When you visit the town of Hoi An, one of the first things you will notice is the abundance of brightly coloured silk lanterns defining the visual culturescape.

Several shops sell the lanterns, and at night these are lit up which makes for a delightful spectacle at any time of year.

However, if you want to appreciate Hoi An at its very best, time your visit during the period just before the Full Moon, when the beautiful Lantern Festival is held, when Vietnamese families pour out onto the streets mingling in smiling friendliness.

On the fourteenth night of every lunar month, two days before the full moon, the streets of the charming town are entirely closed to traffic, even bicycles, which lends a serene ambience to the event. Street lights are also turned off to maximise the effect of the lanterns which are everywhere hung over the throng to the accompaniment of strolling musicians.

In this fascinating magical atmosphere, many citizens play traditional games such as chess out in the street, and lovers wander the thoroughfares and gather around the riverside to sing folk songs. Flower filled offerings are placed outside houses to honour the ancestors, and sweet smelling incense wafts everywhere.

Along the shoreline of the Hoai River sampans ply the dark waters and a host of paper lotus flowers bearing candles are set adrift on the water, a flotilla of hopes and aspirations floating out to the blending of the ocean and star filled sky, also filled with the ascending flickering wishes of sky lanterns.

The Vietnamese go vegetarian for the night, and sumptuous creative meals are on offer throughout the town, with the traditional mooncakes a notable feature. On this night local attractions also waive their usual entry fees.

The Lantern festival is also blended with other festivals throughout the year, usually taking place on the following night, which feature various different rituals of traditional Vietnamese life, which colourfully imbue each lunar-monthly festival with its own distinct character.

A notable example is the August Mid-Autumn Festival, when the magnificent spectacle of the lion dances takes place. The children of the town dance with extravagant paper lions, as householders open their doors and make offerings in the hope of an auspicious visit from one of the lions to bestow blessings on their household. Amusingly, when rival lions meet in the streets, each attempts to outdo each other in a display of frenetic dancing. Sometimes an ornate dragon will also make an appearance.

Another festival is the Long Chu Festival, which takes place on the 15th lunar day in July, marking the changing of the seasons. To ward off evil sprits and their ailments, magic rituals are performed to capture the ghosts, which are then cast into the river. A processional parade then follows a large dragon boat as it is led to the sea and set adrift.

The most culturally significant festival in Vietnam is, of course, Tet, the festival of the Lunar New Year, during which Hoi An is for days awash with flowers, lanterns, colourful displays and parades. Another fun attraction at this time is the annual boat race. Attending Tet anywhere in Vietnam is difficult for visitors however, as the country is in virtual commercial shutdown and accommodation difficult, though if booking well in advance, not impossible to procure.