Basket Boats and Children on the Beach in Quy Nhon

What Are the Round Basket Boats You See In Vietnam?

Travelers to the central coast of Vietnam in places like Hoi An, Danang, or Quy Nhon may find the coastline scattered, has these strange-looking round woven basket boots or coracles. Whenever I travel to Quy Nhon, Vietnam, we see the woven basket boats lined up on the beach, ready to go out for the next day’s fishing catch in the evenings.

The round basket boats, or coracles as they are called, are handwoven boats along the central coast of Vietnam. The boat is woven from very young bamboo and then covered in tar or resin to waterproof the boat. It can take a skilled artisan several days to make one of these round basket boats. The boats were initially designed to avoid the tax the French placed on all boats. Today these boats are still used by fishermen along the coast of Central Vietnam.

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But this is not just any ordinary boat; this round weave basket boat has a history that goes back to the French Colonial era. Because of this, the boat today continues to symbolize something more than just a round-basket boat.

Here are some insights about this Vietnamese coracle or the Vietnamese round fishing boat:

Vietnamese round woven basket boat history

The story goes that the French taxed all boats during the French Colonial era. Many fishermen could not afford this tax, so being ingenious, they decided to find a way around the new place boat tax.

The Vietnamese round woven basket boat was born out of economic necessity. The fishermen needed to find a boat that would not only be cheap enough so that they could afford it, but it also had to be able to avoid the additional tax that was placed on other boats.

This boat also had to have some basic qualities, such as it had to be able to hold the fish or the day’s catch. It had to withstand the ocean waves, which often can be very fierce on the Vietnamese coastlines, and it had to be waterproof so that it would not sink.

The Vietnamese round-weaved basket boat proved to be the perfect solution to all these problems. Not only could it avoid the tax on all boats, but it could also handle the waves, hold the fishermen’s daily catch and withstand some of the fierce Vietnamese coastal weather.

I am sure that when this boat was first invented or thought of, many probably doubted if this little woven basket boat would be successful. But this little Vietnamese woven basket boat has certainly proved itself through the test of time. This boat has been able to do everything it set out to do, plus, as time has shown, much more.

Basket Boats on the beach
Basket boats lined up on the beach in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Making of the round woven basket boats

Not everyone or every artisan is capable or skilled enough to weave one of these basket boats. Making a round woven basket boat requires artisans with specific skills in weaving. One of these highly skilled weavers can take several days to make one boat.

The artisan must first gather or find very young bamboo. Bamboo is used because it is readily available and has some inherent buoyancy qualities. At the same time as being buoyant, bamboo is also flexible enough to be woven.

Listen to Our Podcast on Vietnam’s Round Basket Boats

Each bamboo piece must be cut and then dried out in the sun. Once the pieces are ready to be woven, the boat’s frame is built, and the weaving process can begin.

Podcast – Lessons From Vietnam’s Round Basket Boats

It is not easy to weave the boat. Though they are flexible, the pieces of bamboo are also larger than weaving a basket or other woven products. This is also why a particular skill is needed to weave these large bamboo pieces onto this woven basket boat.

Once the boats are woven, today-usually a tar or resin is placed on them to make them waterproof. In the past, they would use a kind of clay out of cow dung to put on the boats and waterproof them.

Fisherman's Basket boat
A look inside a fisherman’s round basket boat on the beach in Quy Nhon, Vietnam.

Riding the wave with the round basket boats.

When you see the fishermen out on the ocean in their round woven basket boats, one of the first things you notice is that they cannot only go in a straight line, but they are always riding upon the waves and not cutting through the waves as a regular boat would with a bow. So it can be said this round boat will ride the waves and not cut through them.

Learning to steer one of these boats without spinning around in circles takes some training and skill. Fishermen paddle the oar in a particular arc-like motion so the boat will go straight and not just spin in circles.

One of the most amazing things about these boats is that they can gracefully glide entirely in the water at an outstanding speed. I have also seen many fishermen standing in the boat with a dog next to them, paddling their way out to sea.

Vietnamese woven basket boats today.

Today many of the fishermen still use the woven basket boat. When going to the central coast in Vietnam, you can also see brightly painted brightly. Today the fishermen may even place a motor on these boats to take them further distances out to sea, even as far as 5 kilometers out to the main fishing vessel.

A fisherman told me they could carry a substantial part of their entire day’s load of fish in one of these round basket boats. For this reason, many of them will not give up their round woven fishing boats. Even though there is no longer a Colonial French tax on the boats, they could certainly find another boat to use; however, the fishermen still depend upon these little round-weaved fishing boats and consider them an essential part of their daily fishing operations.

Painted round woven basket boat Quy Nhon,  Vietnam
Painted round-weaved basket boat Quy Nhon, Vietnam

These Vietnamese round woven basket boats or coracles that dot the coastlines of central Vietnam have become an essential part of the Vietnamese fishing culture. These little round woven basket boats have proven to be an invention that has withstood the test of time and modernization.

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Where can I purchase a round basket boat?

Mondoro, home accessories and home decor company based in Hanoi, has some of these woven boats. We have made one of these woven boats into a chair.

You can contact Mondoro by clicking on here to get to their contact page on their website.

Where can I see or ride one of the Vietnamese round basket boats?

Many places in Hoi An, Danang, or parts of Central Vietnam offer tourists rides on these round Vietnamese basket boats. If you are in Hoi An, check out the Hoi An Boat Basket Tour Company. You can click here to get to their website. Or talk to a local travel agent in Hoi An and they can easily arrange this.