My favorite day in Hoi An was a wet rice farming ecotour. This is their website:
My tour guide and I biked to the farm, going through a market first.
Mackerel and Anchovies
Shrimp and Crabs
When the mackerel are big, they are cut into steaks.
Lots of sauces, I believe made from fish
Brown rice is used for worship, broken rice is fed to animals.
We biked past reeds lying at the side of the lane, drying, to be used for roofing.
We saw women working in one paddy, thinning the plants and putting them in bundles to be carried to another paddy and replanted.
Also in the rice paddies there were Little Egrets http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Egret
Striated Herons, which are very cool. They look brown until they fly. Then they look mostly white!
Striated Herons, looking brown
Striated Herons, turning white in flight
and a tiny bird that I could hear, but are apparently difficult to catch sight of, but that live down among the rice plants.
The ducks in the enclosure are being raised for meat, the ones that are free are laying eggs.
Once at the rice farm, I learned how rice is grown with the help of a water buffalo. After having a cup of tea with the farmer, I rode the water buffalo. I’ve ridden a horse before, but this animal was huge! And his skin slid along his body. It was hard to stay on! Apparently, the trick is to put your hands on the animal, hold on with your legs, and sit straight up.
I did some plowing,
and then I was rinsed off.
Then we became involved in the harvest activities.
This drum, studded with wire loops, works with a foot treadle, and takes the rice off the plant.
This procedure breaks the husks.
Then there was a series of basket techniques to complete the hulling.
And I loved being barefoot in the rice paddies. I was so thrilled that they let me do every step! I then learned how to make a rice pancake, which is a savory ingredient to put in rice paper, along with cilantro, mint, and cucumbers.
Then the wife of one of the farmers made me a fabulous meal of fish, homemade rice noodles – so good -, and eggplant and green beans cooked and seasoned perfectly.
It was the best morning of my whole vacation. Between this rice farm experience and the water puppets, I found the heart of what I wanted to experience in Vietnam.
As we biked back to town, I saw so many gifts to my senses.
All throughout my vacation, I’ve gotten perverse pleasure from checking the weather in Mongolia, compared with 75 – 85 here. But the last few days, when I checked, there was nothing pleasurable about it. It was -25F in UB, and the night before I landed, it was supposed to get to -32F.
I am here in Erdenet, greatly refreshed, rested, ready to begin my new assignment. I am filled with gratitude for the chance to travel to Vietnam.
My souvenirs: 3 water puppets