Hoi An has become a top destination for travellers interested in history, great food and vibrant local life. It also happens to be one of the best places in the world for travel photography. Réhahn takes you on a tour of the city with 20 photographs that are sure to inspire your inner wanderlust.
Colors, Culture and Cuisine Sparkle in Hoi An
Hoi An is a destination that stands out as being out of the ordinary, even amongst the megacities and tourism hotspots that pervade Vietnam. In the past, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Halong Bay drew the majority of voyagers but now Hoi An has been added to the “bucket lists” of travellers from all over the world because of its beautiful scenery, historic yellow walls and famed shopping.
This ancient city on the Central Coast of Vietnam offers a rare mix of culture, cuisine, and tranquillity, which make it the ideal location for a Vietnamese getaway. However, the downside to all this beauty is that visitors to the city will find that they are not the only ones with an urge to discover this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The crowded downtown area and the spike in prices have slightly sullied the image of this destination for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path type of holiday. Yet, Hoi An’s singular beauty perseveres, charming visitors with its history and mellow atmosphere.
The key for those looking to avoid the masses is not to skip the destination all together; it is to find the right guide to spirit you through the intriguing hems and to show you the magic that this city has to offer.
Réhahn has lived in Hoi An for more than 8 years, photographing every edge and angle of this sunny yellow city. He knows the right moments to venture into downtown and the times to avoid it. He knows the ideal places to catch an epic sunset or sunrise, and when to skip the guided tours and head out for a touch of nature instead.
Follow along below to see Hoi An through the lens of Réhahn with 20 photographs that will make you want to drop everything and catch a flight to this historic location.
No trip to Hoi An would be complete without a sighting of the famous Japanese bridge. The best time to go is early in the morning before the city fills up. To get the full spectrum of the architecture it’s best to find a vantage point where you can see it from a distance with the reflection in the water below.
A typical Hoi An itinerary will certainly include some stops in the Ancient City to view the beautiful old landmarks. Gaze into the charming storefronts or stop in the central market for some shopping, then when hunger hits head to one of the city’s multitudes of eateries.
Cô Mai and Miss Ly are some of the best restaurants to try to experience the culinary influences in Hoi An’s unique cuisine. An added plus is that Cô Mai is located in a 200-year-old merchant house.
Hoi An Ancient Town is known for its little winding hems (alleyways). Take the time to explore the small streets that navigate away from the center. The Ancient Town is the perfect place to get lost.
At night in the Ancient Town of Hoi An, hundreds of dancing lanterns light up the night sky. They are stunning to look at, but many people don’t know that you can also have them custom-made in any fabric you want so that you can take a small piece of Hoi An home with you.
From Fishermen to Floating Lanterns
This shot of a man sleeping in a traditional Vietnamese Sampan boat is one of Réhahn’s most well-known photographs. The man’s wife, the famous Madame Xong, has ferried people around the waters of the Thu Bon river for most of her life. The calm expanse of water beneath the gently rocking boat gives viewers a sense of the tranquillity that can be found on the waterways around Hoi An.
Madame Xong is the captain of the Sampan boat in the photograph above. Réhahn met her when he himself was a tourist in Hoi An. He hopped into her boat and asked if he could take her portrait. This photograph has since become one of the most iconic images of Vietnam. There is always adventure and serendipity to be found while travelling through Vietnam for those who know where to look.
The green waterways that wind their way through the city are an essential part of the life and livelihood of the residents. Early risers can see the fishermen bringing in their catch from the night before near the central market, while night owls can see floating lanterns sold and placed into the canals by merchants, carrying the purchaser’s hopes for good luck along with the current.
Réhahn captured this aerial view of Hoi An with a drone.
As the sun disappears, indigo blue envelopes the waterscape. The right colors will come to those who wait.
A golden glow on the harbour blesses this fisherman’s catch. Throughout the Hoi An countryside there are many bridges that cross over bodies of water, both large and small. At the right time, visitors can see the water turning from blue to gold, pink or orange depending on the reflection from the sky.
The Yellow City
The walls of an ancient merchant house offer a picturesque setting for a student who happened to walk by. Réhahn uses a technique called “fishing photography” to capture a variety of subjects in front of this golden wall. He has a large collection of images from kids on their bicycles to ladies carrying baskets of fruit.
There is a reason that Hoi An is known as the Yellow City. The brightly painted walls of the Ancient Town reflect the cheerful demeanour of its residents. It is easy to find a location for a memorable photograph by just wandering through the streets that wind out from the heart of downtown like arteries.
Those who get an early start to their day can see young students dressed in their traditional white ao dai dresses walking through the streets on their way to their classes. Réhahn photographed these two models starting their day with a breakfast bowl of Vietnamese pho soup to capture the way that tradition merges easily with daily life in Hoi An.
An explosion of color is at play between the yellow walls and blue windows, adding whimsy to a scene of daily life.
Retreat to Nature Outside of the City
Harvest season in Hoi An makes for great excursions and experiences in nature. There are two harvests each year—one in the Fall and one in the late Spring.
Tra Que village, a short distance from Hoi An, is the perfect place to truly enter the serenity of pastoral life. This small village is home to hundreds of residents whose main occupation is to grow all kinds of vegetables.
Early morning from 5 am to 7:30 am or in the afternoon from 3:30 pm to 6 pm are the ideal times to visit this charming place that Réhahn calls the “loveliest village on Earth”.
In the countryside, just outside of Hoi An there are many artisans who craft anything from incense to conical hats to bricks. If you get tired of the city and want to discover something new, head just a little further outside the tourist zones and bike through lush yellow and green fields or watch and learn as the farmers plant and harvest herbs, fruits and vegetables.
The residents of Tra Que village tend to have a gentle and friendly demeanor that makes them a joy to meet. This couple has lived together just outside of Hoi An for most of their lives.
In certain towns in Vietnam, there are families who have been handcrafting incense for centuries. Around Cam Kim island, dozens of artisans make incense as well as mats, and conical hats. It’s a beautiful place to get lost and connect to locals. This shot of a woman who happened to be working at home was taken in the countryside of Hoi An.
A scene of perfect symmetry—a woman wearing a traditional Vietnamese
conical hat snips fresh herbs into her gathering bowl.
Biking is the best form of transportation in the Vietnamese countryside.
Sunrise to Sunset Over Hoi An
Sunrise over the fishermen’s nets beneath Cua Dai bridge. Between May and July, the sky is always filled with colors for those who go early enough to see it.
For visitors to Vietnam, there is nothing quite so memorable as the show of colors that fill the sky every day and night at sunrise and sunset.
In Hoi An, the best sunsets and sunrises can be found from May to September. Regardless of whether you’re in the Ancient Town or off on an excursion into nature, there is true beauty to be found at the start and end of every day.
The reward at the end of the day in the Hoi An countryside is the majestic orange light that floods the sky above the soaked ricefields.
Hoi An Has Something for Everyone
For those looking to see more of Réhahn’s photographs, head to The Precious Heritage Museum or one of the Couleurs by Réhahn galleries, located in Hoi An Ancient town. The fine art galleries showcase Réhahn’s photographic series such as “The Yellow City of Hoi An”, “Hidden Smile” and “Ageless Beauty” while the museum is an exploration into the intriguing cultures of the diverse ethnic groups that make up Vietnam.
From tranquil beaches and beautiful scenery to ancient culture and world-class dining, Hoi An has something to offer for every traveler who knows where to look to uncover its secrets.