Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a professional we can all agree that when it comes to taking the best photo, we are all creatures that follow activity and light.By nature, photographers are always looking for stimulation so after five years of living in Hoi An, I can safely say that as a photographer I never get bored. Every time I go out, morning, noon or night, I find something that ignites my creativity. This town is pure magic and I’m so excited to share some of my tips with you. I will update this article regularly so you can discover more of the magic as I do.
Tourism in Hoi An is booming so I think it’s important to know what time of day you can capture different scenarios. You might find yourself getting frustrated if you can’t capture a beautiful image of the Japanese bridge without a selfie stick in your view so it’s important to know the best times and places to capture real life in Hoi An.
Hoi An is famous for many things. It’s warm hospitality and amazing food is but some of what you can experience and capture.
The Yellow City
There’s an article on my website called Hoi An, the Yellow City, in which I pay homage to this city’s magical yellow walls and very distinctive architecture. The building and street designs reflect the influences of both foreign and indigenous cultures. The result of this unique blend is an enchantingly beautiful heritage site. You can wander around Hoi An for hours without getting bored, especially if you love the idea of visiting remaining buildings from the past.
There are a number of reasons why this color is the chosen color in Hoi An, the main reason being is that yellow symbolizes royalty.
The yellow walls make an amazing backdrop and if you’re patient enough you can capture a variety of interesting people as they go about their day, from fruit sellers, to ‘cyclos’ and everyone in between.
The Ancient Town in the morning
If you want to capture morning shots, the best time to visit the charming Ancient Town is from 5:30am. The Old Town wakes up and people sweep the front of their houses as they prepare for the rest of the day.
The sun rises from Cham Island and reflects a beautiful, golden hue, where first light falls onto the river bank and morning market. At the market you will find an array of fresh produce being offloaded from traditional fishing boats.
And you’ll be able to capture fishermen offloading their morning catch.
Nothing beats the golden morning light in the Old Town.
Around 6:30 – 7am start moving towards Tran Phu Street – this is the street that the famous Japanese bridge is in. This is by far the best time to capture the bridge because it’ll be empty. The first wave of tourists come from about 8am, so most landmarks are better captured in the early morning or during lunchtime when the locals have their afternoon nap. However, there might still be tourists around during lunchtime. Here’s an example of the Japanese bridge in all its glory, without distractions and a view from inside the bridge.
Before 8am in the morning, you can see locals eating breakfast around the Japanese bridge, in Nguyen Thai Hoc and Tran Phu streets. Vietnamese virtually never have breakfast at home. You’ll get to see girls and boys enjoying breakfast on their way to school and locals before work.
Schoolgirls always wear the traditional dress, the Ao Dai to school.
Wandering around the market you will see elderly fruit and vegetable sellers bargaining with suppliers for the day.
After an hour or so, you can move further into the Old Town towards Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. Here you will find many interesting walls and backdrops as the light falls onto them such as this beautiful blue backdrop.
At night this city transforms into what’s also known as Lantern Town. The night market is filled with beautiful handmade arts and crafts but the real charm lies in the colorful lanterns that adorn all the buildings and streets.
The Cua Dai Bridge
From 5:30 – 6:30am, the newly built Cua Dai Bridge offers a fantastic higher perspective. You can capture some unforgettable shots when you see a boat passing under the bridge as the light falls on the water. You just need a little patience to capture this perspective.
It’s every photographer’s dream to be able to capture an 80 year old farmer having a break and sitting on his buffalo. And if you’re lucky enough, you can see a boat transferring seeds to the village among other quirky and delightful things. The amazing scenery of Tra Que, will have you itching to go.
One of the best spots is between Tra Que village and the town center on Hai Ba Trung Street, as you cross the rice paddies there are a few small tracks left and right off the beaten track you’ll find hidden treasure spots. This is sunset over the rice-fields in Tra Que village. The range of colours that nature provides is just incredible.
As you exit Tra Que village and turn right into Hai Ba Trung Street, you’ll see a small bridge. The perspectives below show you sunrise on your left.
Here we have sunset on your right. The oranges, pinks and purples will blow your mind.
If you go to this beach in the morning around 5:30am, you will be lucky enough to see some amazing sunrises. Below is sunrise on Cua Dai Beach. The deep reds, blues and oranges reflect a purple hue on the water.
Tra Que Village in the morning
The best time for morning shots is from 6:00 – 800am. Located 3 km from the centre of Hoi An, Tra Que village is well-known as the freshest and cleanest vegetable and herb supplier in Hoi An. You can easily get there by motorbike, bicycle or simply a light walk. Tra Que with its lush grassland, marvellous rice fields and tranquil lakes, creates the perfect backdrop of rural Vietnam.
During the June, July and August months, the sunsets on the beach are exquisite.
This list of good spots will be updated regularly.
I don’t run workshops but I have a friends to recommend if you want to improve your skills.
Etienne Bossot is probably one of the best teachers in Vietnam; he often runs tours in Hoi An. You can find him here
If you go to Saigon, I highly recommend Arnaud. He will show you another side of Saigon! Find him here