Lantern Making Workshops In Hoi An
Hoi An is renowned for its beautiful Old Town, decorated by a colourful array of hanging lanterns. A rich history as a trading port makes Hoi An a mecca for all kinds of traditional Vietnamese handicraft and manufacturing. None more so than lantern making. If you are looking for an interactive experience with locals whilst in town, it’s hard to look past a lantern making workshop. These workshops are an amazing and fun way to learn about Vietnamese culture and traditional craft techniques. You finish the session with a newly earned talent and a souvenir that holds infinitely more memories than any store bought lantern ever would.
There are many lantern making workshops in Hoi An. Below we detail exactly what to expect at the best workshops in town. If you’d like to skip the construction process completely and just buy a lantern – check out our lantern shopping guide.
History of Artisan Crafts in Hoi An
As a result of being a historical trading port, many artisan industries flourished in historic Hoi An. Wares such as pottery, wood carving, tailoring, jewellery making, and leather work, became popular in the region. Therefore contributing to Hoi An being the city it is today. Today, you can’t walk through the Old Town without noticing the range of handcrafted items, as well as the colourful lanterns hung on display.
The first lanterns hung in Hoi An were Chinese style hexagon shaped lanterns made of a wooden frame. Traditionally red, the preferred lucky colour in Chinese culture. Lanterns were initially brought to the city in the 16th century by Chinese tradesmen via the Maritime Silk Route. Hoi An is the birthplace of Vietnamese style lanterns. Over the years the local Vietnamese realised that bamboo is a strong and flexible material that could be used to create a range of interesting shapes. So, the new Vietnamese tradition of lantern making was born.
Lanterns were first hung by Chinese traders to deal with their sense of nostalgia. So why not create your own to reminisce about your adventures in Vietnam?
Our Pick of the Best Lantern Making Workshops
With so many lantern making workshops on offer in Hoi An it can be hard to pick the best one. Read on for our reviews and top tips.
Hoi An Handicraft Tours
Making the lantern from scratch: 3 hours Price: 368,000 VND (16 USD)
Covering a pre-made frame: 1.5 hours Price: 230,000 VND (10 USD)
How to Book: Online or phone/WhatsApp. You can book in the morning you wish to go, or in advance to secure your spot.
Diep and Len, the two brothers running the classes at Hoi An Handicraft Tours, have worked in the industry for over six years. Taking over the family business when their grandfather retired. However initially, the business only sold lanterns. But they started conducting lantern making classes at the end of 2017. Their handcrafted lanterns are still available for sale at extremely reasonable prices from their workshop. These include some with traditional hand-painted designs, and most being collapsible for easy transportation home. Premade lantern prices range from 20,000 VND (.85 USD) for a mini lantern, to 100,000+ VND (4+ USD) for 30 centimetres. Or 150,000+ VND (6.50+ USD) for 45 centimetres.
One of the appealing aspects of their particular class is that you get to make the entire lantern. This includes the assembly of the frame, which is not always the case with other lantern workshops, where the frames are premade, and you attach your preferred fabric.
The workroom itself is a delightful space to get your craft on. It’s decorated with examples of differently shaped lanterns.
The room is filled with an intoxicating display of lanterns showcasing styles such as:
- The traditional lotus, an evenly rounded oval shape;
- the garlic shape, both the garlic sunrise (wide part at the top) and the garlic sunset (wide part at the bottom).
- The umbrella shape, which crazily enough is a garlic sunrise wearing an elegant hat;
- The cake shape, which is a diamond-like shape, and named so as to resemble a traditional sticky rice cake —these you’ll often see being sold at street vendors around town;
- And finally the humorously named UFO lantern, which you just might mistake for a UFO if you stumbled across one on your way home after a night out.
Since some designs are more complicated than others, some taking up to five hours per lantern, the style offered in the class is the garlic shape. This is the most popular style you see hanging all around Hoi An. You choose between making either the sunrise or sunset version. The size of the lantern you create is a decent length of 30 centimetres and is also collapsible so you can take your handmade souvenir home.
The first hour of the class focuses on the construction of the lantern base, where you string 12 pieces of a bamboo frame onto a wire, and then position them around the base and the top, then hand bend the bamboo to the desired shape. This takes a surprising amount of concentration and strength, and it’s interesting to see the shape emerge when the elements come together. Traditional Vietnamese tea offered throughout the session at no extra charge adds a delightful touch to the session.
Choosing the Colour of your Lantern
Then comes the fun part—choosing the fabric colour for your lantern. There’s a great selection of silk fabrics to choose from. From single colours to bicolour fabrics that change colour depending on the angle of the light. The instructor, Len, explained that red is the traditional colour for good luck, and yellow is a traditional Buddhist colour and represents Hoi An. Green could be considered an unlucky colour in Vietnamese culture. So if your preference is green, maybe reconsider if you plan on gifting your lantern to a Vietnamese friend.
Colour Significance in Vietnamese Culture
- Yellow – prosperity, wealth, happiness, change, royalty
- Red – luck, happiness, celebration, love
- Purple – tenderness, nostalgia, fragility, sadness
- Blue – hope, calmness, growth
- Green – lust, jealousy
- Black – evil
- White – purity, the end, death
After selecting your desired fabric, you carefully glue and stretch the material over the frame, making sure that it’s taut with no creases, then you neatly trim the fabric. The neatness of your trimming is the most important thing contributing to the overall beauty of your lantern. So, slow and steady wins the race.
