We’re happy to fly south to the easy-going UNESCO world heritage site of Hoi An… where we hope to catch the monthly full moon Lantern Festival despite a very wet forecast. It’s
wet when we arrive, and en route we pass a motorcyclist downed on the freeway – a sad moment which serves as a sober reminder to our boys on the dangers of motorcycling on roads. Our contrarian timing has some benefits – Sue’s booked us into a spacious villa on the cheap, and we get attentive service as we’re the only guests in the complex.
Tonight’s the lantern festival so we want to plan a little to manage the crowds. It’s dry enough that we’re able to bike into town together and explore Hoi An and its sister island An Hoi on foot. We catch the morning market, always good photographic fodder for Sue. It’s much less crowded and more relaxed than its anagram Hanoi, and we enjoy exploring the old section of town, the ancient Japanese Bridge, restaurant options and the general lay of the land. Max hones his haggling skills buying a funny T-shirt; Sue gets some color shots, and Ben prices Harry Potter books and decides that Kindle downloads are the better option. We find CocoBox – Hoi An’s answer to Starbucks – then bike back to our Villa where we drop the boys so Sue and I can sneak out for a kid-free bike ride. We return for some pool time before showering and laundry.
At dusk, we taxi back in to town to enjoy the lantern festival. With the full moon the tide rises to flood canal-side sidewalks… we’re in shorts and crocks so are well prepared. The crowds are here and the boat touts are persistent, but they’re supply exceeds demand and its’ easy for me to laugh away the initial price of 400,000 Dong and determine that 150,000 ($7US) is the fair price. That knowledge in hand we stroll the night market before paddling out among the floating lanterns. Hoi An is for lovers – there are plenty of young Vietnamese couples dressed in formal wear both modern and traditional, taking professional pictures among the colorful lanterns in the shops and on the water.
Our own family love boat launches at ~7pm. A few strokes in our rower pauses and quietly light four lanterns – simple candles in cut paper baskets – and we place them between us in the hull to enjoy the intimate light. At the apogee of our arc we take turns setting our candles in the canal among hundreds of others, and slowly drift back to our launch. The whole touristy loop takes ~15 minutes – just enough to make a fine memory.
We’ve got time before our dinner reservation so we pay too much for cokes and beer at a sidewalk café and enjoy the people watching before strolling over to dinner at Cargo Club. Good thing we made reservations – it’s packed. We pick a table on the balcony under the eve, and eat too much good food. As desert arrives the skies unleash, layering more water to the full moon’s rising tide. We’re cozy and dry, but neighboring al fresco diners aren’t so lucky, and there’s a mass rush for cover. We’ve got a soggy ¼ mile walk to the taxi stand, but its warm and we’re geared for wet, so it’s just part of the adventure.