Light Wisdom Inspired by a Sea of Vietnamese Lanterns

Colorful beaded lanterns hang outside a lantern shop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

By night, the Vietnamese city of Hoi An is transformed into a dazzling paradise with brilliant silk lanterns, paper luminaries, and warm candlelight.

With the sky cloaked in darkness, we strolled by the Thu Bon River and watched as the colorful luminaries danced on the water. Vendors of all ages sold them along the water’s edge to visitors who passed by to admire the night’s splendor.

If you plan to visit Hoi An and are feeling romantic when you do, consider taking an evening boat ride on one of the small vessels. The locals are eager to rent them for half an hour or more. From there, you can send a delicate luminary or two off on a midnight journey.

Enjoy some “light” wisdom while taking a virtual stroll through the lantern-adorned streetscapes pictured here.

One green and two yellow lanterns glow in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Vietnamese Lanterns at night in Hoi An

“Light is the symbol of truth.”

James Russell Lowell
Lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam

 “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
Vietnamese lanterns in Hoi An at night
Vietnamese lanterns in Hoi An

“Knowledge is love and light and vision.”

Helen Keller
Lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

Lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam

“Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness.”

Leonardo da Vinci
Two kids light a candle in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam

“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.”

James Thurber
Mother and child with luminaries in Hoi An Vietnam

“Moonlight is sculpture.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne
lanterns in hoi an vietnam
A paper luminary floats in the water in Hoi An, Vietnam.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”  

Ben Sweetland
woman selling luminaries in Vietnam

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”  

Evelyn Dunbar
woman in boat in hoi an vietnam at night
Hoi an Vietnam streetscape by night

“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”  

Edith Wharton

“An age is called ‘dark,’ not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.”

James Michener
Two purple lanterns are illuminated outside a business in Hoi An, Vietnam.

“The stars are the street lights of eternity.”  

Hoi An lanterns for sale

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”

Kahlil Gibran
Lanterns for sale in a Hoi An, Vietnam shop.

“I will love the light for it shows me the way.  Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.”

Og Mandino
Lanterns hanging in Hoi An Vietnam

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hoi An Lanterns for Sale
Red lanterns for sale in Hoi An.

“People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Hoi An streetscape illuminated by lanterns

“The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.  The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.”

Felix Adler

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.”  

Aaron Rose

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell, unless otherwise attributed. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

57 thoughts on “Light Wisdom Inspired by a Sea of Vietnamese Lanterns

  1. Hey Tricia, I never returned the congratulations for your “Best Blogs” award!! Love the new theme, I am currently ‘shopping’ for a new theme myself and it’s driving me crazy!!! I love these images, particularly the Mother and son woth the coloured lanterns – truly magical! Happy travels :)

    1. Sarah, thank you for the reciprocal congrats on the Washington Flyer Best Blogs nod! I had been in the market for a new look for my blog for a bit of time, then very spontaneously took a liking to this one when I saw it so nicely modeled by another photography enthusiast blogger. I decided to give it a whirl myself.

      In what country are you now, miss globe trotter extraordinaire? :)

    1. Suzanne – many thanks!
      It’s fun when readers can relate to the special places because they’ve been there too; what was your favorite activity while in Hoi An? Our highlights were taking a cooking class, riding in a basket boat and glimpsing the city by night, all aglow. :)

      1. We really enjoyed the Red Bridge Cooking Class and the general ambience of the town. So lovely at night – especially when they had candles floating down the Thu Bon River. A magical little town.

    1. Lynne, it seems we’re both longing for Asia! Did you visit Hoi An and Luang Prabang on your same trip, and if so, how’d you get from place to place?

      And, pun or no pun intended, I love and am flattered by your comment. Glad you enjoyed the images and the words of wisdom to accompany them.

    1. Bespoke Traveler, I also loved the lanterns and was feeling torn by their charm. On one hand, I’d wished that my backpack was just a bit larger so I could have taken one home, but then, as a result of traveling for 5 months I’d developed a new philosophy on possessions: the art of minimalism! :)

    1. David, I’m so glad to hear that this posting brought back special memories for you. I know that you went to Ha Long Bay while in Vietnam (because your lovely header image from there comes to mind) – what were some of your other destinations in Vietnam? And, I know how you feel – traveling provides so many stories that I want to share! We strolled past these lanterns back in January, and I just now ‘put pen to paper.’ :)

      1. Tricia, we did a rather intensive 12 day package tour, which didn’t allow much time for a really good photographic experience. It started in Hanoi and finished at Ho Chi Minh City, with internal ‘hop’ flights down the coast. Our trip was in March 2010. so it is proving quite difficult to organise my thoughts, which has delayed posting somewhat. Your excellent posts have inspired me to finish the job though. I just need some spare time. It’s hell being retired!

      2. David, that’s nice to hear that my posts have inspired you to create yours! That’s one beautiful thing about taking lots of pictures. Whereas I’d love to keep a travel journal (and should record the details) sometimes the busy days just don’t allow for it. That’s where pictures come in and serve as a wonderful visual journal.

        I can’t wait to see your impressions of Vietnam now!

