Central Vietnam,  Vietnam

Hoi An Lantern Workshop – 2024 Update

Internationally Hoi An is probably best known for three things: The yellow buildings of the old town, its tailors and the hundreds if not thousands of colourful lanterns all over the city. You can’t walk down even one street without seeing several of them. Buying one as a souvenir is the first thing that will come to your mind, but why not make your own in a Hoi An Lantern Workshop, under the guidance of a crafting master?

Over the years I visited two Workshops, one with Phuong (2022) and with the Lantern Lady (twice, 2023 and 2024).

Making the lantern is a great experience and you not only leave with a unique souvenir (because you made it!) but also with a new appreciation for all the colourful lanterns all over the city and the people who make them. If you are worried about how to fit a lantern into your luggage: IT FOLDS!

Hoi An Lantern Making Experience

Phong’s workshop is not inside the old town, but not too far from it. On a nice day, it’s a great walk along a street with lots of shops and cafes (which are a lot cheaper than in the old town). Once I got there I met three more travellers who were also there to learn how to make a lantern themselves. Phong greeted us with herbal tea and introduced herself and her craft:

She was born into a family that has been making Hoi An lanterns for three generations. Not only did she take over the workshop from her parents, but her love for the craft and desire to keep the knowledge of how to make the traditional Hoi An lanterns alive she opened the workshop to guests and tourists of Vietnam.

After this introduction, we moved into a bamboo hut where she had set up everything we would need to make our lantern.

While we were waiting for our lanterns to dry at the end of the workshop Phong served us tea, coconut- and mung bean rice cake as well as dragon fruit and mango, which were all delicious and we had the chance to get to know each other better and exchange travel and life stories.

From the talking and waiting, I ended up being late to meet a friend who would be leaving the city that night and at the time of day couldn’t find a motorbike taxi to come to the location. Before I started to properly panic, Phong had already gotten her scooter and kindly took me back into the city.

Workshop with the Lantern Lady

The Lantern Lady has her Hoi An Lantern Workshop in the ancient town of Hoi An, near the Precious Heritage Museum. Here you can walk into the walled-in and metal roof-covered courtyard at any time during opening hours and take a seat at one of the four tables.

You can choose the shape or your lantern and the size. Based on your size choice you then pick your fabric. There are a lot more choices here, both in silk colours and in patterned fabric! And they change with the time to give returning visitors new options.

You’ll then be instructed on how to make your lantern.

Three people walk between tables to help during the process, but you aren’t monitored constantly and can talk with everyone else at the table while crafting.

I met a few cool people here who also travelled alone or as a couple and we exchanged tips for our respective travels and our time in Hoi An.

When you are travelling alone I recommend taking part in workshops to meet people who are interested in learning about local crafts and culture as much as you are.

Crafting a Hoi An Lantern – Workshop

First, you choose the shape of the lantern you want to make. Then you choose the silk or patterned fabric for your lantern. The first time I chose to make the medium sized traditional Hoi An shaped lantern in red silk to go with a tapestry I brought home from Ha Noi in 2019, the second time a small diamond shaped one in turquoise silk to gift to my parents and the third time a small round one with a red and flower patterned lantern.

Depending on the workshop you either cut the silk into four strips of the same length and iron them to remove any wrinkles, or you can choose pre-cut cloth which will be ironed for you. Applying the glue to the stakes is relatively easy, but applying the correct amount in an even way is complicated. Once the glue has dried just enough you are shown how to set and stretch the fabric to cover the stakes. At first, I was worried it would rip if I pulled it too tight, but the silk can take a lot of pulling. For your first lantern(s) I would recommend choosing silk as the patterned fabric is a lot more finicky.

The entire skeleton of the lantern has to be covered in silk, but there is a special technique to it, to make sure that once it’s done the overlays aren’t too visible. The second side you cover in silk is the one opposite the first. Only then do you cover the two remaining sides and finally cut off all overhand as closely to the stake as you can.

I don’t know if it sounds easy from what I wrote here, but I thought it would be. Or at least easier than it turned out to be the first time, because I struggled. A lot.

After what felt like more time than had been planned I managed to finish draping and glueing the silk in a satisfactory way. Once the lantern is covered you glue thick cardboard strips covered in the same (or a different) fabric around the top and bottom of the hanger to cover up the janky fabric cutoffs.

In the last step you choose a tassel for the lantern base. I went with gold for the red lantern, a darker turquoise for the turquoise lantern and a red for the flower patterned lantern. Getting the tassel to hang as it was supposed to be was a bit of a struggle (again), but I got there in the end.

Adorned with the tassel the lantern is done and left out to dry a bit more before you can fold it to bring it home.

Making a Hoi An Lantern – Workshop Details

Lantern Making Experience

This is your choice when you want to learn about the lanterns, experience local hospitality and dedicate an evening to this workshop.

All materials and tools you need are included in the price of the workshop (12€).

Starting times: 5 PM, but she also offers 9 AM upon request.

Address: 384 Cửa Đại, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam

Booking: You can book via AirBnB: www.airbnb.de/experiences/1289864

Lantern Making Workshop

This is your choice when you want to make your own lantern but have to watch your budget and don’t have much time to dedicate to this workshop.

All materials and tools you need are included in the price of the workshop, the price varies depending on the size of your lantern, it starts at 4€.

Starting times: Any time between 9 AM and 7 PM.

Address: In an alley between Huyền Trân Công Chúa and Đường Phan Bội Châu, search Lantern Lady on Google Maps.

Booking: No booking is needed, anytime between 9 AM and 8 PM. Greet her from me if you do!

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