I would say this was among the best spent $89 (per person) on this trip: a five hour Vespa Adventures tour of the rural countryside outside Hoi An on the back of a spiffy Vespa driven by a young Vietnamese guide named “Leo.” Dirck’s driver was a young guy named Nine. Not only was it fun to join the crowd of motorbikes zipping through town and into the countryside. We didn’t worry about having to navigate on our own and Leo took us to some wonderful out of the way spots we never would have found — and patiently answered any question we wanted to ask a Vietnamese person. (We even talked about contraception which Leo credited with reducing family size after the year 2000 when the government launched a pr campaign about birth control and the need to have two babies tops.)
We visited a lovely 400-year-old ancestral home overlooking a walled in water garden with pink lotus blossoms. Next stop a spot at the edge of the river where men were making large wooden fishing boats using old methods (presumably) including fire to bend the flat wooden boards to make hull. Zipping past more bright green rice paddies and little villages with simple concrete structures, bright flowers and little scruffy dogs on roam (sadly we hit one little one that suddenly ran out in front of us) we ended up inside a modern house, apparently built for a family whose house by the river was destroyed by a flood. Behind a screen blocking the sun we found two women sitting on the floor making a beautiful floor mat using an old fashioned loom. After that we went to a more rudimentary farmhouse and into a dark room with a cauldron over a fire and learned how to make rice cakes the size of a dinner plate, dipping white batter with black and white seeds onto a griddle of sorts, using a tool to smooth it out and another tool akin to a rolling pin to roll it up. You roll it onto a flat screen to dry in the sun. We also sat down and ate a cracker. From there we went to a n open air coffee roaster where we drank cafe sua under a thatched room next to a guy plinking away on his lap top. Then we returned to Cafe Zoom, on the edge of the city/countryside for a huge and delicious lunch. Five hours flew by.
This afternoon I had a one hour massage and 1/2 hour facial at a little spa the hotel guy recommended. $30 total. And tonight after stopping for a swim at our resort pool, we ended up back at the Shamrock Pub, people watching at sunset and chatting with some Aussies. We had perhaps our most creative meal at Nu Eatery, a little hole in the wall that reminded me of the East village (NYC) restaurant Prune. The small place was packed with young foodies from the US, France, England and Asia. We had a killer version of bao (steamed bun) stuffed with a chunk of succulent pork, a pickle and a yellow sauce; a noodle dish with Spicy pork ragu (which seemed almost Italian) and a Bahn Minh that was more like a pulled pork sandwich on a brioche bun with melted cheese (the first melted cheese we’ve seen here.) Now we are savoring our last night in Hoi An, sitting on our ancient second floor wooden balcony, watching the crowd thin out. Tomorrow they will be out in force again.