TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS I MIA P. TANUJAYA
Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.
In Vietnam the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is the country’s second most important holiday after the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Tet Trung Thu usually takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
The best place in Vietnam to observe Tet Trung Thu is Hoi An ancient city in Quang Nam province. The town’s Old Quarter is densely packed with shops, thus attracting the lion dancers. The river is teemed with floating lanterns, and the atmosphere is magical.
Since the town is so small, groups of lion dancers often encounter each other. They will put on fierce dance battle in an attempt to establish dominance. In the end this holiday is all about fun, and it is great to see groups of people marching and dancing through the streets, following the lion dancers’ way to every stop.
Weather could be quite tricky at this time of the year as wet season approaches, but it would not stop the people from carrying out the tradition. They would still make it through the rain and visitors are excitedly joining in.
For those who miss the Mid-Autumn Festival, they can always make time on every 14th day of the lunar month which is a Buddhist day of worship. Residents place offerings and burn incense on their ancestral altars and visit one of Hoi An’s many pagodas.
The scent of incense and the sounds of people singing add to the town’s enchanted atmosphere. On the evenings, visitors will get a rare glimpse into another era. These nights are warm reminders of life’s unforeseen beauty.
Visitors to Hoi An always remember Cao Lau, which is considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol for Hoi An. It is rice noodle served with thinly-sliced, soy-simmered pork, crispy fresh lettuce, assorted herbs such as basil, cilantro and mint, and crackly squares of deep-fried flour cracker.
It is said that Cao Lau cannot be made well outside Quang Nam. The secret lies in the water. Authentic Cao Lau is prepared only with water drawn from ancient Cham (ancient ethnic group) wells hidden around Hoi An and across Quang Nam Province.