Hoi An

Hoi An Night Market: Where Lanterns Light Up The River

Hoi An Night Market (Vietnamese spelling: Chợ đêm Hội An) is adored by visitors to the Old Town. It’s one of the most popular pedestrian attractions across Thu Bon River from the city downtown.

Hoi An Night Market has a lively, busy atmosphere while the lanterns and old buildings make for a nice ambiance. Besides some nice street food and lovely handicrafts, there are Vietnamese traditional performances and games that you can join.

Visiting Hoi An Night Market

Hoi An Night Market
[ by Kazuo ota from Unsplash ]

Hoi An currently has three night markets but the visitors’ favorite is on Nguyen Hoang Street (đường Nguyễn Hoàng). It operates daily from around 5 PM to 11 PM with 50 stalls spanning 300 m. However, the area of a few kilometers around has unofficially merged into this atmosphere with even more stalls.

Visitors usually spend the day exploring the Old Town before strolling towards Hoi An Night Market. It’s just across Thu Bon River (sông Thu Bồn) from the Bridge of Lights (cầu An Hội).

If you want to stay in the neighborhood, there’s the Mulberry Collection Silk Marina Resort among other hotels and homestays. Conveniently, the resort is also close to the public ferry to the Cham Islands.

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Bring Your Hoi An Lanterns to the Boat

Hoi An Lanterns
[ by mailanmaik from Pixabay ]

Hoi An Night Market is one of the best places to be enthralled by lanterns lighting up Thu Bon River. Along the river are different sizes of boats for rent. In the evening, sellers also light up the beautiful lanterns to show their many shapes, sizes, and colors.

For a more romantic setting, couples can buy their own lanterns to bring along and choose a small boat. Or better yet, you can spend the day making your own lanterns and light them up later in the evening.

There are a number of lantern workshops not too far from the market in the Old Town. Trusted places include The Lantern Lady and Hoi An Handicraft Tours which are still open during the pandemic.

Additionally, the best time to do this is the full moon of every month. To meet the tradition, extra lanterns are hung out along the river bank and the Bridge of Lights.

Shopping at Hoi An Night Market

Shopping at Hoi An Night Market
[ by 19771276 from Pixabay ]

Many shophouses and vendors in Hoi An Night Market sell handicrafts which make for some lovely house decorations or souvenirs. If you fancy some postcards, they have 3D postcards with paper models of Hoi An’s traditional features.

A pretty neat gift for yourself and friends is personalized short messages written onto a grain of rice. The grain is then encased in plastic to make a cute little keychain. Other crafts include wind chimes, dream catchers, embroidery, and all kinds of accessories.

Protip: Hoi An Night Market is a bit touristy so prices can be higher than other places. However, you can politely haggle or simply find another stall out of the many there are.

Of course, a local guide who knows the place and prices can save you the trouble. Also, the market is often quite crowded so pay attention to your belongings to avoid the unfortunate.

Traditional Performances and Games

Bai Choi at Hoi An Night Market
[ by Người Làng Mai from Facebook ]

The highlighted performance at Hoi An Night Market is the Vietnamese traditional art of Bai Choi (bài chòi). In 2017, it was inscribed to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Bai Choi is a presentative art of Central Vietnam combining music, poetry, acting, painting, and literature. The performance at Hoi An Night Market is held daily at 7 PM. Even though you may not get the cultural references even with a translator, it’s still worth checking out.

The stage assistants will provide simple English explanations if necessary and a wooden paddle to keep track of the game. The premise is similar to bingo where you win when your paddle matches the announcer.

You’ll get some prize if you’re lucky, or else smack your friend (gently) in the face with the paddle. Other games you can participate in include ‘smacking the clay pot’ which is similar to Piñata.

Street Food in Hoi An Night Market 

Street Food in Hoi An Night Market
[ by Thijs Degenkamp from Unsplash ]

There are also many street food stalls and shop houses along Hoi An Night Market with English plus Korean name signs. A nice place to sit down after some walking is the Street Food Court with tables by the river.

Besides Vietnamese street food staples, Hoi An Night Market brings its own local dishes to the table. Common street food includes all kinds of sweet soup, Banh Mi, grilled skewers, savory candied squid, and banana pancakes.

Coming to Hoi An, you shouldn’t miss out on its signature dish — Cao Lau Noodles (mì Cao Lầu). Usually, Cao Lau is quite a fancy dish with its special noodle and diverse use of pork. However, the street food variation is closer to how common households make it.

Hoi An Chicken and Rice is a go-to when locals want to introduce the city’s cuisine to visiting friends. The boiled chicken is shredded and flavored nicely before being spread on a bed of turmeric-colored rice.

One of the most popular ‘wrap-and-dip’ dishes in Hoi An is grilled meat skewers wrapped in steamed rice paper. Similar to others of the same category, it goes with a lot of fresh greens and uses a housemade dipping sauce.

Seafood pancakes cut into bite-sized pieces are a good choice for munching on the go. The batter is mixed with shrimps and small crabs.

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