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Dragon Lanterns & Lion Acrobats:
The Phan Thiet Mid-Autumn Festival Arrives

Children marching in Phan Thiet to Join the Mid-Autumn Festival Parade
Children marching in Phan Thiet to Join the Mid-Autumn Festival Parade

22.09.10 Last night on the Eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Phan Thiet City celebrated with it's traditional holiday parade. Children from schools all over the city congregated on Nguyen Tat Thanh in front of a panel of judges, interspersed with troupes of lion and dragon dancers and drummers, and the highlight of the holiday--enormous anamatronic lantern floats. The children in turn each carries individual lanters, crafted in a theme that matched their school float.

The festival opened with a drum orchestra performed by the city's top dragon troupe at Quan Hai Nam Temple. The parade then made a figure-eight through the city, and ended about 2hrs later at the Ca Ty River. This is the first time in at least three years that it did not rain on the night of the festival (well, not until late at night anyway).

This evening there were smaller parades in downtown Phan Thiet, Ham Tien (Mui ne) and villages throughout the province.

Phan Thiet has one of the most celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival Parades in the country and has received numerous awards for quality of presentation.

A Dragon Lantern Parade Float for Phan Thiet's Mid-Autumn Festival
A Dragon Lantern Parade Float for Phan Thiet's Mid-Autumn Festival

View more photos from the Mid-Autumn Festival in Phan Thiet on our blog.

Phan Thiet's Nghinh Ong Festival a Spectacle to Remember
...for Two More Years.

Nghinh Ong Ky Lan of Phan Thiet
Phan Thiet's Ky Lam takes 19 people to operate at any given time, with 4 puppetiers in the head alone. A total of 120 people alternate charge over the 49m long puppet throughout the festival parade.

02.08.10 Yesterday's grand Nghinh Ong Parade kicked off at 5am in front of the Quang Thanh temple at the Phan Thiet Central Market. Complete with two dragon dancing troupes, lion dancers, acrobats, martial arts, stilt walkers, traditional music performaces, costumed dancing and much more, the performances "wowed" the entire city.

Vu Dragon Dancer Phan Thiet
Captain of Phan Thiet's Yellow Dragon Troupe

As is tradition, the finale was the arrival of Phan Thiet's nationally renowned Ky Lan, a mythical Chinese beast that is a chimera of a lion, deer and dragon. The Ky lan is thought to be a bringer of good fortune. The festival will not occur again for another two years.

Ca Ty River

Normally Phan Thiet's Ky lan only makes an appearance at the Nghinh Ong festival, however some of the performers said that they will be taking it for an appearance at the 1000 Year Anniversary Celebration in Hanoi next month.

See more photos from the Nghinh Ong Festival here.

Nghinh Ong - Quang Thanh Festival Opens

Lion Dancers at Phan Thiet's Nginh Ong - Quang Thanh Festival

31.08.10 Phan Thiet's grand Nghinh Ong- Quang Thanh Festival opened yesterday with a spectacular show at the Quang Thanh temple at Phan Thiet's central market. The opener including lion and dragon dancing, martial arts performances and acrobatics, with a large traditional orchestra providing background music.

Tuan Nhi, Nghinh Ong Phan Thiet

A lion-tamer leapt into the air with flying summersaults and acrobatics, spinning over the tops of a pair of lion-dance teams, whipping them into submission and directing epic battles between them.

Dragon Dancing, Nghinh Ong Festival, Phan Thiet

The opening festivities mark Phan Thiet City as one of Vietnam's greatest festival destinations. The grande finale of the festival is September 1 with a city-wide parade beginning at 5am and finishing in the early afternoon. What a pity the tourism office didn't bother to advertise it to foreign visitors.

See more photos from the Nghinh Ong Festival here.

Phan Thiet Resident Wins
United Nations Photo Contest

Daily Work
Winning Photo of Tran Vinh Nghia

19.09.10 The United Nations Development Plan this week announced winners of their "Picture This" Photo Contest, in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goals Initiative. Tran Vinh Nghia of Phan Thiet City was awarded the First Prize in the Goal 1 Category, highlighting the efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger.