    1. Vielen Danke, Cornelia! The Hoi An lanterns were so lovely – it only seemed fitting to intersperse them with words of wisdom. Hope you’re well and enjoying the summer. I’ve been away from Deutschland for 2 months and I miss it.

      1. Tricia, I know what you mean by missing Germany, I miss the lush green meadows, die frischen gruenen Wiesen und Felder and the smell of deep forests and the lakes to swim in summer time. But hey no complains I get to swim in the pacific ocean here in California. The other day I was in “Little Tokyo” downtown Los Angeles and there were red lanterns all over the place happyly dangling in the wind and I had think of your images. Be well….

      2. Cornelia, what a fun comment to hear! I have yet to visit Los Angeles – there are so many destinations yet to visit in my home country. :)

        It’s nice to see a bit of German sprinkled in your comments. I’ve found that since I’ve been away from Germany for a few weeks that my vocabulary is getting more and more rusty.

  2. I know I keep saying – this is your most beautiful post ever… but today – this is just a positively incandescent, illuminating, fantasy post. The quote are superbly chosen. Brilliant. Virginia

    1. Greetings, Virginia, and thank you so very much for the encouraging words! I enjoyed searching out appropriate quotes for this piece. Some much wisdom to be found within… The past weeks have been unusually busy, hence I’ve been quiet in the blogosphere. But, I’m off to check out what you’ve been up to! :)

  3. Stunning post as usual Tricia, love the one of the kids lighting the candles and the figure in the boat is great, sense of movement and calm together.

    1. Hello Mark! Thank you for the flattering words. Those little ones had mischievous and engaging personalities! I think their mother was selling paper lanterns across the way. It’s fun to observe the similar behaviors kids around the world exhibit, even if they’re from what seem like very different cultures.

  4. Great series of photos. Nice to see what we missed. The streets along the river were flooded most of the time we were there. Regret not buying some lanterns to bring home. Next time!

    1. Ron, when were you in Hoi An? We visited Vietnam in early 2012, and though we’d just missed the dramatic flooding in Bangkok, we didn’t see any flooding in Hoi An. (Not sure if the Thu Bon River flooded then.) In any case, it sounds like a return trip to the region is in order, based upon what Lynne writes. Hopefully you’ll catch the lanterns all aglow during your next visit! :)

    1. Jo, I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to visit there – not only Hoi An, but also around the region. From history, to cultural tidbits, to introspective lessons, we learned so much during our travels through Southeast Asia! If you find yourself planning a trip, I’m happy to answer any questions too. :)

      1. Great, I’ll check that link out. Thanks. I like to make simple paper lanterns for Chinese New Year, but I’ve never made anything ‘fancy’ before…but this post inspired me, so maybe the next time around!

    1. Generous words, Rachael! Thank you, and here’s hoping that you and your family are enjoying a fun and relaxing weekend! On a side note, I finally got my new external flash. Now, on to learning its ins and outs. :)

  5. Your photos are gorgeous! I’m going to have a serious conversation with my camera and let it know that it needs to pick up the slack! It’s seems unlikely the failings would be my fault…. Hope to get to Vietnam!


    1. Kay, your comment made me smile; thank you. My camera had a similar conversation with me and said I need to learn how to play around with the settings more. :)

      Vietnam is a magical place. We were lucky enough to see most of the main cities. Sapa, however, has so far been elusive. I hope to make it there sometime soon!

      It’s a pleasure to connect and until next time…

    1. Hello Mark, and thank you for your kind comment! As I was perusing your site earlier today, I read that you’re originally from Vietnam. In which city were you born? Have you been back?

      Hoi An was really a delightful stop as we made our way north from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. So much history, quirky architecture, and much culture. I hope to return again someday soon, as our boat ride and cooking class there were some of our trip’s highlights.

      1. Hi Tricia, yes I am from Vietnam and was born in Da Nang, so not far from Hoi An… one reason I’m quite a fan of the Central Coast. I have been back a number of times.

        Hoi An can be a quirky place as you mentioned, and such wonderful traditions like with the lanterns, art, cooking and fantastic beaches.

    1. Yulia, I’m excited for you! I’ve been to the north (Hanoi and Ha Long Bay) and also along the coast (Ho Chi Minh, Mui Ne, Hoi An, Da Lat, Hue, Vinh, over into Laos), so I’m happy to help if you have any questions. For how long are you planning on traveling there?

      1. Hi Tricia,

        well… It looks like it will be Turkey now! Vietnam airfare was too expensive :) May be some other time…

      2. Yulia, I think you’ll really enjoy Turkey. I was in Istanbul about ten years ago and enjoyed the architecture, cuisine, history, talking to the locals, and strolling through the Grand Bazaar. When do you leave for your big adventure?

      3. I think I will enjoy it too! I just bought my ticket last night, the countdown begins :) I will be there in mid-December for 8 days, Istanbul and the west coast of Turkey by car. Should be interesting :)

    1. That’s kind of you to say, Genevieve. Travel and photography are two of my passions, and blogging is a fitting way to combine them.

      Enjoyed seeing your posts from France. How long were you an exchange student / visitor there?

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