Hoi An is a popular coastal tourist city, modern and fast growing. But it also has a beautiful old town and our hotel, Hoi An Silk Luxury Hotel, was directly at its western gate.
Loc had arranged for a group of local 20-year-olds to shuttle us around the countryside south of town for the day. They were a happy and enthusiastic bunch of local ambassadors!
We quickly rode out of the city into the rice paddies. I was on the motorbike ahead of Dale and by pure coincidence we simultaneously took pictures of each other, so in the photo collage below, you can get the entire 360° view:
Our first stop was at a rice paddy where Loc’s local coordinator, “Happy Harry,” gave us a detailed explanation of the farming process. Then we drove through a small village to see how straw mats are made. This couple weaves them by hand, each one taking about two hours to complete. The wife designs the mats and threads the straw reeds through one at a time so that the thick and thin ends of the reeds alternate. Her husband, a Vietnam War veteran, operates the loom. They worked together intuitively.
We drove through another village, then across a wooden bridge…
… to another village where we visited another couple that operates a rice mill, composed of several small milling machines, each with a different purpose: separating the grain from the chaff; grinding the grain to make brown rice; sifting and then grinding the brown rice to make white rice; and, then, finally grinding the white rice to make rice flour.
These two photos show a rice seedling and raw rice grain.
Continuing our journey through the islands south of Hoi An, we passed a number of fishing nets and boats
We knew when we traversed from one village to the next because they are each marked by an entry gate like this one:
Next stop: rice wine distillery. The process wastes nothing. First, white rice is soaked and yeast is added. Next, the mash is stored in covered buckets to ferment. The fermented liquid is strained off and the remaining grain is fed to the pigs. While the liquid is then being distilled, the pigs sleep off their hangovers, waking periodically to “do their business.” The pig manure is stored below the distillery where it creates methane that is burned to heat the still. The alcohol that is created in the distilling process is collected and bottled, and, presto! Rice Wine! Yo!
The next stop on our tour was at a lagoon for a basket boat ride.
The water palms were beautiful; it was an incredible tropical setting.
Our paddler had fun spinning us around and stopping along the fringing palms to tear off fronds from which she made us bracelets, rings, spinners and carnations. Quite a happy and creative captain.
Back on the motorbikes, we zipped along the river, stopping at a local boat builder.
We had a lot of fun and the ride was informative, too. Not only did we get to see some of the traditional crafts from this area, but we also enjoyed talking and having lunch with our drivers. That’s my driver and new friend, Tu, on the far left. Thank you Tu, Harry and Loc for an enjoyable day!