Tran Vinh NghiaTran Vinh Nghia grew up here in Phan Thiet City in the southern province of Binh Thuan, Viet Nam. He says photography is his passion, and he has studied both formally in Ho Chi Minh City as well as on his own by studying books and newspapers. While he earns his living as a wedding videographer, he often takes along his camera to catch a few shots.

Tran often directs his lens toward life in coastal areas, especially in the local fishing communities that have been pursuing their livelihood for many generations. Tran's photos is titled "Daily Work" with the caption "Fishermen bring in the daily catch in south-eastern Viet Nam"

"These fishermen are busy gathering fish from the net hoping to escape from poverty through their own efforts" Nghia explained to the Vietnam New Agency.

We applaud Tran Vinh Nghia—particularly his message on self-initiative and self-reliance, the only legitimate answer to poverty in Vietnam and much of the world.

Tran's photo, along with winners in other categories, is currently on display at the UN General Assembly in New York City.

UNDP's Second Annual Picture This photo contest – in partnership with Olympus Corporation, the Agence France-Presse Foundation and the UN's Department of Public Information – brings attention to the quickly approaching deadline for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in order to motivate people and governments in developed and developing countries to redouble their efforts in the fight against extreme poverty. At a time when the world's attention will be focused on these issues, the winning photos put a much-needed human face on the MDGs.

This year, the winners were split into three categories: Amateur, Professional and People's Choice. Within the Amateur and Professional categories, each MDG features at least one winning photo; additionally each category has an overall first, second and third place winner. This year, the UNDP received over 3,000 submissions from around the world. A panel of judges, including actor Antonio Bandaras, selected the winners.

Culture News in Mui Ne and Binh Thuan Province

Whale Funerals, Nghinh Ong & Other Festivals

24.08.10 It's festival season in Phan Thiet. Below we’ve outlined some of the fascinating events taking place very soon in our area.

Kylan Phan Thiet for Nghinh Ong Festival
The practice head for the Kylan Dance at the Nghinh Ong Festival in Phan Thiet

Nghinh Ong

Driving around Phan Thiet, you won’t encounter anything to suggest that the largest cultural festival in Binh Thuan Province is happenting next week. It’s a pitty that there have been no advertisements or visible announcements because Phan Thiet’s Nghinh Ong festival only occurs once every to years. The festival falls on the middle of the 8th lunar month but the exact dates are adjusted by the government to compliment the September 2 National Day (a fairly boring day for foreigners unless you enjoy long-winded speaches by party officials, poorly-produced patriotic ballads, more hammers and sickles than a national army could use to build barns & cut hay, and hordes of Vietnamese families crowding the beach). This year Nghinh Ong falls on August 30, 31 and September 1.

The first two days of Nghinh Ong are marked by prayers, offerings, singing and traditional costumed opera in the temples of Van Thuy Tu and/or the temple behind the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Phan Thiet. The city-wide parade on the morning of September 1 is the main spectacle however, with dozens of troupes of dragon and lion dancers, martial artists, acrobats, stilt walkers, traditional musicians, costumed actors and more. The grand finale is a giant kylan (sort of a giant green dragon) dancing at the end of the procession. Phan Thiet’s kylan is nationally recognized as the country’s largest, at 49 meters long, with 19 body segments requiring 22 performers to control him at any given time, and a total of 125 trained performers throughout the parade.

Phan Thiet’s Nghinh Ong festival is a unique blending of the local whale-worshipping religion with ancient Chinese veneration of the deity Quang Cong, and a bit of Buddhism and Daoism thrown in for good measure. In the tradition of the parade, ethnic Chinese residents commune with Vietnamese fishermen to invite the spirit of the whale to join the spirit of Quang Cong in his own temple, ensuring a year of prosperity and safe sea travel for the year. All along the way the dragons, lions, Kylan and whale spirit stop at Buddhist temples and street shrines to gobble up ceremonial offerings and bestow good fortune on the devoted. Read more about the Nghinh Ong Festival and see photos on our blog.

A Whale Funeral

Whale Cemetery Phan Thiet
A Whale Cemetery in Phan Thiet.

