The Hoi An Traditional Theater is a small, cozy venue located on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, offering live performances of Vietnamese folk dances and songs. The limited space actually works for visiting tourists since they can see the facial expressions of the performers, every twitching of the wrists, and the intricate designs on the costumes and musical instruments.
Inside the Traditional Theater
The show takes place from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM every day for free, after having paid entrance into the Old Town. Ticket to the town is only US$4.50 (about 93,000 dong), which allows a tourist to see five attractions, sites or shows inside the town. The traditional theater is a favorite among foreigners since the performers give life to the many artifacts and relics that could be seen all over this uniquely historical city. English-speaking guests may not understand the English introductions for each song, but it doesn’t really matter since the traditional sounds, music and movements speak a thousand words.
The locals also enjoy visiting the theater to accompany some foreign friends or simply take time immersing in their own local culture. Music and operatic performances are important in the lives, culture and religion of the Vietnamese, especially those from central Vietnam. Citizens of Hoi An love Quang Nam (named after the province) folk songs and dances, as well as local musical instruments. A favorite in the traditional theater is the “dan bau”, a one-stringed Vietnamese musical instrument that surprisingly makes good music.
Outside the Traditional Theater
The regular observance of Hoi An Legendary Night is proof that the locals’ love for their folk arts is not just for show. On the 14th day of every lunar month, the Hoi An people gather in the Old Town streets to sing, dance, play musical instruments and listen to poetry. Traffic is closed and the homes are lit with colorful lanterns that provide a spectacular dimly lit backdrop. Local poets visit homes to recite their poetry to a soft playing 16-stringed zither. A few blocks away, a traditional orchestra plays and young women sing folk songs to be enjoyed by anyone just passing by. Hoi An’s Legendary Night is truly what legends are made of. The singing, lighting and overall ambiance make a tourist wonder whether a unicorn, fairies or angels would suddenly and magically appear.
Hoi An locals traditionally sing chants while working in the field or fishing on the river to ward off tiredness and exhaustion. Just like how the Negro slaves used to break out in lively spirituals to lift their spirits, Hoi An men and women sing chants instantaneously to make themselves forget about the heavy work at hand. Often, the songs are very good as if they were composed for a long time. This instantaneous breaking into song happens during the Legendary Night.
Hoi An now regularly attracts tourists from all over the world. Getting here is easy since there are regular short flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Aside from the Hoi An Traditional Theater, other top draws are the Marble Mountains, China Beach, and My Son Hindu Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.