Chronicle 12: Man Thai Traditional Fishing in Da Nang

September 5, 2022


Rubber Chronicles

two people fishing in Vietnam

Teach a Person to Fish and You Feed Them For a Lifetime

Vietnam's 3,000-kilometre coastline contributes to over 5 million jobs in the fishing and seafood sector and is one of the top seafood exporters globally.

Da Nang, the 3rd largest city in Viet Nam, has a rich variety of landscapes including 30 km of gorgeous white sandy beaches and water so warm there is no second wasted acclimating to it.

Like other big cities in Viet Nam, there co-exists hundred year old traditions and villages next to modern high-rises with rooftop pools and bars. We were cruising on a motorbike (of course it’s Viet Nam) when we stopped to investigate the round rattan boats of lore (or “coracles”).

Nestled at the foot of Son Tra Peninsula, which houses the tallest Lady Buddha, rests once fishing villages like Tan An since about the mid-1700s, when the ancestors under King Le Hien Tong claimed coastal land for its bountiful and generous provisions from the sea. The village has been renamed a few times based on the ruling clan at the time, including Tan Thai, then Co Man, and finally to Man Thai. Now it’s known as the Man Thai fishing village.  

Fishing bowls on the beach

The Man Thai villagers, as early as 3am paddle out in these coracles to drop large fishing nets near the shore. The boats are built around a frame of split bamboo and the hull made of woven bamboo lacquered for water-resistance. Back at Man Thai village women make and mend the nets. This tradition has remained unchanged for many centuries.

It’s unusual that they are still fishing late in the afternoon, but blessings behold, on this day they were. So, naturally I wanted to help – of course I have little fishing experience so in this instance I hoped enthusiasm and curiously might trump.

I approached and signaled I wanted to help. Maybe she didn’t think I was Vietnamese or thought I couldn’t speak Vietnamese, but no words were exchanged. She motioned I needed a hat to protect me from the sun and then tossed me a belt. I then became the anchor, but not for long because once we pulled enough net on the shore, the anchor moves to the first position in the water. I was struggling with how the fish were being caught, until I notice that about 50 yards down the shore was a group of 4-5 people on the horizon doing the same thing.

a man casting out a net

See Video here.

... Stay Curious

We discovered it takes about 2 hours to pull in 600-800m net and our blistered palms were a good reminder. As the 2 ends of the net come closer and meet, what then took 2 hours, was over in 5 blurry minutes - once quiet and somber fisherman became very vocal, quick and animated as they “herded” the fish, squid, octopus, prawns, etc. which were trapped at the end of the net. The nets were then pulled to the shore, the catch sorted and weighed, and locals swarmed in to buy the fresh catch.

I was mesmerized by the centuries old tradition still kept alive by people who lived and survived by the sea… just a few doors down from the hotels and resorts one of which was ours.

a group of people fishing on the beach

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