Our Vietnam planning got off to an excellent start when we realised that our trip coincided with the Hoi An Lantern Festival. As darkness falls on the evening of the Lantern Festival the lights are switched off in Hoi An and the ancient town is lit up with a sea of candles and lanterns. My love of all things candlelight is well documented (remember Petra at night!) and I couldn’t wait to arrive in Hoi An and experience the Lantern Festival! Lanterns at the ready, Hoi An we’re on our way!
Lanterns, lanterns everywhere!
Our week in Vietnam was in full swing (read more about what we got up to here!) and, after an amazing journey from Hue over the Hai Van Pass, we arrived in Hoi An just in time for the Lantern Festival. We were instantly drawn in by the picture perfect lantern and candlelit Song Thu Bon River and we were amazed by the huge crowds and the festival atmosphere. The ancient town is closed to motorised traffic on the night of the festival and we spent the evening wandering around Hoi An and the banks of its river. Here’s a lowdown of the highlights from our magical evening!
The Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge is synonymous with the ancient UNESCO town. We stood on the crowded wooden platform across from the bridge and admired the flickering lanterns illuminating the river and the bridge above. Romance is most definitely in the air at the Lantern Festival and it was so lovely to see the newly married couples pass by in little sampan boats ready to release their lanterns in the hopes of bringing luck to their marriage. The festival is full of hope and beauty and there’s no place where this is more evident than the Japanese Bridge.
A Lantern Filled Song Thu Bon River
The Lantern Festival is all about the lanterns: it’s only fair really! As the evening progresses the river quickly fills with colourful lanterns and sampans ferrying passengers on a scenic cruise through the maze of lanterns. We spent over an hour in a quiet spot along the banks of the river and enjoyed the beautiful scene in front of us. The river is truly magical on the night of the Full Moon Lantern Festival and the lantern covered water took our breath away.
Setting our lanterns free!
From the moment we got close to the hub of the evening’s action, the Cau An Hoi Bridge, we were accosted by lantern selling locals. Releasing a lantern on the river is said to bring good fortune and love and we were happy to indulge! The lanterns are identical with coloured cardboard housing a burning candle: the going price is 5,000 VND and we set free a sufficient number of lanterns to bring us good luck well into the next millennium! Did I mention how much I love candles? The sellers provide super long poles to lower the lanterns into the river and releasing our lanterns was the absolute highlight of our evening!
The Riverside Action!
The river banks are lined with lantern sellers, pop up street food cafes, souvenir stalls and ancient game playing locals. The food was excellent and cheap, the people watching was fascinating and we bought many, many souvenirs to remind us of our night at the Lantern Festival. We watched the theatre performers, listened to the traditional music and poetry recitals and mingled with the locals and tourists who were in Hoi An that evening. It felt like we had been transported back in time and were in a different world!
The delicious street cafes:
An Hoi night market
We crossed the hectic Cau An Hoi Bridge to An Hoi to check out the night market. The night market was bright and chaotic and we had a blast wandering through the shops and stalls and indulging in some friendly banter and negotiations with the locals. The lanterns are the main attraction, no doubt helped by the night that was in it, and the bright and colourful displays are wonderful!
Vietnamese coffee? Yes please!
The atmosphere is fantastic in the evenings in Hoi An and the Lantern festival takes it to another level! Locals far outnumber the tourists as many flock to pay tribute to their ancestors under the light of the silver moon. The streets and bridges are filled with foot traffic and the stalls, restaurants and souvenir shops are crowded. Add poetry readers, dramatic theatrical performances and music into the mix and it results in a fantastic evening!
The real meaning of the festival, as a time to pay tribute to ancestors, is never lost. The locals set up small shrines with burning incense and fake paper money notes and the temples are bursting with those paying their respects.
We had a fab evening in Hoi An and the Lantern festival was an amazing treat! On any given day Hoi An really comes alive in the evening but the colourful lanterns and the electric festival atmosphere make for a truly beautiful and special night in the ancient town. We couldn’t have asked for a better time to visit Hoi An!
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