23 January 2014, by Petrina Kow
Merry Christmas and a Hoi-py New Year!
How did you celebrate your Christmas? I know it seems a little untimely to be talking about Christmas when we can literally hear the horses galloping in the distance ready to usher in the Lunar New Year. But does anyone feel like they are not quite over Christmas yet? I bet some of you haven’t even taken down your tree eh? Anyway, we’ve started a Christmas getaway tradition in our family and we always try and do at least one family holiday a year to a place that nobody has ever been to before. And this year that place was Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi who I hear you ask? It wasn’t on the New York Times’ “46 Places to visit in 2013” in case you are wondering, but it was the perfect choice for us because a) it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, b) it’s just a 2 hour flight away and c) we are obsessed with Vietnamese food! We travelled with our friends who also had two little kids around the same age as ours and being intrepid, thrill seekers, we decided to pack in as much activity as we could in 3 days! So think of this as your go-to 3 day in Hoi An Itinerary, should you ever decide to use this to jump start your holiday planning process. You’re welcome!
We arrived on the eve of Christmas in Danang after a short and lovely flight on Silkair. We checked into the Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa. An expansive development along the up and coming Non Nuoc Beach, which sits at the foot of Marble Mountain. 有山有水 (Literally translated means, have mountain, have water) and that as we all know is the pinnacle of good fengshui.
We stayed in a lovely 3 bedroom apartment which came with the works, 1 huge master bedroom which the 4 kids shared, and it had a fully equipped kitchen and dining room though we didn’t really make use of it. We were walking distance to the beach and there was a huge pool area, though the weather was a little too cold for swimming. Note to self: come again in summer! Bright and early on Christmas morning, we met our lovely guide from the Tra Que Water Wheel Vegetable Farm. If you are staying in Hoi An, she will probably pick you from from your hotel with bicycles and you can ride through the old town to the village. It was a beautiful farm dotted with charming little houses and gardens. The farmers there grow most of the aromatic herbs that we have become accustomed to seeing in our vietnamese dishes, like mint, coriander, basil, spring onion etc. The kids had a field day (literally!) getting their feet and hands dirty, planting seedlings, tilling the soil, watering the plants and generally learning about farm life.
After working ‘hard’ in the fields, we got to soak our feet in a special ‘Tired Farmer Herbal Leg Wash’ which consisted of dried herbs it struck us how innovative and creative these farmers were with how they used their natural resources. It made us all really aware of how wasteful we are in our daily lives and how disconnected we are from nature. The kids totally loved their short stint as farmers but were eager to try rice paper making. It is a laborious and technically precise process that requires years of skill to master and you definitely appreciate all the effort that goes into making a fresh and delicious Vietnamese dish.
The adults got to try their hand at cooking several delicious dishes native to that part of Vietnam, and for us Mums, it was certainly fun seeing our husbands put on a chef’s hat and getting in on the action!
After feasting on our own cooking, we walked to the nearby padi fields and all had a turn riding on a water buffalo. Not sure if the buffalo was pleased about the eight of us stepping all over him, but it was a wonderful experience and something we will all remember for a long time.
The highlight of our second day was the Hoi An Motorbike Food Tour. We each got to ride pillion with a young university student who do these tours on top of their day jobs as a great way to earn extra income and practise their English! We got to sample some AMAZINGLY delicious food that is not what you typically see on the menu. This is how the locals eat, and we were brought all over town, into little tiny establishments, squatting on tiny baby stools and scoffing down plate after plate of delectable cuisine. 5 hours later, and about 15 different dishes later, we felt like exploding from all the food we had consumed. Don’t get me wrong, we would do all again in a heartbeat and there’s really something special about riding pillion with a stranger that really gets your appetite going!
We decided to work off all the calories on the last day with a bicycle ride in the countryside. It was a rare treat to be able to ride through the picturesque unspoilt country and smell the fresh air and soak in the sights. Little village kids running out and greeting us with smiles, completely stole our hearts and the cool weather made it all the more charming. We learnt about how the villagers make a living building boats, weaving basket boats, making incense and fishing. It was a simple life but one rich with beauty and heart.
Needless to say, the kids were very reluctant to go home after all the fun they’ve had, and the adults felt like we hadn’t finished eating everything we wanted but as they say, there’s always next time!