Going out on a Hoi An basket boat is a fun experiences and amazing activity that you can manage by yourself without a tour company. There's no need to book a package tour - save time and money!
Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for its charming ancient city. There are so many things to do and see. Since arriving in Vietnam, I've been looking forward to trying out a basket boat tour, an activity where you can explore the jungle, learn about local fishing and crabbing, and about the history of the Vietnam War, called the "American War" here in Vietnam.
I asked many people and did a lot of research about how to do this activity on your own. Some people, even the staff at my hotel, only wanted to sell me a package tour, and wouldn't even help me by giving me the information on how to get to the coconut village on my own. I hope my plan can help those traveler on a budget like me who would rather skip the package tour and have an independent adventure :)
We started our day early and used Grab Taxi (taxi booking app with reliable service and fair prices) to to to Cam Thanh Village, which is about 4 km from Hoi An Ancient Town. The taxi cost about 40k VND or $1.7 one way (depends on where you stay). I just showed the picture of the boat to the driver so he knew where to drop me off. About 10 minutes later, we arrived. The driver dropped us off at a local restaurant, where the owner also runs a basket tour business.
We were a group of 3 people, and at first she wanted to charge us 300.000VND/person. After we hesitated, she dropped the price down to 700.000/3 people. Eventually after some bargaining, she agreed to charge 300.000/boat, which is 200.000/person. The boat ride is about 1 hour long in a loop, and one boat can fit maximum 3 passengers (including the guide). I'm happy with the price, while tour companies charge over 600.000VND/person.
After we were seated, we were ready to sail! Our guide was a middle-age women who paddled us along the whole way (she is so strong!). This type of boat needs special skills to paddle. The water is very clear and I could see many fish in the water below me.
After we set sail, the first station we visited was a local fishing spot. It's amazing how they throw the net to make their catch. We are not only got to watch how they do it, but we even got to do it ourselves! Our guide paddled us up close to the fishing boat so we could climb on to the fishing boat and learning by doing!
After we finished learning how to cast a fishing net, we continue sailing deeper in the water coconut forest. The guide showed us where the local people hid from American bombs during the war. The people of Hoi An would hide under the coconut trees while trying to ambush the US Army. Now, the area that used to be bombed is now just an empty area without any coconut trees but full with memories from the villagers.
Our guide could not speak English, but she was able to use body languages and some keywords. She had such a great sense of humor, and was constantly laughing and giving us high fives! I'm so impressed by how she paddled us down the river, all the while weaving many cute handmade gifts for us out of the coconut leaves such as grasshopper toys, flower rings, and a flower crown (I didn't even realize when she did it). She told us that the basket boats are all made out of bamboo.
After that, there was another extraordinary fun experience when the villagers showed us how to spin in the basket. It's FUN and INSANE! I can feel dizzy just by watching others, so I didn't try it, but my sister did! I could only laugh and enjoy her screaming while the man in the boat spun the basked around and around so fast!
We moved on along the river, enjoying the beautiful nature. There was a spot where we could get out of the boat and stand on an old coconut trunk, while our guide took a picture.
This forest in the river is a water coconut forest. I had never heard of water coconuts before! They are very different from the coconuts that I'm used to.
Then we came to the last activity: crab fishing! I watched my guide pick up a fresh clam from the water and hang it on a hook. Then she paddled us close to a coconut tree and tried to catch a big purple crab! It's unbelievable! A huge, fat fresh water crab came out by instinct to grab the clam. She lifted the crab up into the boat, while he was holding onto the clam by his claw. After they got the crab to show us, they released it back in the river where they belong. I'm happy about that. At first I thought they were going to eat them!
Finally we got back to the pier. The boat runs from early morning until sunset. I really really enjoyed this activity, especially since our guide was so friendly and cheerful. There is so much to learn and see. After this we will join the Lantern Festival in Hoi An.
If you want to try out a basket boat ride, you should try to go on your own! The tours can make things convenient, but can cost you a lot more money. In the end, we felt like we had the whole river to ourselves. What an amazing experience! It was a lot more fun than going with a big group. The lady who helped us to book the trip also told us that when the tour groups arrive, the local people don't receive as much money. It can also be beneficial for the local people who work so hard to give these fun and amazing tours to go independently.