Tra Que is a small farming community located about 2 kilometers northeast of Hoi An. It’s an easy bicycle ride and a quite scenic one which involves pedaling past rice fields, glassy rivers, and lazy water buffaloes lounging in the mud.
I cycled out to Tra Que not really knowing what I would find there, and I was met with a peaceful oasis where herbs grow in neat rows and where farmers work the land by hand.
While I arrived a bit late in the day when things on the farm were beginning to wind down, if you plan in advance you can expect to take part in a few of these activities:
Activities at Tra Que
Be a farmer!
Yes, for a day you can join one of the local farmers and get a feel of what it is like to work the land – water the crops, fertilize the land with seaweed from the nearby lake, pick up a hoe and get your hands muddy. What better way to get an insight into the local way of life?
Learn to cook.
Tra Que Herb Village opened its own restaurant Waterwheel just a few months ago and it is already getting rave reviews. The family behind this restaurant is not only skilled in the cooking department, but they are also passionate about sharing their local recipes and techniques. The best part is that you know you are getting the freshest ingredients because they’ve literally been picked that day from the local farm.
Make rice paper.
Rice paper is an important staple in Vietnamese cuisine – you may be familiar with it if you have eaten fresh spring rolls, as this is what it used to wrap the rolls. If you are interested in the process of rice paper making – rice grinding, boiling, stretching and drying – then there is a workshop just for you.
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Most people come to Tra Que to take part in one of the above mentioned tours, but I biked here for the food alone and ended up having one of the best meals out of my entire month in Vietnam! That’s speaking very highly of this restaurant because the food has been amazing everywhere in Vietnam.
Top dishes at Waterwheel in Tra Que
The young girl who runs the family restaurant recommended three dishes accompanied with a ginger and basil seed drink, and that’s exactly what I had.
Like the name suggests, this dish is made using three ingredients that complement each other wonderfully. I was pleasantly surprised by these bite-sized pork and shrimp appetizers carefully wrapped in greens picked from the local farm.
This is one dish that surprised me. Does it have papaya, does it not have papaya? If you are expecting a plate full of ripe orange papayas, you will be disappointed – but not for long! This dish is made using shredded unripe papaya (which is light in colour), carrots, and bean sprouts as the main ingredients. Add some peanuts, fresh coriander, chilli and lime, and you have yourself a refreshingly tangy salad that is perfect for a hot day.
This dish is best described as a crossover between a fluffy pancake and a thick crepe. While the batter is still frying on the skillet, shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and green onions are added on top. The pancake is then folded in half, and voila – a masterpiece!
You can choose to eat the pancake as is and it would be delicious, but the Vietnamese way involves cutting the pancake into smaller pieces and wrapping these in rice paper with some added lettuce and herbs. You are then left with a delicious spring roll in your hand, which you can dip in a sweet and tangy sauce.
If you ever find yourself in Hoi An, I highly recommend this place as a little side trip!
I’d love to stop by Waterwheel should we make it back to South East Asia, especially if there is Papaya Salad on the menu. I miss it so much!
Definitely a place to check out if you find yourself back in Hoi An.
What a great opportunity to learn, to have a totally new experience! Thanks for pointing that out to me.
It was nice seeing a different way of life outside the city. 😉
Jeepers Audrey, it’s almost supper time here in New Zealand and I’m starting to salivate at your description of delicious spring rolls and tangy sauce! We’ve been over in Aus/Nz for the last two years and have had a little taste of some Asian dishes in the odd authentic restaurant with owners that have crossed the proverbial pond. I can’t wait to head over to Asia and sample the real deal for myself!
This is foodie heaven! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it once you make it over here. Vietnam blew my mind with its food – there seriously wasn’t enough time in the day to sample everything I wanted to.
What an amazing experience!!! Getting so close to the locals! Wonderful!
I wish I’d gone a bit earlier in the day so that I could take part in some of the farming activities, but even just eating there was great.
Most of my times in Vietnam were amazing, because I hang out with the locals who are cheerful and happy to help you around some un-touristy places. Banh Xao is truly a masterpiece!!!
Everything is so very green. Looking at these photos alone makes me want to eat healthier. Now if that actually happens, is another story!
Hello! Im from Vietnam, living in Danang, 35km far away from Hoi An..i agree with this tour herb village Tra Que…It is not only well-known for foreigner but also local people..
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This is so cool. I would love to work on a Vietnamese farm and then learn how to cook traditional foods. I think tourists can benefit from this kind of activities, as it shows them just how difficult an Asian farmer’s life can be and how backbreaking their work is. Makes you appreciate that bowl of rice a bit more I think.
This looks like an awesome experience! I would love to give it a try. Thanks for show me this.
A peaceful village. I combined a tour to this village with a cooking tour. It was a unforgettable experience for me.
Im a one of member of Water Wheel family. I would love to say thanks for Audrey and Sarah were really enjoyed our food and gave your recommended for everyone. We always welcome both of you back to visit us, and also welcome everyone come to waterwheel to learn how to be a ‘Real Vietnamese’ one day!
I’ll be in Hoi An in a few days and I hope to make it along.
Look forward to seeing your farm 🙂
Sorry Audrey and Laura…^_^
Wow! What a great pics! Tra Que herb village should be a must-do in Hoi An. Working as a farmer and having lunch with local family is an unique experience which helps us gain a deeper understandings of Vietnamese countryside with its people, custom, culture and food. Local foods make me feel hungry now. Yummy! Yummy!
Hi Audrey 🙂
I love your site, thanks for all of the cool info!
How did you get from Hoi Ah to Tra Que? Did you rent a bike, and was the village easy to find?
Thank you again!!! Can’t wait to go! 🙂
Thanks for this great info! I was wondering which tour you took? I’ll be traveling to Hoi An in February and would love to partake in this tour. Thanks!!!! 🙂
I actually just biked out there on my own, so I wasn’t part of an official tour. I would suggest asking at your hotel or guesthouse about tour options. They should be quite familiar with the place. Enjoy Hoi An! 🙂
Recently I visited Hoi An and joined few tours- highlight is Tra Que Bike Tour of Hoi An Fun Bike Tours, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour and got a real hands on experience. Our guide name Nancy who was fantastic so informative. The tour itself was amazing, loved biking out in the countryside and meeting all the locals who were so friendly, I all tried my hands at rice paper making, digging, planting, watering…The photo opportunities were great! Highly recommend this one for you.