Boat trips on the Thu Bon river

A row through rural Vietnam

Photo of Boat trips on the Thu Bon river, , Hoi An

What we say: 4 stars

You could do this the posh way by jumping aboard one of many tourist boats, but we recommend hopping in one of the small sampans rowed by elderly locals. Don't expect them to speak fluent English by any stretch, but these hearty souls know how to make a foreigner smile, and they are incredibly adept rowers who will cover a lot of water in an hour. If they had thought to put this crew on the Olympic team Vietnam would have brought home a gold long ago.

The exact route you take will depend on the whim of your helmsperson, the tide and the silt banks, but wherever (s)he rows you'll catch a slice of rural Vietnamese life: Chinese fishing nets, commuting boats from the islands, boat repair yards, sampan live-a-boards and coracles. Photographers will be in seventh heaven, but keep in mind that these tiny wooden boats don't usually make for a totally dry ride.

A one-hour cruise should cost around 100,000 VND, though expect to pay more if wanting an evening row during the annual full moon festival (you won't be disappointed as this is an unforgettable experience). As for the best times to cruise: romantics and photographers should hit the docks for sunset; for the best river action rush hour is 07:00 for early risers or 16:30 for the rest of us. Avoid the midday sun. To pick up your boat, simply loiter on the Bach Dang riverside street, make eye contact with the first boatperson you like, and negotiate with a smile.

More details
Start from Bach Dang riverside street
Last updated: 22nd August, 2013

About the author:
After years of camping in her back garden in the New Forest, Caroline Mills’ parents went wild and jetted her off to Morocco where her dream of becoming a traveling belly dancer was born.
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