SUNRISE WITH SUP MONKEY
The sunrise in Hoi An is one of the most beautiful you will ever see – a mixture of pink, lavender, and coral, broken only by clouds and the peaks of the Cham Islands.
That is, if you have the internal fortitude to get up early enough to see it.
To be honest, it is a sight I never thought that I would see. Not an early riser, the idea of getting out of bed at 4 am to see a beach sunrise has only ever appealed to me in theory.
However, my recent trip with stand-up paddle boarding company SUP Monkey has helped change that lazy point of view.
On a brilliant Monday morning, I met guide Shane Cotter at La Plage bar and restaurant on An Bang Beach at 4:45 am. Our small group of groggy North Americans enjoyed the initial tinges of colour flooding the sky, while crowds of Vietnamese beach goers got in their early morning swim.
The long paddle boards were sleek and surprisingly light, and it was easy to carry them out into the surf. After a short explanation of the basics from our guide, we paddled out towards the exploding sunrise. The board was rather difficult at first. Bobbing on the water like a cork made it tough to find my balance.
I was the first casualty of the day, overbalancing spectacularly into the blue and losing my hat in the process. A later attempt at a serene yoga silhouette pose ended in a larger splash, but the dunks in the deep were fun and refreshing.
Our guide was patient as we struggled to find our sea legs. After a few minutes, as promised, I steadied out and used my core and thighs to navigate the swaying of the waves. It takes some arm strength to paddle the board, but you can switch to seated or kneeling positions to help conserve energy.
During these first tentative attempts, the sky grew more and more brilliant; eventually the bright red disc of the sun rose between two peaks on the Cham Islands, and left a trail of dazzling light on the water.
Cotter, a native of Limerick, took us on a leisurely paddle down the coast to Cua Dai beach, keeping up an animated stream of chat. We decamped on a deserted section of the beach next to a line of pilapas, and enjoyed an early morning Cafe Sua Saigon to keep our energy up for the next leg of the journey.
After coffee, we paddled back to our starting point on An Bang Beach, with a few stops in between to rest tired arms and snap a few pics.
The morning out ended at 9 am, after we had traveled an astonishing 9 kilometers. We were treated with a very welcome BLT for breakfast, served in a fresh banh mi filled with crispy bacon – a perfect way to refuel.
All in all, paddle boarding is a serene but physically engaging way to see the sunrise and explore the coastline. I will be back for Sunrise with SUP Monkey – after a series of naps.
Aloha Sunrise tour
Departs from An Bang Beach. Enjoy the sunrise and a leisurely paddle to Cua Dai Beach and back. Coffee and lunch included.
3 ½ – 4 hours: $40USD
Thu Bon Bonanza tour (seasonal)
Departs from a fishing village on Cam Thanh Island. Sights include the new Cua Dai bridge and the palm mangroves of Thuan Tinh Island. Picnic lunch included.
3 hours: $30 USD