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[Photos] The Young Man and The Sea: Fishing at Dawn by the Cham Islands

There I was again, squeaky wooden floorboards under my feet, dodging coils of soaked, salty ropes and boxes upon boxes of freshly caught fish. I wasn't going to leave Hoi An until I could join a fishing trip on one of those boats.

There was a group of locals, all smoking and looking at their vessels. More men came and surrounded us, and I kept trying to find someone to speak to about the boats. Eventually, one fisherman guided me to a house five minutes away, where a family was eating breakfast together.

A young girl named Ni asked if she could help. I told her about my desire to document a fishing trip and she took me inside the house. We sat together with her family, and I smiled politely as they spoke together in Vietnamese about my idea.  

Eventually, Ni’s mother and father looked at me, smiled warmly, and nodded. Named Tam and Loc, they are each involved in fish trading, but they do it at sea, going straight to the fisherman's boat and buying the fish right there while it’s still wet and kicking.

We met again the following day, which started coal-black at 4am. Tam heated coffee on a small fireplace inside the boat as we navigated towards the Cham Islands. A deep red sunrise burnt across the sky.

There is a clear routine to their life at sea. We ended up boarding eight boats to browse various catches of fish and eels. Tam and Loc negotiated the price right on deck –  heated exchanges always ending with handshakes and smiles.

After a lunch of fresh shrimp, we headed back to one of the numerous fish markets that hug the shore. We slid all the fish we bought during the day into giant, colorful boxes so they were ready to sell. All except those we ate, which we washed down with sun-warmed beer that felt truly deserved.  

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