One of the features of Hoi An, is that it is also a hub for a myriad of smaller rural communities that live on islands, all within short boat rides from the historic town center.
One of our favorite things to do in Hoi An, is to play “russian roulette” ~ by going onto the wooden boats (which ferry passengers and their motorcycles), not quite sure the destination, but always sure to be rewarded by the sights of authentic rural life in Central Vietnam.
We did this many a time when we lived here in 2013 and each adventure was unique in it’s own way…
It is currently monsoon season and it is possible that typhoon Sarika will head our way. So we decide to take a boat ride off the beaten track today, 24 hours before the typhoon is supposed to possibly come our way.
As the boat gets steered into the Thu Bon river, we leave the ochre colored architecture of Hoi An’s riverfront.
There is good reason Hoi An is a popular place and attracts as many foreign visitors as it does each year. However, as always, most tourists stick to a few main streets where the “touristy stuff” is focused and do not venture further, which suits us just fine.
Today we have this boat to ourselves… The 3 of us (Peta, Ben & Brook) head out onto the Thu Bon river with the boat “captain”.
“Floating” down the river definitely has a meditative feel.
These colorful wooden boats are constantly repaired and repainted, resulting in a mix of bright colors accompanied with well worn planks of natural wood.
Ben is happy to have some key business meetings behind him. Taking a few off the beaten track day trips, is a great way to disconnect and take a break. The river is a pale sienna color due to all the rain in the last few days. It IS monsoon season after all…
One of our very favorite modes… “Going with the flow.” No specific destination or plans. Just go where the boat and the rhythm of the day takes us….
Our motorbikes atop the ferry boat, ready to ride off into the countryside.
“If you’re on a motorbike, the Vietnamese start to see you as ‘belonging’ here. You’re not just a tourist any’more – you’re one of the people, slogging through mud and dodging trucks same as anyone else. The Vietnamese have a lot of respect for westerners who tackle their roads by motorbike.” (Travelhappy.info)
When we arrive, there is one boat and one man ready to catch the rope and dock us so we can drive our motorbikes off the boat.
Tall graceful coconut groves grace either side of the narrow pathways as we set off to explore the island.
Old colorful wooden boats need constant repair and new coats of paint. We stop to watch a few men working at a small shipyard, fixing and painting these big beauties. http://www.vietnamheritage.com.vn/pages/en/2511312940437-More-than-meets-the-eye.html
One does not realize how big these boats are when they are in the water, as a good part of the hull is submerged ~ but here standing next to them on the ground, they reveal their majestic size.
As we ride along small paths and streets, we are prone to stopping to say hi to local villagers. No one speaks English here but that does not in any way inhibit our communication. Pete especially is surprisingly adept at playing “charades” to get her point across.
A woman sits outside her house on the steps, throwing feed to her flock of chickens and chicks.
We drive by small cottages, with lush green gardens and the feeling of tranquility that comes with rural living.
A small family shrine overlooks a rice paddy. It is the norm for every house to have an internal shrine( for ones ancestors) and an external shrine (to ward off evil spirits and to bring good luck to the family and the land.)
Due to the rains, many of the rice fields are completely flooded, making for reflective landscapes and giant wet playgrounds for lucky ducks and herons.
The three of us easily fit into a natural rhythm together. Ride, walk, stop to see interesting things along the way, ride, stop, walk……
Temples, large and small, are a part of every community. The yellow ochre predominant color in Hoi An and the surrounding countryside has permeated our visual field to such an extent, that we have selected it as a color for the house we are renovating in Sri Lanka.
Classic central Viet Nam landscape…. Lush and green, dotted with farmers and water buffaloes.
Insert buffalo here
We stop to watch the huge herd of rust colored cows and their calfs, enjoying the process of grazing freely in the currently swamp like rice fields.
These are definitely very happy cows! And no Ben! We cannot have a cow….!
Underneath this mound of green fruit is a motorbike… The driver stopped to show us her fruit and demonstrated that this fruit is not for eating ~ bite into it and use the flesh to…..wait for it… clean your teeth!
Every Vietnamese community has a vibrant market. We gravitate to markets no matter what country. In addition to fruit and vegetables, in Vietnam, there is always some good cooked food to be had as well. In this case one of the BEST Ban Xeos (Vietnamese pancakes) ever! Rolled up with fresh greens and herbs, like a sushi hand roll, dipped in peanut chili sauce. Yum!
Celebrating our best Banh Xeo find so far….. By eating them one after the other until we are totally full and cannot have another bite. This will be one of those “remember that amazing Banh Xeo we had” memories. Yes, we are serious about our food and after having eaten at five or six Banh Xeo spots in one of the culinary capitals for foodies in the world (Hoi An) saying this is the best Banh Xeo, is quite a testament to how delicious it is!
One of the fun things about Vietnamese markets are the way the women dress, in bright colors and patterns and with all sorts of interesting floppy hats.
The sea salt seller measures out the salt and prepares bags of it to be sold to her customers. There are multiple categories of salt based on the size of the granules. From very fine to very coarse chunky sea salt.
This is the garlic, shallots and fresh turmeric seller.
When we arrive back in the colorful town of Hoi An with all it’s infamous colored paper lanterns, it feels like the big city after a day in the countryside.
It’s good to be back home…
~ ~ ~
Hungry for more? See another Green Global Trek “off the beaten path” blog entry from 2013:
Every outing yields a surprise “off the beaten path”
An in-depth look at rural shrines in Central Viet Nam (2013)
Ancestors and the spirit world, Hoi An, Viet Nam