Fall Under Hội An’s Spell

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

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Hội An is awash in orange, yellows and gold as the sun sets and excitement begins to builds for the night’s festivities.

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.

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All along the Thu Bon river, primarily elderly women set up lanterns filled with a single candle to sell to tourists desiring to make a wish.

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.

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Twilight is a time of transition in Hội An. The day-to-day rituals are exchanged for an evening of magic and tradition.

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.

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Hội An is known as the City of Lanterns for good reason. An art brought to the city by Chinese settlers, the Vietnamese adopted the craft as their own. Today, thousands of silk lanterns can be seen being crafted on the street, hung across alleyways and decorating boats.

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.

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Floating like tiny boats along the river, each lantern symbolizes a wish.
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The edges of the Thus Bon River are slanted, making it difficult to place a lantern in the river without the aid of a staff — unless one hops in a boat and sets their wish free from the water.
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Candlelight from the many lanterns creates a spooky ambience as tourists and locals wander through Hội An at night.
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The magic of the Full Moon Lantern Festival touches the young, the old, the local and the foreign.
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Flickering lights reflect in the Thu Bon River, seemingly taking on a life of their own.
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A giddiness fills the air as tourists lose themselves in the beautiful festival.

Photos and Text by Sarah Comber

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