Seen as a particularly good omen for the festival, however tragic, a baby whale washed up into the mouth of the Ca Ty River last Sunday evening. Supposedly a resident recovered the body and tried to sell the corpse, weighing 40 kg, as meat in the market. Allegedly local residents identified it as not a fish but a whale, and persuaded the temporary owner to turn it over for an elaborate burial at the whale cemetery near Phan Thiet lighthouse, that very evening. The whale was buried with four others of varying sizes, and will remained interned for three years before it is exhumed in an elaborate ceremony and taken for permanent residence in one of the local whale temples. Read more about local whale-worship practices on our blog or check out our article for CNN.

Today: The Ghost Festival

Today (August 24) is the Ghost festival in Vietnam, one of the “Tet” holidays which includes the New Year and Mid Autumn Festivals. Today the devout believe that their ancestors return from the spirit world and commune with the living. Observances include offerings in homes and vegetarian banquets at pagodas.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Also known as the Lantern Festival and famous for “Moon Cakes”. This year the festival lantern parade occurs the evening of September 21, beginning 6pm. Phan Thiet is nationally recognized for its flamboyant parade of school children carying themed lanterns and leading elaborate floats on the night of the festival. Read more about Phan Thiet's Mid-Autumn Festival, known as Trung Thu, on our blog.

Kate Festival

The Cham New Year is known as Kate, and celebrations are held at the Po Shanu Cham Towers overlooking Phan Thiet. Festivities including traditional music and dancing and a banquet for Cham participants. Undeniably the most interesting celebrations or in Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan Province. This is a good photo-op for Cham men and women in traditional costume. This year the day of celebration is October 7. Read more about the Cham Kate Festival in our blog.

Dinh Thay Thim

Dinh Thai Thim
A drummer's orchestra at the Dinh Thay Tim Evening Festival Show

This festival, held in La Gi (southwest of Phan Thiet) celebrates an ancient husband and wife “sorcerer” duo that saved the town from a fatal epidemic due to their skills as herbalists. The festival is held yearly at the temple in their honor, and includes a popular evening fair, prayers and offerings by the devoted, and a rather impressive play recounting their supernatural deeds, complete with costumed performs, music, dancing, pyrotechnics, lion dancing and acrobatics. Even more impressive is the fact that this is an authentic religious-cultural display and not put on for tourism. This festival is slated for November 19 & 20 (the latter is also Vietnam Teacher's Day). Read more about Dinh Thay Thim on our blog.

Read more about the local festivals in Binh Thuan Province.

Mid-Autumn Festival's Spectacular Start Drowned by Rain

Mid-Autumn Festival Lanters

04.10.09 Friday night Phan Thiet Celebrated Trung Thu, or the Mid-Autumn Festival, with it's award-winning night-time parade. The show had a spectacular start at 5:50pm, lead by the city's school children carrying lanterns on poles, and interspersed with lantern floats, drummers, dragon and lion dancers. The streets descended into chaos however, when there was a downpour of rain around 6:30, and the traffic cops ran for cover. It was the children who were the heroes of the evening, as they continued to plod on in the pouring rain.

See more photos from the festival on the Mui Ne Blog.

Phan Thiet's Children Lean the Mid-Autumn Festival

Read more about Binh Thuan Province Culture and Festivals.

Second Day of
Cau Ngu Festival 2009 Phan Thiet

Fishermen at the Van Thuy Tu Whale Temple in Phan Thiet during the Cau Ngu Festival
Fishermen at the Van Thuy Tu Whale Temple in Phan Thiet during the Cau Ngu Festival. View more photos from the festival
in our Mui Ne Blog.


14.05.09 This morning at around 8am, boats decorated ceremonially in colorful flags and banners arrived from Vung Tau carrying fishermen in full festival costumes. When they landed they were joined by students and a local troupe of dragon and lion dancers. The group then led a parade along the Ca Ty River in Phan Thiet, ending around 10am at the Van Thuy Tu Temple for whale worship, near the harbor. Attendence for the parade was light, largely due to the poor advertising of the event.

