For a long time, Hoi An Ancient Town is a place I have wanted to go and finally I made it last weekend. It was a full-moon night and the town looked amazing under the glistening light of lanterns and the moon was not alone as many people walked under and gasped as they saw its beauty, pointed at it and gazed admiringly.
Hoi An is an exceptional example of a traditional Asian trading port which has been completely and assiduously preserved. Under the moonlight, I could see most of the buildings are in the traditional architectural style of the 19th and 20th centuries. They are aligned along narrow lanes of traditional type, including many religious buildings, such as pagodas, temples and meeting houses, in which with hotels, restaurants, bars, tailors and souvenir shops dominate the old center. The architecture of Hoi An, which is almost entirely of wood, is of considerable interest. It combines traditional Vietnamese designs and techniques with those from other countries, above all China and Japan, whose citizens settled there to trade and built houses and community centers to their own designs.
I go crazy sometimes at the terrible traffic jams in HCMC so during the evening it was so pleasant as no vehicles are allowed in the town and all the people, both Hoianians and visitors alike comfortably walk and enjoy themselves in a world of tranquility, peace, poetry and beauty. I was like a child lost in a colorful wonderland. New things slowly appeared before my eyes with local poets enjoying their words being recited by some ladies accompanied by the melodious background of a 16-string long zither player in an old house – the traditional orchestra giving passersby beautiful tunes of the old days, while young ladies are singing out sweet, lyrical folk songs on the porch of a family chapel.
Amid the sound you could hear voices raised from a small place by Thu Bon River and I discovered that people were gathering there to play bai choi (in hut card game). Indulging my pleasures, I joined the game and oh my God, I was so lucky to win a lantern. I was really satisfied when a foreigner beside me said: “How can you be so lucky like that with just one card, I try five cards but don’t win.” Just a big laugh was the answer from me.
That was not all that I found interesting about Hoi An. Poem recitation is a refined amusement of intellectuals in the old days, and round the table, they gossiped with some wine and enjoyed the poem recited by a talented lady. Her melodious recitation held up by music made all the participants high as kites. Poetry and music harmonize thoroughly while time seems to stand still.
In the fields and on the rivers, women and men sang repartee chants to drive away tiredness when they are working. It was surprising that they could easily and excellently compose and sing the chants. They are so quick-minded, witty and clever that even learned people must admire them and take them to heart.
The amazing moments I cannot forget to mention here is that people released garlands on the river to send their wishes to the river. I thought I had joined a light festival in a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets.
Like any visitor to Hoi An, I and my friend strolled along streets, listening to sounds, seeing people, taking photos and chatting about the architecture, the food, the lifestyle and many things happening before our eyes. Hoi An seemed small enough to get in my heart.