I’ll start with song. We just happened to arrive on the opening day of the First Vietnam International Choir Festival and Competition Hoi An. Unfortunately, the Opening Ceremony was an open air event and it rained, light but steady, although that did not damper the mood or the pride of the young people from thirteen European and Asian nations participating in the two day event. The opening artistic event was a 10 minute ballet based on traditional Vietnamese themes performed by dancers from companies founded by Imperial patronage centuries in the past.
The Competition just so happened to coincide with the monthly Full Moon Festival. Each weekend of the full moon the Old City is closed to traffic Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:00 pm and all but emergency lighting is extinguished, until 9:00PM. Candles and oil lanterns light the streets, temples, Assembly Halls, shops, restaurants and ancient houses. Musicians of ancient music, artisans and poets perform at various locations. At this particular March festival, the choirs were performing as well.
It’s hard to know if the Full Moon Festival, held monthly on the Friday and Saturday evenings closest to the full moon, has a basis in ancient culture but it sure makes for two nice atmospheric evenings in an already charming Old Town. The absence of electronic music, most electric lights, the sound of motor bikes and horns and their replacement by darkness, the glow of fire light, human voices and acoustic music does set a unique mood. No one is going to be fooled that the T-shirt shop is medieval, but the 18th century tea house, open to the street, that’s hosting a poetry reading in Vietnamese is real. On the Thu Bon River, hundreds of colorful paper lanterns with votive candles are available for less than US$.50 each. Making a wish and setting a lantern to float down the river will speed your prayer to heaven.