Make a wish and set a lantern alight while partaking in the city’s ancient tradition.
As the sun sets over Hội An, the everyday humdrum begins to fade and is replaced by magic of a human invention.
The air itself seems to be filled with an electric energy. The fading light casts a dream-like quality over the Old Town, with colours muting from daylight’s bright clarity, to a golden hue caressed by burnt orange highlights, followed by a glowing blue and finally — as the sun waves its final farewell and sinks below the horizon line — the world is enveloped in darkness. A darkness only broken by the glow of the full moon
In those final moments of twilight, the Thu Bon river is a hotbed of activity. Although the Full Moon Lantern Festival is traditionally an opportunity for Hội An’s residents to honour their ancestors, leaving offerings of flowers, food and money upon doorsteps and at one of the city’s many temples, the festivities have also become a draw for tourists wishing to partake in the magic.
While there was a time when all of Hội An’s electricity was turned off in exchange for candlelight, today the festival is still graced by electric light as restaurants along the river fill with merrymakers. However, the Bridge of Light is kept dark in order for the river to take on a light of its own.
For only a few thousand Dong, tourists are invited to light a paper lantern and set it afloat in the river — making a wish for the future.
A trail of wishes floats lackadaisically into the night, bumping against boats steering tourists along the river. For a few hours, Hội An is surrounded by an enchantment woven in part by tradition, and in part by a human desire to be involved in something greater than oneself.
Photos and Text by Sarah Comber