Hoi An is famous among travellers for its monthly Full Moon Lantern Festival. Here are some things to consider when visiting the cultural event.
The Hoi An Lantern Festival is held on the 14th day of each lunar month, during the full moon. This cultural event is all about celebrating the full moon – one of the most sacred events in Buddhist religion. The significance of this celebration is because Buddha was born at this time, and also because he achieved enlightenment during a full moon.
The lanterns are a dazzling sight and the main attraction for tourists journeying to see the festival. Colourful paper lanterns with candles lit and placed in the bottom are sent floating down the Hoai River as an offering to the gods and ancestors.
The Lantern Festival kicks off around dusk, and festivities wrap up around 9pm. The site for the festival is kept shrouded in darkness in order to enjoy the light of the lanterns, so ensure that you arrive before the sun sets to find your position along the river.
The best locations for the festival are the Japanese Covered Bridge – a landmark 18th Century bridge with intricate wooden carvings - and Cau An Hoi Bridge. These two bridges will give you an incredible vantage point of the lanterns floating by.
Vehicles are banned in the area during the festival, so getting there is mostly done on foot. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
It is highly recommended that you take a sampan ride on the river while visiting Hoi An. Sampan rides are around VND 100,000 which converts to around AUD $6. This unforgettable experience will put you among the twinkling lanterns as well as help you to escape some of the foot traffic during the festival.
Lighting your own lantern and making your own tribute to the cultural event is an important part of the experience. You can haggle the price of your lantern with local vendors, but usually they’re between VND 5000 and 10,000.
You will also enjoy traditional street foods for sale at the event and vibrant entertainment with Bai Choi musical performances.
The best time to visit Hoi An for the Lantern Festival is in February, during the first full moon of the lunar new year. Rainy season in Hoi An is between October and December, and often the river can be affected by flooding.
Understandably, this spectacular festival attracts a large number of tourists from around the world, so be vigilant with your belongings and take care with photo opportunities over the water - many visitors have been known to lose cameras and phones into the river trying to get that perfect shot.
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