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The sunrise photo tour

Clearly, if you have done the Hoi An Photo Tour with me before, you probably went on the sunrise tour. Why do I say that? Well because the sunrise tour is the most popular tour, that I run 2 to 5 times per week. Why the most popular? Well I guess people feel like I can kick their asses out of bed very motivated to see the sunrise and enjoy the morning Vietnamese life.


Started in 2009, the sunrise photo tour brings us to a fishing village (unlike the sunset tour that brings us to a farming village above Hoi An). The fishermen go out in the afternoon, spend the night at sea behind Cham island and come back with their catch around 5.30am. We are there to witness their return, the busy activity and a wonderful sunrise (when it is not rainy season of course!).

juxtaposition (8)

The tour starts with a 4.45 am hotel pick up. I will not post any photos of this time of the day because you do not want to see your faces at this time. Bed sheet marks¬†on your faces, and everyone screaming for coffee. Good thing that we start by a good coffee in a local place in the fishing village, that we can reach after 20 minutes drive.¬†Everyone having different levels, we try to start from the basic camera settings and finish with the basics of composition. It is still very dark so difficult to practice. Let’s say this is the theoretical part of the tour.

hoi an photography tour


Once we are done with the theory, we walk along the river to reach the main area, where the fishermen arrive and unload everything they caught during the night. You will see, very busy!  Ah, the interesting part! The sun is up and the light is gorgeous. From that time we are right in the middle of all the action: fishermen coming back, unloading all their fish. Women, loudly arguing about the daily prices and fish quality, while carrying their baskets around. It makes for plenty of photo opportunities.


While exploring the area we discuss about tips and techniques¬†for a creative and successful composition. Of course, composition depends on us, our tastes and likes, but let’s say that makes things quite interesting. I also try to make people feel comfortable about sticking their cameras into people’s faces getting close to the people.

hoi an photography tour

Yes, getting close to the people is key in travel photography, but you need the attitude to do that in a respectable way. And as you know, in Vietnam, everything you do, do it with a big smile!


It is quite a big place so very easy for us to spread around. You have your freedom if you want, or you can stay with me if you do not feel confident with your camera settings yet. I say yet, because you will definitely feel more comfortable later in the tour.


So we spend around 1 hour along the river there. In the busy fishing time (March until September) there are 3 or 4 places where people boil the fish and put them outside to dry. These are places that you will probably see once in your whole trip to Vietnam, and I wish for you that you see it. But once again, this only happens in the very busy times.

hoi an photo tour


From these factories, the steam comes up and hits the morning sun, while people are busy working into this “heat steam smelly” environment. Yes, smelly… they boil fish, what do you expect?

After witnessing all these activities, we get¬†into the village to reach a more quite area. We have a look at the local market, and people’s daily lives: going for breakfast, to the market, just walking around, bringing their ducks to the neighbors for a happy slaughtering, etc… There we can order something to eat (the Banh Mi, amazingly tasty sandwich) and have it delivered to the cafe, our next stop. After all these activity, we need a drink! And after waking up at 4.30am, what better than a good strong Vietnamese coffee? Well if you are crazy not into coffee you can have a Lipton tea, ginger tea or lemon juice.

Woman in Vietnam with conical hat

Once refreshed and relaxed, we cross the market again, to reach one of the place you will never forget: The fish sauce factory! Why will you never forget it? Hummm just guess!

It is a very interesting place for your nose photography as it is very dark. We spend some time talking about dark situations/night photography, and we practice of course! There are lots of wooden barrels which give great textures and colors to the place. I am really thinking about bringing a couple into that place to take their wedding photos!


After the fish sauce factory we slowly make our way back along the river, while stopping in some houses on the way. We sometimes have some extra food from a very lovely lady, who is kind enough to let us photography her into her beautiful colorful house. We also spend some time in the dry docks where men fix the fishing boats. And if we are lucky, we meet the bamboo man, often at work in front of his shack.

portrait of an old Vietnamese man

Time for us to walk back along the river, and slowly make our way back to the van. We will drop everyone back into their hotels, this is the end of the tour, it is 9.30am and we say goodbye. Of course do not forget to follow the Photo Tour on its facebook page, and follow this blog to keep learning!


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Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.


  1. Agnieszka Kazmierska on April 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm


    I’m interested in taking part in the sunrise photoworkshop on on 14.04 ( 2 people) .

    Please kindly let me know if is possible on this date.

    I would appreciate your rush answer.


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