Ancient Hoi An is probably the most popular destination in the central coastal region, but getting a view of it from the Hoai River at sunset shows how little it has changed in a thousand years.
A new tour capitalises on the river that winds through a town once one of the busiest ports in East and Southeast Asia.
The cruise is on an old fishing boat that has been modified and fitted out with cushioned seats and a bed room for overnight stays.
A small cooking area provides tasty snacks for tourists as they bask in the fading rays of the sun.
Pham Vu Dung, manager of Rose Travel Service Company, said he develops the tour for tourists who want to see all the usual places – pagodas, old houses and craft villages.
“We found that tourists enjoy something new,” he said. “It’s a very new programme and complements tours to rice farms, trips on buffalo carts and cooking classes in the town. Hoi An is attractive, so I design trips to take advantage of the district’s natural assets.”
Tour operator Nguyen Dinh Khoi said the river cruise usually starts at 3pm and lasts until after sunset. To catch the converted fishing boat, tourists are taken to the Nguyen Hoang Wharf near Vinh Hung resort by Jeeps from the American War.
The cruise, which is perfect for a group of four to six people, provides an insight into the way Asians still cling to river banks and use the streams as markets and highways.
Fishing and farming are the most popular trades for those in villages on the banks. Fishing nets are set along the river, showing that rivers are still a primary source of food, Khoi said.
The tour also takes visitors to fish markets at the ports of Duy Hai and Cua Dai, he said.
The cruise also carries kayaks and bikes for those who want to explore further.
Tourists can take a bike ride to visit the 400-year-old Tra Nhieu port, once a port for junks sailing along the river. When the junks were replaced with larger vessels, the port became too small and closed.
Visitors can also see the mat making village of Dong Binh or another totally involved in weaving nets.
The boat cruises slowly along the river waiting for the sun to highlight an image of the ancient town. Those on board slip into mojito cocktails, beers and snacks.
The tour operator also has a floating bar to serve kayakers mid-stream. Made from a converted coracle, it carries food and drinks.
Tourists love it, said Vu Xuan Hao, a tour guide. They can also use kayaks to release lanterns in the Hoai River on full-moon day. Locals and visitors alike flock to the river for the ancient night festival, Hao added.
Another option is to have a feast on a farm at the village of Cam Chau, 4km from Hoi An’s Old Quarter. The village is accessible by car, motorbike and bicycle on the road to Cua Dai beach.