Now you have your very own take-home traditional Vietnamese lantern. It’s great to see the end product come to life when you test it over a light bulb. This is where the fabric comes into its own casting shadows and lighting up the intricate fabric of the lantern. You could easily hang these over a light bulb back home, too, but they also look great without the light and just as a hanging decoration.
Hidden’s Thoughts on Hoi An Handicrafts Tours
This workshop is suitable for most ages, and they’ve had participants as young as four to five-years-old. However, children do require help from their parents to complete the activity, and it may take longer than the recommended three hours. Their workspace can accommodate between 12 to 15 participants at a time. So groups are welcome, or just come by yourself. However, for bigger groups, it’s advisable to book in advance.
Diep and Len are extremely friendly, helpful and are very responsive via WhatsApp or email. Hoi An Handicraft Tours also organises a range of other crafty workshops, such as pottery, wood carving, bamboo root carving, and sedge mat making. In addition, they offer a fishing tour and cookery classes, so there are many activities available.
Lantern making, or any other craft workshop, is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. You get to spend time in a creative space and participate in making your own handmade souvenir, with the added bonus of chatting with friendly locals and experiencing Vietnamese culture in a unique and rewarding way.
Reaching Out Lantern Workshop
Price: 345,000 VND (15 USD) – Time: Mondays to Fridays, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – How to Book: Online / in person
Reaching Out aims to provide work opportunities to people with disabilities and assist them in gaining employment. A local artisan runs their lantern-making classes. The lanterns made here, slightly different from the traditional Vietnamese style. You create a diamond-shaped lantern using handmade paper that folds flat to transport home easily.
As well as conducting lantern and craft workshops, their shop also sells handcrafted local artisan wares. Tours of their workshops are also available. Check out their shop and grab yourself a unique item to support the work they do, even if you choose to do a different workshop.
The Lantern Lady Workshop
Price: – 1 hour with ready made frame – 90,000 VND (4 USD) – 1,5 hour with self made frame – 135,000 VND (6 USD) – Class schedule: Drop in anytime, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – How to book: Walk-in / Facebook Messenger
The workshop takes place very close to the main area of the Old Town. So, the space feels like one of the local Vietnamese shops you see around town, decorated with bright lanterns, and a homely feel to it. In this workshop, you are guided by the friendly owner on how to cover a bamboo lantern base with your preferred fabric. You either opt to make the base yourself or use one that was prepared earlier. It’s another good option for a well-priced workshop with a really authentic local flavour.
Travel Hoi An Lantern Making Tour
Price: 345,000 VND (15 USD) – Class schedule: 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – Duration: 2 hours – How to Book: Email / phone
This lantern experience starts with a bicycle tour. The guide meets you at your hotel to escort you to cycle to the workshop in the Cam Chau Village. The instructor gives a brief intro on the history, shapes, and colours of lanterns. You choose your favourite design and construct a lantern of your own. At the end of the class, you cycle back to your hotel with your newly made souvenir.
Thao Quynh Lantern Making Class
Address – 373 Cua Dai St
Price: 150,000 VND (7.50 USD) – Class schedule: Flexible – How to Book: Email / phone / walk-in – Email: email@example.com
If you want a real local Vietnamese lantern experience, then this may be the workshop for you. Apart from selling both retail and wholesale, they also conduct lantern making. Above all, this is one of the best-priced workshops but is definitely no-frills. The owners are very friendly, with a smattering of English but a real eye for detail. The classes take place in a small shop front. Premade lantern frames are available, so making your own special design can be done in a much shorter time frame.
Xu Dang Trong Lantern Workshop
Price: 120,000 VND (5 USD) – Time: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. – How to Book: Email / walk-in
Situated in the heart of the Old Town, this workshop runs from a lovely store selling designer wares and souvenirs. The building itself is a large, traditional Vietnamese-styled structure with a dark wood decor. The staff are very friendly. The environment has an artistic feel to it, as they also show traditional performances and exhibitions. Very reasonably priced lantern making workshops run twice daily. For a small number of people, you can show up 15 minutes before the class without a booking. But you’re also welcome to prebook. For groups, it’s best to organise your booking in advance. In addition a transport service is included from and to your hotel.
In conclusion, the long tradition of lantern making in Hoi An has led to a wide array of high-quality lantern making workshops. There is something for everyone.
- Hoi An Handicraft Tours offer a complete, very professional experience. We believe it is the best class for most travellers in Hoi An.
- At a similar price point and quality level, Reaching Out offers shorter workshops directly tied to supporting the wonderful work they do with people with disabilities in the area.
- If you are on a budget. The Lantern Lady, Travel Hoi An Lantern Making Tour, and Thao Quynh all offer great value with a less-frill approach.
Regardless of your preference, it is hard to go wrong. Each of the tours listed above offer a unique opportunity to interact with Hoi An’s artisans and learn Hoi An’s traditional lantern making techniques.
Map of Hoi An’s Lantern Workshops