A dragon boat race may be occuring in the afternoon, though this has been difficult to confirm. A lantern release is also planned for the Ca Ty River tonight, perhaps around 6:30pm. Performance of traditional vietnamese opera may ensue at Van Thuy Tu afterwards.

Read more about Binh Thuan Province Culture and Festivals.

Cau Ngu Festival 2009 Phan Thiet

Dragon Boat Racing on the Ca Ty River in Phan Thiet during the Cau Ngu Festival

13.05.09 Today Phan Thiet City announced the upcoming Cau Ngu Festival, a local tradition grounded in the whale-worshipping cult of coastal fisherman. Unfortunately the festival was already underway this morning as banners announcing the festival (in Vietnamese-language only) were hung in Phan Thiet, and not Mui Ne (the center of tourism). However, we managed to find the single poster listing the schedule of events, and have done our best to translate it and present the information here:

Students in the parade during the Cau Ngu Festival in Phan Thiet

Wednesday, 13 May: Night Market along the harbor, with dance show and opening ceremonies.

Thursday, 14 May:

Morning: 8am-10am Parade around the Ca Ty River, ending at Van Thuy Tu Whale Temple.
Afternoon: 2:30ish Dragon Boat Race Practice.
Evening: Cheo Ba Trao (costumed, traditional opera) at the Harbor and Festival Night Market.

Friday, 15 May:

Afternoon: Dragon Boat Race Practice.
Evening: Hat Boi & Cai Luong (traditional, costumed opera) at whale temples, and contemporary music performances on stage.

Saturday, 16 May:

Costumed Performer in the parade for the Cau ngu Festival, Phan Thiet
Daytime: dragon-boat races.
Evening: patriotic and communist anthems

Sunday, 17 May: Traditional games and fisherman’s parade around Phan Thiet Market and riverside.

Monday, 18 & 19 May: Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday with Communist celebrations at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

Read more about Binh Thuan Province Culture and Festivals.

Theatre in Mui Ne at Joe’s Café and Snow

Miss-ed Saigon, Live Theater at Joe's Art Cafe and Snow in Mui Ne

Saigon Players
See more photos from the show in Our Blog

Saigon Players is an Amateur Theatre Group From Saigon. The Group was founded almost six years ago from a core group, mostly expat to create a venue for theatre lovers to meet and exercise the art and share it with those of little experience. The current performance, “Missed Saigon is Back” is the latest in a series of Missed Saigon Performances put on over the past four years at bars, restaurants and schools in Ho Chi Minh City. The show comprises scenes making fun of expat life in Vietnam while showing the greatest respect for our hosts and host country. The performance is about 40 minutes long, black box theatre and as usual, all funds go to charity., this time helping out the Sesame School for Hospitality and their kids. Ticket prices are 50,000 ea at the door.

Vietnam's Top Show Wraps It Up in Mui Ne

Co Gai Xau Xi or Vietnam Ugly Betty's  Ngoc Hiep

01.03.09 Last night, the crew of Vietnam's version of the US television hit, Ugly Betty (here known as "Co Gai Xau Xi" or "Ugly Lady"), held a wrap-up party at Mui Ne's own Forest Restaurant. A few cast members of the wildly popular show were present, including the star, Ngoc Hiep. Visit the Mui Ne Blog to see more photos from the evening.

Tet 2009 is as Festive as Ever in Phan Thiet

Lion Dancers at the Tet opening of the Prudential Office in Phan Thiet Market
Lion Dancers, Martial Artists and Traditional Musicians at the Tet opening of Prudential in Phan Thiet Market. Visit The Fish Egg Tree Blog for more photos of Tet in Phan Thiet.
Martial Artist at the Tet opening of the Prudential Office in Phan Thiet Market

Things to Do New Year's Eve

New Year's Party Wax
New Year's Party at Wax.
For More Photos from Mui Ne on New Year's Eve,
visit our blog at the Fish Egg Tree.
  • Jibes is having a special BBQ Party starting 7pm (see below). $22
  • Pogo Bar's Mu Festival: Saigon DJ's, Fun & Games. All-day and night till late. 300,000VND.
  • Wax Bar's Party: Fire Dancers, DJ. No cover charge.
  • Snow's Russian New Years Eve Party: Russian MC with games and activities. $50.
  • Sailing Club (contact for details)
  • Traveling Circus: traditional circus with elephants, monkeys, bears and Chinese Acrobats. Dowtown Phan Thiet, 8:30pm. Under $5.

