Best time of the year to visit Hoi An: The Rice Paddy Rythm
When is the best time of the year to visit Hoi An?
Good question. But there’s no answer, no matter what other articles will tell you.
The real answer is that Hoi An is amazing all year round. At least, it is if you’re coming here for photography.
Despite its recent explosion as a tourist hot spot, Hoi An is still, at its heart, an agricultural town. Rice paddies and fields encircle the town and the sea is just… there. Like right there, mere meters away. (I’m writing this from a beachside cafe right now!)
The thing is, in Hoi An, many people still work in the farming and fishing industries. Which makes the seasons very important.
Of course, in photography, the seasons also play a role. And while I’m not lying when I say that Hoi An is great to visit all year round, there are certain times of the year when it’s better for certain things. Read on to find out more.
If you like green fields and harvest action – visit in May & June
Hoi An, in my opinion, at its most magical just before the rice harvest. Nothing can beat the sight of the wind blowing gently through green fields.
No matter how long I live here, I don’t think I will ever get bored of looking at that glorious sea of green. Add a few conical hat-wearing farmers to the mix and you have a photographer’s delight.
Predicting exactly when the rice harvests will be is tricky – as it all depends on the rain, the sun (and other farming things that I barely understand!) But roughly speaking, the first harvest of the year is in May and the second is in September. That’s right, Hoi An gets TWO rice harvests a year. That’s how awesome it is!
So if you plan your trip here for May or September, chances are you’ll see the rice in its full green glory, or else you’ll arrive mid-harvest. Which means ample opportunities for taking photos of farmers as they work. A win-win, if you ask me.
You can capture the farmers at work during our sunset photography tour and workshop around Hoi An.
And if you miss the harvest by a few days or weeks, don’t despair – you might catch the brief but fascinating “burning season”. When the farmers clear the land by burning. It might not be the best time for your lungs, but it can make for some extremely moody shots. I love it.
If you like beautiful sunrises and blue skies – visit from February to October
Most guidebooks will tell you that the best time to visit Hoi An is between February and October. And they are right in many ways. Particularly when it comes to weather.
During this time, the sky is generally clear and temperatures from hot to getting waaaay too hot. Beautiful sunrises are never guaranteed – but you are most likely to experience them between these months.
One of our favorite tours to run is our Sunrise Fishing Nets and Market Tour. This is where we take to the water long before sunrise, chugging along the Thu Bon river in a boat before aligning ourselves to capture magical shots of fishermen and women tending to their nets at first light. When we get a magical sunrise, it is almost impossible not to take a good photo.
Unfortunately, we can’t run this tour all year round because of the weather. Because when the rains arrive in October, a lot of the fishermen will take down their nets for repairs. Plus, the likelihood of amazing sunrises, full of color, is reduced.
If you like moody weather – visit from October to January
Conventional wisdom, i.e. other slightly more boring travel websites, will tell you to avoid Hoi An in October, November, and December because it’s rainy season. Now, they aren’t wrong – those months are the wettest. In fact, Hoi An gets almost all of its annual supply rain in these three months. But they are wrong when they say you should avoid coming here in the rainy season. Dead wrong.
The rainy season here isn’t anything like winter in Europe. Sure, it rains more – but between the dramatic thunderstorms and tropical downpours, there are still plenty of hours of blue skies and sunshine.
(It’s officially the middle of the rainy season now, but as I mentioned before I’m sat at the beach right now!)
And while you can’t go and take photos when it is bucketing down outside, the periods before and after a deluge can be fascinating. Especially in the Old Town, where the combination of puddles in the road, yellow walls and lanterns can make for amazing shots using reflections.
Plus, one of the benefits of shooting in Hoi An during the rainy season is that town is a little bit quieter – and thankfully the temperatures are cooler, meaning you can get out and about to shoot for more of the day.
Of course, there is less activity in the fields and in the fishing villages (which is also the reason why we run most of our photography tours in Asia at that time). So most of the action is on land rather than water, as people take the time to fix their boats and nets. But Hoi An town is still its usual fascinating self. And with rain comes clouds – and thunder clouds especially make for dramatic backdrops for photography.
If you like floods – visit from October to December
If you take some time to explore the ancient buildings within the Old Town of Hoi An (and you should), especially the ones along Bach Dang street, you will find inside that many have funny notches on the wall. Similar to the ones your mum made on the door frame when she was measuring your growth as a kid. Some of these notches are way above head height.
These little marks illustrate the height of the floods from years gone by. They don’t come every year, and they don’t last very long – usually just two or three days – but for photographers, it is obviously a fascinating time to go out and get snap-happy.
Now, it is virtually impossible to plan a trip to Hoi An just to see the floods – when they arrive it is usually with little warning. The last big one was in 2017. And the next big one might not be for a few years. But usually, every year, Bach Dang street at least will be submerged, making for some very interesting shots.
So when should I avoid Hoi An?
I’ve already told you, Hoi An is great for photography all year round! However, Tet – also known as Vietnamese New Year – does see us most of Vietnam take a holiday, including the team at Hoi An Photo Tour. So probably best to avoid visiting Hoi An that week. The exact dates of Tet change each year – as it’s connected to the Lunar Calendar. In 2020, it runs from January 24th to 29th.
In conclusion: Come whenever but be prepared!
While Hoi An is a great place to visit for photography all year round, if you have something very specific in mind, it’s good to do your research. There is no point turning up in December if you want harvests and no point turning up in blistering mid-June if you want dramatic thunderclouds.
If you are coming specifically for photography, have a think about what you want and plan accordingly. If you need some help, feel free to drop us a line. We will gladly share our knowledge. Just like the weatherman on TV, we might end up being completely wrong! But we’re still happy to help. 😉