One of the things that is mildly amusing about the whole travelling the world experience, is that all the tourists that do it seem intent on seeing the ‘real’ wherever they are and want to get off the ‘well trodden path’ and away from all the bloody tourists. A little ironic don’t you think?
Generally we are the same, and whilst it is almost impossible to get away from the fact that you are a tourist, we generally try to do as much as we can ourselves, and select tours when we do use them that we think will give us the most insight into a place or the people that live there.
However sometimes, like today, we are occasionally happy to indulge in a simple attraction that is squarely aiming at tourists. The Tra Que Water Wheel ‘3 in 1’ attraction sits proudly on top of the Trip Advisor list of Hoi An Things to Do with glowing recommendations and we are collected at 8:30 in the morning by Lilly with some bicycles.
Tra Que is a small village about 3km outside the city of Hoi An and Lily offers an experience that aims to share a little of the culture of the village and its people, with particular focus on food.
Our day consists of a walk round the markets where we are shown the various produce that people buy and sell, and picking up supplies for later in the day. Markets are a fascinating place full of noise, colour, texture and a great way to get a feel for what life is like in a place and the impact of Vietnams huge coastline is evident from the range of seafood on show.
After that we cycle out to the village through the countryside giving a chance to see Hoi An away from the crowds and tailor shops and arrive at what appears to be a glorified allotment. The people of the village are keen gardeners and the land is filled with small sections of garden beds full of a whole range of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
We are given traditional clothes to wear (told you it was a bit touristy!) and shown the traditional ways in which that manage the land – from collecting sea weed for fertiliser, using pepper and chilli in the water as pesticide and the digging and watering of the beds. Fascinating to learn about it, even if our token activity is a little twee (though still less that the random Water Buffalo ride we are treated to), and the level of manual labour required is significant with almost zero mechanisation employed.
Some of the plants and herbs they grow for consumption are a little strange to us. Sweet potato flowers, chrysanthemum leaves and our particular favourite – morning glory (introduced without a hint of a titter).
The rest of the day is spent in the kitchen as we have a Vietnamese cooking class following by a very enjoyable Vietnamese food tasting experience including the amusingly named Morning Glory as a side dish!