By Parallels & Meridians
The Hoi An full moon festival is held in the ancient town of Hoi An in central Vietnam, every fourteenth day of the lunar month, a new year. The activities of the festival mimic the life of the locals who lived four centuries ago. Electric lights and motorized vehicles are shut down and the magical festival filled with lanterns gives way to a glimpse of an ancient town, once an affluent and booming port, four hundred years ago.
The locals honor their ancestors with altars laden with candles, fruit and flowers, and incense burning outside offices and homes along with the offerings of fake 100 dong bills in exchange for prosperity and good luck. The temples are filled with activities like candle lit ceremonies held by monks, local fishing families fill into the Fujian assembly hall to honor Lady Thien Hau, believed to be the goddess of the seas who is the protector of sailors. Even the street sellers replace their harsh lighting with ambient and soft candlelight and traditional music can be heard everywhere!
The locals play Chinese chess in the streets and in front of their homes, young couples stroll on the moonlight lit streets and the streets are filled with local bands playing the drums, bamboo flutes, fiddles and traditional games. The banks of the river are filled with young women and men singing folk songs and lighting up the atmosphere even more.
The lanterns that light up the way
More than 50 lantern workshops take part in this cultural event, the best lanterns will be lit for the lunar New Year’s even on all seven nights of the year. The five hundred meter long road to Hoai River Square, from Hoi Bridge will be lit by numerous colorful lanterns sporting traditional designs and flickering candlelight. Also, a series of performances that celebrate the art and culture of Vietnam is sure to attract both domestic and foreign visitors during the festival.
The main action happens in the area between Cau An Hoi bridge and the Japanese covered bridge and since motorized vehicles are banned here, walking is going to be an explorer’s best friend throughout the festival area. The small walls along the way can be taken advantage of by sitting on them and taking a break while still watching the beautiful lanterns.
Other good view points are restaurants with balcony seating which overlooks the river or street café’s near the Japanese Bridge.
The one of a kind boat ride through the lanterns
The festivities start at dusk and the activities on the Hoi An side ends at about 9-10 pm but the action seems to continue on the Cau An Hoi bridge side, with locals still celebrating till late in the night. It is best to explore the festival area earlier in the day and reserve the evening for a lovely boat ride to conclude the day.
Sampan boats rides is nothing short of a dream with it providing an escape from the chaotic crowds while navigating through the magnificent maze of lanterns and also a providing a perfect picture opportunity for tourists while lowering lamps into the river. It is a must do activity to have the complete moon festival experience in Vietnam.