Christmas in Phan Thiet

Christmas Lights in Phan Thiet
Colored lights and Christmas stars hang overhead in the Catholic neighborhood of Thanh Hai in Phan Thiet. See more Christmas photos and stories on Our Blog.

Christmas at a Catholic Church in Thanh Hai

Ho Quynh Huong Films Video in Mui Ne

24.12.08 Singer and pop superstar Ho Quynh Huong is filming a new music video in Ham Tien (Mui Ne). Visit the Mui Ne Blog for more photos from the shoot.

Thay Thim Festival Next Week

A Dragon Float Being Built for The Mid Autumn Festival. Photo by Adam Bray.
Drummers at the Dinh Thay Thim Festival in La Gi
View more photos at the Mui Ne Blog

Lion Dancing at Dinh Thay Thim, La Gi. Copyright 2008 Adam Bray10.10.08 Thay and Thim were a married couple renowned for both their sorcery as well as their humanitarian deeds toward the surrounding community. In recognition of their deeds, the community of La Gi, in Ham Tan district (1hr and 30mins southwest of Phan Thiet) built a temple about 130 years ago to honor and worship them. The tombs of Thay and Thim are located in a forest named Bau Thong, 3km from the temple. A lunar festival is held yearly (October 12-14 in 2008) to honor them. The following is a schedule of events next week for the Thay Thim Festival.

LOCATION: Tan Tien – La Gi – Binh Thuan

ACTIVITIES:

1.Ceremonial Events and Religious Observance

Sunday 10/12:
05:00am: Nghinh Than Ceremony
11:00am: Nhap Ðien An Vi Ceremony

Monday 10/13:
10:00am: Cung ngo Ceremony
02:00pm: Phat loc Ceremony

Tuesday 10/14:
04:00am: Thinh Sanh Ceremony
08:00am: Tien Hien Ceremony

2.Traditional Events and Group Activities*

Sunday 10/12:
05:00am: Flower Parade with Dragon and Lion Dancing
04:00pm: Fish Carying Contest
07:00pm: Opening Ceremony, Dragon and Lion Dancing
08:30pm: Play: The Thay Thim Legend

Monday 10/13:
08:00am: Sand Dunes Race
08:00pm: Cheo Ba Trao Opera Performance

Dinh Thay Thim. Copyright 2009 Adam Bray

Many Thanks to Viet Quoc at BTV for providing this schedule.

*Please note that these activities are approximate translations and there may be some errors.

The Kate Festival Begins

A Dragon Float Being Built for The Mid Autumn Festival. Photo by Adam Bray.
Cham Elders at the Kate Festival

Thap Poshanu Cham Towers27.09.08 The new year festival of Kate was kicked off tonight at the Thap Poshanu Cham towers in Phu Hai (between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne), with an opening ceremony of rather stale formalities. The main activities of the festival include the "Praying for Peace" ceremony from approximately 4pm to 7pm on Sunday, and then the grand procession and festivities have a finale Monday morning from 8am to 10am. A sort of Cham Olympics will also be held with events around the city of Phan Thiet through October 02. Sadly, the provincial government has not advertised any of this in English, for the benefit of foreign tourists (nor have the details posted in Vietnamese been very helpful either), so it may be necessery to drive around a bit to find the sporting events in town, which include both modern games (football) and traditional Cham competitions. Visit our blog for photos from the larger festival in Phan Rang. Visit HANNO STRAMM'S BLOG for photos from the local festival.

