The Lantern Festivals are a great time to be in Hoi An in Central Vietnam. Hoi An became an important trading port many centuries ago during the Champa Kingdom when it traded by sea with many other places. It was central to the spice trade with Indonesia between the 7th and 10th Centuries. Its importance as a commercial port returned in the 16th and 17th Centuries before its influence waned. That role is now ‘’owned’’ by Da Nang just to the north.
Today Hoi An is a mix of Chinese style buildings, colonial structures and local tube houses. In addition, there is the Japanese Covered Bridge. As a result, it is regularly included in Vietnam tour packages, especially for those tourists especially interested in history. The Lantern Festivals are held at every full moon throughout the year and the colourful lanterns look spectacular, particularly after the sun goes down.
While the Festival is great, it is not always practical for a tourist to be in Hoi An at a full moon. It doesn’t mean they will miss the spectacle of colourful lanterns; they are lit every night. The difference at festival time is that it is the occasion when the locals give thanks and make offerings to their ancestors and the God of Land. Although nominally Buddhist, there is far more to Vietnamese beliefs and traditions than Buddhism. Candles are lit in lanterns that are then launched into the River. Their impact is even greater because the lights of the City are switched off just before the lanterns are launched.
Since 1998, the ancient city has been hosting a programme that includes many tourist attractions with lanterns lighting the way. It is thought that over a million tourists have come over the last two decades specially to enjoy the programmes with the locals more than happy to get involved.
Classic Drama (tuong) and folk game performances are a feature of the programmes held one evening every month. Local craftsmen and artists display their creations on the banks of the Hoai River and those creations include the lovely lanterns.
Hoi An became a UNESCO World Heritage Site some years ago and such programmes only help to reinforce its popularity with overseas tourists. They can buy tickets in advance to give them entry into a number of performances and events.
This progressive city understands the value of tourism with visits to villages, cycling tours, offshore cruises already in place. Add the chance to see lantern, pottery and silk production and Hoi An demands inclusion on every Vietnam package. A good Vietnam travel agent will be able to oblige.
Hoi An can be visited during a journey north to south, or in reverse and the airport at Da Nang means that if you wish, you can visit after a short domestic flight from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Make a note and find out more about this lovely city.