Turn out the lights – the party’s starting
“Turn out the lights, the party’s over” was a line spoken by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and television commentator Don Meredith at the end of a game. It signified that the event was coming to a close and that with the lights going out; the party was soon to end.
I thought of that line as my friend and I sat in an old French villa in historic Hoi An (in Central Vietnam) noshing on a wonderful Asian-influenced set of tapas, shrimp, chicken, squid, all fresh from the local markets and seaside, sipping Australian wine, before being plunged into total darkness.
Unlike the “rolling blackouts” throughout Saigon and Hanoi (due to too many people and too little electric grid capacity) this blackout was planned and happens each month in Hoi An, coinciding with the full moon. This particular weekend we were doubly blessed; Earth Hour on Saturday –when the entire city went dark – and a Monday full moon – and lantern night.
Hoi An has been welcoming visitors for centuries, linked as it was to the sea trade from the Silk Road, so the ancient Japanese bridge, the Dutch and Chinese towns, were merely earlier version of the current empire of tourisms; backpackers, upper income Vietnamese, German cruisers and more who now were blind as the proverbial bats that fly above the fruit trees of the edge of the river during the blackout.
I imagined the news reporting if this were America, Europe (or most of the world); Riots, rapes, vandalism and muggings at a minimum. But in Hoi An it is joyous. Darkness brings appreciation of the moon itself, and the stars, and laughter echoes in the streets as Westerners straggle hand in hand down narrow alleys toward the river and kids gleefully hustle dollar lanterns to tourists.
Boats glide by as people place the lit paper lanterns in the water and watch as they elegantly drift away. “It will bring good luck” a youngster told me. I know, I thought, it already has.