When, planning our trip to Vietnam, we discovered that the dates of our trip would coincide with the Hoi An Lantern Festival at full moon. We were looking forward to getting there to enjoy it in person!
After having a delicious and hearty breakfast buffet at our hotel, we hang out in the room. It's crazy how we manage to deal without not doing much! In the afternoon however, we leave to explore the old town of Hoi An.
UNESCO is striving to preserve more than 800 historic buildings in this city including the famous large communal houses that the Chinese built and used for social, commercial and cultural purposes during their settlement in Hoi An. We walk through the old town without visiting the Chinese buildings.
From our hotel, we go through narrow alleys to get there. We see old wells, adding charm to this city. How nice to walk in town without a car honking or motorcycles! And for good reason, there is indeed little traffic and travel is mainly through the trishaw, the famous tricycles also called rickshaw.
We really appreciate this relaxed atmosphere without much traffic but a lot of shops. In Hoi An, it's the madness of the made-to-measure. It is estimated that between 300 and 500 tailors become masters in the art of copying.
Just show what you want on a magazine page and they do it as soon as possible. I choose the material and take the opportunity to make a new pair of shoes. After negotiating the half-price pair, the saleswoman takes the measurements of my feet by drawing outlines on a sheet as a child would draw her hand.
I do not know much about shoe design. So I wonder if that's really the way things should be done. She still uses a sewing meter. Once the odds are taken, we can continue our ride. My flip flops should be ready for tonight.
We pass in front of a pretty Japanese bridge built formerly at this location in order to establish a way of communication with the Chinese. In Hoi An, women wear ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese outfit. It is a long tunic and silk trousers, fluid and lightweight. They are so elegant in this outfit! I almost hesitate to buy one.
Later in the afternoon, a woman docks us, proposing to come to her workshop and see the fabrics. If I want, she can make me an ao dai. We follow her, just to see what her studio looks like. To get there, we go through a market where sellers insist on selling us their products.
And then a little further, we see traders asleep in their shop. What a contrast from one street to another! In the workshop, a woman presents me a catalog from which I can choose the style of Ao dai that I wish to have. She shows me her different fabrics and tells me that she can make me for tomorrow.
I hesitate a little. I do not like to buy in haste. In addition, I notice that the fabrics have some defects so I decline the proposal and we leave this workshop. We walk a little by the river before going to pick up my flip flops at the shop.
Well I am pleasantly surprised to see that they are pretty and visibly well made. Back at the hotel, we take advantage of this late afternoon to rest, sometimes at the pool, sometimes in the room.
For dinner, we eat at our hotel because the food is good and cheap. We taste one of the specialties of the region, the Cao Lau, rice noodles, flat, accompanied by croutons, soy, herbs and normally pork, but we ask the chicken. We then return to the old town to discover an atmosphere as relaxed as day but much more illuminated.
We strolled in the night market where we can find lanterns of silk and paper, another specialty of the city. At the edge of the Thu Bon river, and next to the ancient Japanese Bridge, which looks especially beautiful in the dark, and in the light of the full moon, the staff who manages the boat rides offer a night ride.
Every month, the city celebrates the Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival, a favorite of the Buddhist tradition. All these candles and lights create a fairy atmosphere in the city. We cannot believe we are in Vietnam, far from the permanent noise of cities. Here I am on the boat ready to drop my lanterns!
That moment when I look back and see the river illuminated by the flame of paper lantern candles is poetic, and magical! Each of us entrusted our best dreams that were slowly disappearing before our eyes, swept away by the current, and losing ourselves to the drift among hundreds of floating candles, replete with many more dreams of hundreds of illusions and desires to fulfill.
After enjoying the surroundings for a few hours, we return to rest at our colonial villa, from where we will leave tomorrow to the neighboring city of Hue, the imperial capital. The river, completely dark, reflects the colors of the silk lamps, and the tiny points of light of the offerings, full of desires of happiness, luck and love, sail adrift at the mercy of the river current.