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 originally designed to avoid a tax that the French placed on all boats. Today these boats are still used by fishermen along the coast of Central Vietnam.
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 be a symbol of 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 during the French Colonial era, the French placed a tax on all boats. Many of the 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 be able 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 solve all these problems. Not only could it avoid the tax that was placed on all boats, but it was also able to 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, there were probably many who doubted if this little woven basket boat would be successful at all. But this little Vietnamese woven basket boat has certainly proved itself through the test of time. This boat has been able to do all the things it set out to do, plus, as time has shown, much more.
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 that have specific skills in weaving them. It can take one of these highly skilled weavers 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 it also has some inherent buoyancy qualities. At the same time as being buoyant, bamboo is also flexible enough so that it can be woven.
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 then the weaving process can begin.
It is not easy to weave the boat. The pieces of the bamboo, though they are flexible, are also larger than weaving a basket or other woven products. This is also why special skill is needed to weave these large bamboo pieces on to 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.
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 actually steer one of these boats without just spinning around in circles does take some training and skill. Fishermen paddle the oar in a special arc-like motion so that 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 and completely glide 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 some of them brightly painted. 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 that they could carry a substantial part of their entire’s day 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 important part of their daily fishing operations.
These Vietnamese round woven basket boats or coracles that dot the coastlines of central Vietnam have become an important part of the Vietnamese fishing culture. These little round woven basket boats have proven themselves to be an invention that has withstood the test of time and modernization.
Where can I purchase a round basket boat?
Mondoro, a 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?
There are now many places in Hoi An, Danang, or parts of Central Vietnam that 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.