Food has been the focus of the past 24 hours for us here in Hoi An. We had dinner last night at a nearby restaurant called Jan. We didn’t know much about it, but Ross found some seriously good online reviews.
We had to scroll down quite a bit to find a rating below five stars. On our way there, we ran into a couple who were on the same tour and they told us they had been there the previous night and enjoyed it immensely. It had a cozy, home-like atmosphere.
The entrance was from the street, and there was a woman at the front who seemed to be barbecuing a few things in a simple manner.
Once inside, she said something like, “We’ll keep bringing you food until you’re full. And if you don’t eat everything, we’ll refund you the money.” It was quite impressive.
After a couple of minutes, the woman’s son, who appeared to be around 12 or 13, came out and showed us the proper way to handle the food that was served to us.
His wrapping technique was far superior to ours. The rice paper rolls were particularly interesting because they were dry, unlike the wet ones we usually see in Australia.
We spent today raving about the restaurant and encouring others on the tour to visit it as well.
This morning, we got to taste “banh mi” or “bayne me” as we’ve sometimes heard it pronounced, but with a variation. In Australia, “banh mi” is usually heavily filled, and I can never finish a whole one in a single sitting. I usually eat half and save the rest for later.
When the woman mentioned that we would have “banh mi” on the tour, we thought one would be enough since we had already had breakfast. It turned out to be smaller than we expected, and the idea of eating one became quite achievable. Unlike the stuffed “banh mi” back home, this one was delicious and a perfect way to end the morning tour.
This morning we visited both a vegetable village and a pottery village. The vegetable village was located about four or five kilometers from our accommodation in Hoi An. It was like a large market garden surrounded by villas and apartments. We were told that the increasing housing prices in the area have allowed people to buy small plots of land to grow vegetables.
Local restaurants and residents buy the vegetables.
We also had the opportunity to do some manual work ourselves, though it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Ross got to hoe some soil, and I tried watering the plants. I was absolutely terrible at it, despite coming from a farming background and having my own garden as a child. I seemed to have lost the knack, or it’s no longer in my genes. I struggled with the balance and couldn’t get the watering right. I’m sure the guy had to fix it afterward. But it was a fun activity.
As part of the tour, we rode motorbikes from our hotel in the city center to the two villages, one for gardening and the other for pottery. I’m not really used to riding a motorbike. The tour leader and my rider, Hong, sensed my unease and said, “Don’t worry, I can tell you’re a bit nervous.” I replied, “Yes, it’s my first time on a motorbike.”
Another of the bikes was driven by Hong’s friend, and the other by her eighteen year old daughter. It was an exhilarating experience to navigate through the traffic, see parts of the town that are not visible from a tourist bus, and feel the wind on our faces. I took off my glasses on the way back because I was afraid of losing them. I had to learn how to be a passenger on a motorbike, but it was a fantastic way to travel.
It was a great combination to go the garden and to pottery, since Andrea loves pottery and even makes her own.
In the pottery village, we entered a large museum or gallery. We learned about terracotta pottery and Andrea had the chance to make her own pottery. She made a few interesting observations. First, the pottery wheels here favourr left-handed rotation, unlike in Australia where they favour right-handed rotation. She said she also poured too much water on the clay, not fully appreciating the different consistency. Nevertheless, she managed to make a pot, which I thought was impressive. The people there asked her to sign it so they could sell it, but she politely declined. Maybe it’s on display somewhere in the museum? So if you visit the gallery, keep an eye out for her pot.
Tonight, we spent some time at a beautiful beach. At first, it seemed like a local beach in the middle of nowhere, which felt a bit strange.
But as we walked along the beach, we passed many families enjoying the warm water and the sunset.
By the way, they don’t call it the South China Sea here. They refer to it as the Eastern Sea.
Eventually, we found a cozy restaurant for dinner, which was very enjoyable. Then we took a taxi back to the hotel, although we realized we paid too much for the fare. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. We’ve had an amazing time so far and haven’t spent much money. If our overpayment for the taxi helps a local family, then it’s all right.
Tomorrow, we’re headed to Ho Chi Minh City.