The Mid-Autumn Festival sees Hoi An vibrant with twinkling lights of thousands of lanterns and large crowds of visitors. Not this year.
On Wednesday evening, the lighting system on Nguyen Phuc Chu Street was turned off, allowing the fullest moon of the year to bathe it in natural light.
Typically, all the shops that line the street would have bright red lanterns of various shapes and sizes hanging out front, a uniquely charming feature of the ancient town. With most of the shops remaining closed courtesy of pandemic blues, the street wore a lonely look.
For many Vietnamese, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival after the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet). Locals celebrate the event on lunar August 15 (October 1 this year) or one day earlier.
On Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, the center of Hoi An, very few lanterns were lit, and the street itself was deserted, missing the usual tourist crowds.
The iconic Pagoda Bridge, a Hoi An symbol, shone in the darkness of surrounding streets.
On the Hoai River, every year hundreds of boats were decorated with lanterns to serve visitors wanting to float colored lanterns and garlands of flowers in a traditional ritual praying for peace and happiness. However, there were very few boats docked at the wharf Wednesday.
The second Covid-19 outbreak in the country prompted Hoi An to close down for nearly two months.
On September 24, Hoi An tourism resumed operations, offering a 50 percent discount on the ticket price for a full tour of the town, but six days later, the number of visitors was very few. Traditional music performances also attracted a sparse audience.
Only a few people rented the boats to go to the middle of the Hoai River and float lit lanterns and garlands.
A blindfolded young woman had fun trying to smash a pot on Chau Thuong Van Street.
For this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, the majority of tourists came from surrounding areas, unlike a normal year when they came from all parts of the country and abroad.
The few tourists this year gathered in places still lit with lanterns, like the night market and the An Hoi Bridge.
A young couple takes a souvenir selfie in front of a lantern shop in the night market. The shops here were lit with lanterns, attracting most of the few visitors to the town.
Food stalls serving a wide variety of traditional dishes found few customers.
“Since most of this year’s tourists live near Hoi An, they eat at home before coming here, so they are not hungry,” said a food stall owner.
A few shops placed chairs and tables outside to welcome customers, but there were not many people on the street
“Hoi An remains deserted even after it has reopened. There are very few customers here every day, so business is not good,” said a shop owner. He said he hoped for a Covid-19 vaccine to be out soon so that foreign tourists can come to Hoi An.
Phan Thi Ly, 73, looks sad with a basket of garlands and colored lanterns in her hands.
“From 6 to 7 (p.m.), I could only sell one for VND5,000 ($0.22),” she said.
Last year Ly sold 500 flower garlands and colored lanterns with many foreign tourists buying them from her, but this year they have been markedly absent.