Life on the Water in Hoi An, Vietnam

Life on the Water in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An’s Thu Bon River plays a significant role in the town’s geography, culture, and history. When the Chinese, French, and Japanese merchants first settled in Hoi An around the 15th century, they sailed through the river as they meander inland coming from neighboring East Asia. Indeed, the river provided a way of life for a number of Vietnamese in Hoi An.

The Thu Bon River is considered the largest river of its kind in Vietnam’s Danang Province. Known as “Kuadai” by the locals, the river has become an international trading destination during the early century. Since the river flows into the East China Sea, it has become a convenient stopover for several merchants heading towards China and other nearby countries. As a matter of fact, most of the people that live here are descendants of the early merchants and traders who have chosen to settle in Hoi An.

Although tourism has now replaced trading, there are still numerous remnants of the past, such as the 17th and 18th-century shop houses that dot the streets of the Old Town. Of course, the Thu Bon River still continues to inject life into this beautiful town.

Boat Trips and Cruises

Nowadays, plenty of tour boats can be seen plying along the waters of Hoi An, where merchant ships used to land several centuries ago. Along the banks, local boatmen can be seen taking large groups of tourist for a tour of the river, which provides an essential boost to the town’s changing economy.

Smaller wooden boats that are known as sampan, a flat-bottomed Chinese wooden vessel, can be seen traversing along the edge of the town. On the other hand, bigger boats would head out towards the sea for sunset cruises, taking tourists into the nearby islands on the western horizon.

Fishing Culture

Thu Bon River’s brackish water is home to a number of different fish species. Thus, fishing remains to be a significant source of income for some of the locals in Hoi An. Early in the morning, large fishing nets are strung to bamboo rods that are hanging down over the river. Soon, fishermen would drop the nets to be filled with fishes. Thanks to the thriving fishing industry in Hoi An, the seafood here is in abundant. All over the town, you’ll find a number of restaurants serving the most delectable Vietnamese seafood dishes.

Tourism Industry

Just like in the dry land of Hoi An, tourism remains to be the biggest economic booster along the Thu Bon River. Every day, local men on board their sampans would patiently wait for a group of tourists by the riverbanks. These boating tours range from an hour to two to three hours and offer a unique view of the town from the water.

It is during sunset when tourists would flock along the banks to experience a leisurely boat ride down the river. This is a great way to soak up the romantic vibe and enjoy the beautiful views. When evening comes, locals start placing lighted lanterns along the river, which makes the experience even more romantic. You can also buy lanterns from the vendors and release them in the river yourself.

After a whole day of taking groups of tourists along the river, the sampans will be anchored by the side of the river. Others will be in constant need of repair and cleaning. In the morning, local boatmen would spend hours scrubbing and cleaning the boat in preparation for the day’s tours.

Traditions from the Past

Despite the boost of the tourism industry in Hoi An, there are still plenty of locals who will choose to fish and follow the tradition from the past. While some tour boats are busy ferrying tourists all over the river, the fishermen are busy tossing large nets into the shallow part of the slow-moving river. While the process can be really arduous and time-consuming, the efforts are really worth it as this results in a fruitful catch. At the end of the day, their catch will be sold to the local markets all over the town and will eventually find their way in the kitchen of the locals and the restaurants serving delicious seafood dishes.

Watering the Rice Fields

Rice remains to be a staple food all over Vietnam. The Thu Bon River somehow contributes to the flourishing rice industry in Vietnam. From the town, the river will make its way into the nearby rice paddies during a flood. While other plants would die in flooded areas, rice is the type of crop that could flourish even in flooded soils. Thus, it’s not surprising to see an abundance of rice fields in the outskirts of Hoi An. The muddy areas resulting from the flood is also beneficial for the water buffalo, as it helps the farm animal to easily stride into the soil, which is usually difficult for humans to do.

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