Met Dan (guy from port townsend) for lunch. Lunch was with the locals in the market. Fabulous food and fun experience for $1.50. believe me there is no food safe here but the food is delicious.
This afternoon I hired a guide to take me to Ta Que village to visit an organic farm. This was to be a 15km bike trek. Minh my guide arrived promptly at 1pm and we were off on our bicycles. We rode along the river and then cut through some of the back roads and villages in the area. Some of these villages are doing very well as can been seen by the lovely homes some as nice or better than those in north America. Minh told me that Vietnam's prosperous economy is due to the western world. In the 1980's Hoi An was the poorest area in Vietnam and the people barely had enough to eat. In the late 1980's some backpackers came to Hoi An and were so taken by the culture and architecture of the old buildings they contacted UNESCO and helped the city work towards world heritage status. Then in the mid 1990's when the vietnam government opened the country to the western world for trade and development a number of companies came here and so did the tourists. Vietnam's largest export is rice and they are the second largest world exporter of rice next to Thailand.
I also noticed a number of homes with small temples beside the main house or in the middle of the village. Minh explained that 85 percent of Vietnamese pray in these temples. Rather than praying to a god they pray to their ancestors. Fifteen percent of Vietnamese practice Buddhism or Catholicism.
Hoi An has gone from being the poorest to the richest area in Vietnam. When we passed the lovely big newer homes there is often an older very small almost what we would call a shack next to it - this is where the family use to live before they built the new home. Keep in mind in vietnam you can own a house but not the land. The land belongs to the people. We rode through an area where coconut trees grow and the branches are dried and used to make bamboo umbrellas for the beach.
We headed into the farming area that consists of fish farming , as well as the growing of peanuts, rice and a number of herbs and fresh vegetables. The pictures may not show it clearly but we are actually riding in the middle of rice paddies on one side and fish farms on the other. In this area the rice paddies are small enough that they still use the water buffalo instead of machinery. I met a few water buffalo along the way as well as some of the people who work the fish farm. Everyone loves having their picture taken.
After a couple of hours riding we arrived at Ta Que village and Minh took me to the home of one of the villagers whose family works the organic farm.
North americans are very proud of their organic farming but just so you know these villagers have been organic farming for the last 400 years.
When entering a vietnamese home it is customary to take off your shoes After being introduced to the family Minh and I were given hats and flip flops to wander the farm area.
Most of the men and young people in the village work in Hoi An at the hotels
So that leaves the women to work the land. These women take their produce to the market in Hoi An each morning (if they are lucky they will sell out before they reach the market). They come back from the market late in the morning and work the land for a few hours, a couple hours rest, back to working the land again and around 5pm the head back to the market with more produce and are home after 7pm to make dinner for the family. No days off for these people and boy do they work hard. Those watering containers are heavy and these little tiny women carry them to water the crops (no there is no sprinkler system).
The soil is very sandy as the village is quite near the beach. The organic farming is done by digging trenches and the fertilizer they use is the river moss from the fish farms. This is collected and taken to the farms put in the trenches and covered with the sandy soil. Seeds are planted and when they grow more river moss is put around each plant. These gardens have every kind of herb imaginable growing from cardamon, several kinds of basil, mint as well as spinach, lettuce, onion and lemon grass etc etc. The family even let me try my hand at farming but I don't think this will be my new career.
After slaving in the fields we came back to the house and the lady of the house had a foot bath with lemon grass, ginger and basil waiting for me. Women who work in the wet rice paddies all day soak their feet in a similar bath to stop their skin from cracking. I also got to enjoy a foot massage!
While I was at the house grandma appeared and I could quickly see she was not happy with my presence. I pretty much guessed she was swearing at me and the family was trying to calm her. I asked Minh if there was a problem and he said she was old and having memory problems. She had a bad experience with American soldiers during the war and she thought my presence in her house was a sign the Americans were coming back. They tried to tell her I was Canadian but it did not change her mind about me. Minh said I was safe and she would not hurt me. Lord she is about 85 years old what was she going to do to me -- unless she had an oozy in her bedroom. all part of the adventure I think????
The family got an apron for me and we cooked up some local dishes using the fresh produce grown on the farm. Minh advised me to give the family a tip as a gesture of my appreciation. He suggested 100,000 dong which is $5. You would have thought I had given them a $100 tip they were so appreciative. We rode back to my hotel and Minh suggested I go to My Son (pronounced 'my sun') to see the ruins. So he took me to a travel place in Hoi An where I purchased a $7 tour ticket for the next day. Should be interesting.