be, because I had a great bike ride.
Then, we arrived at the farm, just when a buffalo (named “Xe” pronounced “Se”) was walking towards us. Everybody needed to wear the Vietnamese farmer outfit with a dark red robe and the conical hat. We all sat down and ate rice with peanuts, but I was allergic to peanuts so ate just steamed rice. Next, we went to the pond, and rode a buffalo with daddy sitting behind me. We were not using a saddle, and we were riding it in the water, so it was very, very bumpy. I thought I was going to fall off the buffalo, and fall in the 1½ feet deep water. After that, mommy and I rode Xe the buffalo which was also very cool. Then, I held Xe’s tail and stood on a wooden platform while plowing the mud because, the platform had sharp blades spinning at the bottom to plow the flattened mud. I think riding the buffalo was amazing; I have never ridden a one before.
Next, it was time to learn how rice is made on the rice farm. We took a farm tool like a bucket, but two people hold ropes that are connected to it, and move the water by filling the bucket and throwing the water to where you want to move it. We all took hoes to flatten the soil to plant rice seeds. We pushed, pressed and flattened the mud, so now is the time where we can plant the seeds. We each got a handful of brown rice seeds and chucked them in to the mud. I enjoyed throwing the seeds. It takes a few days for a rice plant to grow when the seeds grow you need to replant them, in a straight line. So we got nice green rice plants, and planted them in rows. I had awesome experience making rice even though we got muddy.
Later, we washed our super muddy feet with water. It was getting dark and we took some rice and a wide wooden pole. We used the pole to crush the shells of the rice. Once you remove most shells then you learn a trick, where you put rice in a bowl and shake it, so the shells separate from the rice. I kept trying the trick. At first it was hard then, I got how to do it. Then, it was dinner time; we learned how to make Vietnamese spicy pancakes that we made on our own. But I ate only steamed rice. I learned that it is a lot of work to make rice, even one grain, because real farmers work ten hours a day, and that’s a lot of work. I had a fun time learning how to make rice at the Wet Rice Farmer Tour!