In a small cobbled park, situated between a pair of buildings in Hoi An's old town, a crowd has gathered. People shout and laugh raucously, while a man announces something in Vietnamese through a car-battery-powered PA. As we work our way through the masses, we can see it's some kind of a carnival game being played!
For a fee of 5000 VND (25¢), anyone from the collection of onlookers can play a round. Participants, (mostly local, with the occasional westerner) are given a stick and an eyeless mask which serves as a blindfold. The object of the game is to smash a clay pot hanging from a string, like a piñata.
Because contestants can only take one swing, the announcer, along with the shouting crowd, try to tell the player where to step and where to aim. Meanwhile, a chaotic, disorienting racket drowns everyone out, adding to the fun and difficulty of the game.
Most of the time, players miss their target by a wide margin. But occasionally, a stick will make contact with the pottery and it shatter it into oblivion. The crowd then goes wild, and the contestant wins a small lantern.
And with that, the games, and Hội An's latern festival have ended. Tara was the last contestant! Giddy with excitement, we meander back to our hotel, thanking our lucky stars for being so slow, as we had seriously considered leaving this morning.
What a great night!