Paddling through Paradise

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Paddling through Paradise

Hoi An, Vietnam

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli  

"Boat tour?"  Hanging out on a bridge over the Thu Bon River at the edge of Hoi An’s morning market, she approached us.  "Have boat, want to go?"  In a 10 foot rowboat, up and down the river, for 30,000 Dong an hour, she wanted to guide us. 

Seeing this strikingly expressive and noisy town from the peaceful river was most appealing. In bargaining with her for a two hour boat ride, she showed an integrity and a naiveté missing in other vendors in this city. She couldn’t understand why we didn’t believe her that $2 USD an hour was the cost, or that anyone else would be charging either less or more. This was the price, and it was fair.

We accepted.



Following her down a small alleyway to her rowboat, we gingerly boarded.

Em was her name, and she spoke English very well. Soon, pieces of her life gently spilled from her as she told us of her children, and of her husband who fishes day and night to support them. She lives on one of the islands in the center of the river and is up at 4:30 each morning to see her family off to school or to the open sea. Her hands are leathered from the sun, and her smile is warm. Although she learned English in school, she perfected it while giving tours such as this one, and speaking with foreigners. Even now, there was an eagerness to learn new words.



The silence of the river and the rhythmic rowing was seductive. It was soothing to be distanced from the hustle, bustle, clamor and noise of Hoi An.

Em explained how every year during the heavy September and October rains, the river floods. People are forced to leave their homes and live on their boats. Whole families board these small vessels and cook, eat and sleep for months, until the river water returns to reasonable levels. All the houses along the river, the ones on the islands in the center of the river, and even the market alongside get flooded, regularly, at this same time of the season.

When the waters subside, it’s time to go in, scrape out the mud and start over, living on land once again. Even the riverside hotels must do the same thing, she said. What a daunting task!


Our two hours sped by enveloped in this peacefulness, and we just had to have more. Plans were made to meet her the following morning at 5:30 a.m., for an early view of daily activities.

Before sunrise we were ready to go. On our way to the bridge to meet Em, adults were lined up in school yards doing exercises and stretching to music, using bamboo sticks for balance. Children, too, were in groups in front of other buildings doing routines for school or sport.





The market was bustling as we neared the bridge. Fishermen and women with their fresh catch from the river and the sea were lined up and fish were brought in to the stalls. Women with their fruits and vegetables displayed on their mats were already in rows. There was the distinct impression that we were “late”!



We again met with our riverboat friend, and softly cruised up the river towards the sea. Viewing the night’s fishermen and women coming to market from the vantage point of being on the river was a revelation. Perpendicular to the market, boats were docked side by side, with the earliest arrivals being the closest. Everyone with catch to sell had to walk over the previously docked boat, with their baskets filled to the brim.



Em knew many of the vendors and fishermen, and spoke to all to find out how the evening went. One woman, who looked especially fatigued, was explaining that she had been up all night, and had only a little catch to show for it. Weatherworn, with bloodshot eyes, she was holding the crab between the boat plank and her pedicured foot as she was tying up the claws using banana leaf as string.





Silently, with only the lapping of water and the distant muffle of human chatter, our small craft continued on in the morning light. We came alongside a 75 year old toothless woman who had hope for today’s gifts from the sea. She spoke of her seven children, how her husband had died before her, and of the war. Rail thin, and having endured Life’s beatings, she works every day to support herself, so that she can eat. Her human beauty is blazing, obvious. She is a survivor.

More of the town is awaking now, and there are ferries going from one side to the other filled with school children in their au dais with their motorbikes or bicycles behind them.



Another young fisherwoman has her boat docked in the middle of the river. She asks Em for a lift to the market with her sea goods so that she can get there quickly. She deftly hauls her battered and taped styrofoam box onto our small boat and climbs in. We rock and dip with the weight. Em apologizes for any inconvenience, but she cannot just leave a friend who is in need, has asked for a favor and must support her family. The fisherwoman barely looks at us. Arriving at the market dock, she leaps up, barefoot, onto the concrete landing and hands her package over to a man who jumps into a vehicle. The seafood is going to market forty minutes away in Danang. She almost missed him.

It’s been another two hours that have sped by, filled with images of daily Vietnamese river life. We have had the perfect guide. The respite from the dissonance in town has been appreciated, and we hate to see it end.

If you visit Hoi An, and want to enjoy views of this town from a different angle, seek out Em. She’s on the bridge every day, and the river life she knows is peaceful, quiet and rewarding.


For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

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