Follow along with Réhahn as he gives special access to some of his favorite photo locations in and around Hoi An. Insider tips, from the best backgrounds to the perfect times of day to capture a shot, are included. Both amateur photographers, as well as professionals interested in improving their Vietnam travel shots, will enjoy the ride!
Starting at birth, we are attracted to activity and light. An infant might follow a ray of sunlight while an adult is drawn to the magnetic rush of a train whirring past. Good photographers know how to use this captivation to their advantage when taking a picture. They can use natural light to create a soft filter or capture a movement to develop a sense of action.
In Hoi An, my adopted home, there are endless photographic opportunities. The light shifts and sparkles over the city as the bustle of the morning market and daily life begin. Even after a decade of living in Vietnam, whenever I go out, I find something that ignites my creativity.
This town is pure magic.
I’m excited to share some tips so that you can discover the enchantment of The Yellow City of Hoi An.
Timing is Everything
Tourism in Hoi An is booming, which is great for the country but can be frustrating for photographers. There is nothing more irritating, for example, than setting up the perfect photo of the famed Japanese bridge. Then you get stuck with a selfie stick in your viewfinder. This is why it’s important to know the best times and places to capture real life in Hoi An. Without your image getting lost in a sea of travelers.
That said, don’t let the popularity of the destination deter you. Hoi An is a warm and vibrant place with excellent food and authentic culture.
It’s worth the time it takes to find the right location…then just wait for the town to inspire you.
Capturing Hoi An at Dawn
There’s a saying that goes “The early bird catches the worm.” When it comes to photography, it can be said that the early riser catches the best shot.
Many locations around Hoi An are best captured as the morning light starts to brighten the surroundings.
The Ancient Town
At 5:30 am, the Ancient Town of Hoi An starts to wake up and prepare for the day ahead. People sweep in front of their homes and shops, and merchants begin to carry their wares to the market. You will mostly have the city to yourself before tourists head into town for their daily shopping and visiting.
Cua Dai Bridge and Cua Dai Beach
The other advantage of starting early is witnessing the incredible reflections on the river with the first rays of sunlight. Taking a sampan boat is a relaxing way to capture the light spreading through the sky above Cham Island.
For a higher perspective of the water, head to the Cua Dai Bridge between 5:30 and 6:30am. You can capture some unforgettable shots of boats passing under the bridge.
You just need a little patience to wait for the right subject with the right light.
If you go to the beach 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.
Finding a Background in The Yellow City
There’s an article on my website called Hoi An, the Yellow City. I pay homage to this city’s magical yellow walls and very distinctive architecture. There are a number of reasons why this color is the chosen color in Hoi An. The main one being that yellow symbolizes royalty.
The city planning and architecture 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 visiting remnants from the past.
Even if you sit in front of the same background day after day, you’ll end up with hundreds of different images. Each one with a unique spirit.
More Moments in the Ancient TownBetween 6:30 and 7 am start moving towards Tran Phu street where the historic Japanese bridge is located. Typically, the first wave of tourists come to the bridge around 8 am. So most landmarks are better captured in the early morning or during lunchtime when the locals have their afternoon nap. You can also see locals eating breakfast around the Japanese bridge, on Nguyen Thai Hoc and Tran Phu streets. The Vietnamese rarely have breakfast at home, so the morning streets are always filled with bustling life and delicious smells. You’ll be able to see school children enjoying breakfast on their way to their classes and locals heading to work. Students in the town wear their national dress, the Ao Dai, to school every day. It consists of a long tunic over loose pants and a non la conical bamboo hat. The groups of young women dressed in white who flood the streets daily contribute to the graceful charm of the city. Further, in the Ancient Town around Nguyen Thai Hoc street, you’ll find many exciting walls to use as backdrops. I chose this blue wall to create a soft contrast to the white ao dai of this young woman. It’s from my TRADITION series of photographs. Print Available
The central market is also an excellent place for a different style of photographs. Get there in the early morning. Then you can revel in the action as vendors unload colorful fruit, vegetables, and sea life, and bargain with their suppliers.
At night, the city transforms into what’s also known as Lantern TownBeautiful handmade arts and crafts fill the night market. But the real charm lies in the dancing lanterns that adorn the buildings and streets.
A Photographic Trip into Nature
Located 3 km from the center of Hoi An, Tra Que village is a popular location. It is 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, marvelous rice fields, and tranquil lakes, creates the perfect backdrop of rural Vietnam.
The best time for morning shots is from 6:00 to 8:00 am. You might be lucky enough to see a boat bringing seeds to the village or a farmer having a break and sitting on his buffalo.
One of the best spots for some interesting angles is between Tra Que village and the town center on Hai Ba Trung street. After crossing the rice paddies, you will find a few small tracks that head to the left and the right.
As you exit Tra Que village and turn right onto Hai Ba Trung Street, you’ll see a small bridge. The vantage point from the top of the bridge will give you a wide range of perspectives for sunrise or sunset shots.
I hope you enjoyed following along with me to learn about the artistry and natural beauty than can be found in and around Hoi An. If you know where to look.
It is important to remember that you may need to take hundreds of shots before you find your perfect image.
Like Monet and his waterlilies, I return again and again to the same locations with the hope of seeing something in a different light.
Thousands of photographs of different subjects passing in front of the same backgrounds fill my archives. But that is part of the joy of the job!
The shots, over time, create an ever-transforming documentation of the seasons, people, and impressions that enrich my favorite locations.
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