Hôi An! The Lantern Festival!
Hôi An is one of the most colourful and beautiful places I've been and the name is translated as "Peaceful Meeting Place". In 1999 the old town was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
One of the biggest attractions in the area, is the Hôi An Lantern Full Moon Festival which takes place every full moon cycle.
Someone told us about it while we were still in the north of Vietnam , before we visit the old city.
I still remember that when we arrived, first thing we had walks around the old city and we were asking locals about, when the next Lantern Festival it's going to take place. Hoping of course we will be lucky enough to see it during our stay. We knew that full moon was going to appear soon, but we didn't know which day exactly, nor we knew much about the Festival yet. Though, all of the locals we tried to talk with, they didn't speak good English and we had a difficulty on being understood; so we just gave up on trying and we just enjoyed the day.
Few hours later, while strolling around (with my friend, and two more new friends we made in Da Nang earlier), the night came and what caught our attention was that there was no electricity in the whole city and instead light was coming from paper lanterns with candles floating down the river.
Hahaha.. It didn't take any longer to understand how lucky we were to see and experience exactly what we were looking for, the first same night.
We jumped into the first small and cute traditional boat we saw. There were sooo many of them. Each one full of lights, but in a diversity of colours and hanging or embracing each boat on a different way. The was so much light and coloraturas that you could even forget the fact that there was no electricity in the whole city (part of the festival as well). Though, from inside the small boat we could still see clearly and admire the stars and the queen of the night, the Moon.
We had now our own lanterns, which were given to us by the petite owner of our boat. A cute local woman, around 60 with a huge smile. Few teeth were missing, but in my eyes she looked just wonderful, exactly the way she was. We lit the candles, (I made a wish), and let it flow in the river as the tradition is. Happiness!
The celebration honours the ancestor. People exchange flowers, lanterns, candles and fruits for prosperity and good fortune.
There is a Lantern Market as well, located in An Hoi which is across the river from central Hôi An. I believe its the most scenic Market in Vietnam, and it's very pleasant to walk around. You will find different types of Lanterns, many choices in colours, sizes, shapes. You can also find that many of them are made by Hôi An silk (which they are very famous about). There is opportunity for you, to take some good pictures around there if you're into photography and in case the market is not full of people.
On our journey in Vietnam, we had the chance to see and explore Vietnam from North to South, but if you're about to visit Vietnam the future and your time is limited, well in my opinion Hôi An is a "must see" destination in the country.