It’s time to get out of town! Remember that 80% of the population (80 million, almost as populous as Germany) lives outside the towns and cities. We had seen some rural life in the central highlands near Khe Sahn; but Hoi An is a coastal area.
We set off to explore, first by bike. The rice paddies are sectioned in units of 500 square meters, and a plot that size generates revenue of $300 per year. Many families have only this much. Most are subsistence farms, where there is a small surplus over the family’s needs that is sold for cash. Vegetables would also be raised on the family plot. In this area, with irrigation, they can get two crops of rice each year. It was the introduction of the water buffalo that allowed the heavy work of irrigation system construction and doubled the rice crop; so the water buffalo is revered as the foundation of civilization.
Since this area is so close to the restaurants of Hoi An, one village is specializing in organic herbs and vegetables. Two hundred families have 7 hectares (about 3acres) under this intense cultivation. We visited one woman, watched how she used seaweed as fertilizer, and helped her water her crops.
A bit later, after passing some shrimp ponds under their periodic muck-out, we had an opportunity to ride a water buffalo. I was surprised: these animals are smaller than our big dairy Holsteins, but more muscular. This cow was very sweet tempered, and she really took to that water!
Trading in our bikes, we boarded a boat to get out on the bay and see how the fishermen live. We had special training in the hand-cast net – and an opportunity to practice.
Also we operated the muscle-powered winch net. Our meager catch was added to the pot for lunch, along with some vegetables from earlier stop.
So in the space of less than seven hours, we truly had a hands-on experience of rural life with the farmers and fishers near Hoi An. What an exceptional, memorable, day!