The Mid Autumn Festival Lights up Phan Thiet

A Dragon Float Being Built for The Mid Autumn Festival. Photo by Adam Bray.
Children Carrying Dragon Fruit Lanterns for the
Mid Autumn Festival (Trung Thu)

Tropical Fish Lantern Float. Photo Copyright 2008 Adam Bray14.09.08 The Mid Autumn Festival (Trung Thu) in Phan Thiet last night was a tremendous success. The children of Phan Thiet were undaunted by the rain showers at 5pm, and marched proudly through the streets in a grand procession at 6pm. The parade was made up of all the elementary schools around the city, each lead by their own large, lantern floats, with themes representing the city of Phan Thiet. The classes followed the floats, resembling dragons, seahorses, tall ships, tropical fish and the Phan Thiet Tower, and the children each carried smaller, although no less elaborate, lanterns of dragon fruit, stars, fish and wild animals.

Children with Dragon Fruit Lanterns. Photo Copyright 2008 Adam Bray.

Phan Thiet is nationally recognized as the best place in the country to observe the yearly festival, famous for its lantern parades and tasty moon cakes made of coconut, lotus seeds, green beans, candied meats, and of course, a dried duck-egg-yolk at the center to represent the full moon. See more photos at the official MuiNeBeach.net Blog: The Fish Egg Tree.

Mid Autumn Festival Begins on Saturday

A Dragon Float Being Built for The Mid Autumn Festival. Photo by Adam Bray.
A Lantern Float Under Construction for the
Mid Autumn Festival (Trung Thu)

Lanterns on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, photo by Adam Bray. Binh Thuan Today Sucks.09.09.08 The Mid Autumn Festival (Trung Thu) will begin on the night of Saturday, September 13 at around 5pm, with a grand parade of floats and lanterns on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street and around the riverside. The festival continues with smaller parades on the night of the 14th in the surrounding villages. Phan Thiet is nationally recognized and awarded as the best place to observe the festival in the entire country due to the size and granduer of the procession.

The Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival, and is a popular Chinese celebration dating back over 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. The Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties. Cakes usually have at least one dried, salted egg yolk and come with fillings of coconut, yellow or green bean, lotus seed or minced pork. All are sweet. The most popular brand in Vietnam is Kinh Do--and they are also the most expensive. Small cakes start at 25,000VND and are as much as 100,000VND for larger cakes.

Phan Thiet Lanterns. Photo by Adam BrayThe Mid Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Brightly lit lanterns are often carried around by children.

The Vietnamese version of this holiday is said to have originated in the 8th century, during the reign of Emperor Minh-Hoang. Legend says that the Emperor took his Empress, Duong Quy Pho, to a lake where he read a poem that he had composed to her by the light of the moon.

A more popular version of the holiday recounts the legend of Thang Cuoi, whose banyan tree was uprooted after his wife accidentally urinated on it and took him with it to the moon. Every year, on the mid-autumn festival, children light lanterns to show Cuoi the way to get back to Earth.

Lion Dancers in Phan Thiet. Photo copyright Adam Bray and may not be printed elsewhere.

See more photos at the official MuiNeBeach.net Blog: The Fish Egg Tree.

Nghinh Ong Festival a Success

Downtown Phan Thiet - Tet Celebrations
Assembling Dragons

Nghinh Ong, photo by Adam Bray
One of the Many Dragons That Weaved Through Phan Thiet Streets

22.08.08 The Nghinh Ong Festival closed yesterday with an enormous parade through the city, complete with dragon and lion dancers, acrobats, traditional musicians, stilt walkers, martial artists, countless flags, banners, costumed participants, gong players, drummers and the grand finale--a troupe of 150 people forming a kylin--a mythical beast looking like a cross between a lion and a dragon--and the longest in SouthEast Asia.

Nghinh Ong, by Adam Bray
The Kylin chases a golden ball at the end of the parade.
 

The evening was celebrated in the Phan Thiet civic center with a performance from numerous nationally famous singers, including Dan Truong and Ho Quynh Huong. The concert celebrated the cultural diversity of Phan Thiet, with a backdrop of scenes from around the province.

Nghinh Ong, photo by Adam Bray
Stilt Walkers Parading Near Phan Thiet Market

MORE PHOTOS CAN BE SEEN ON:
THE FISH EGG TREE
THE BINH THUAN NEWSPAPER
HANNO STRAMM'S BLOG

Local Chinese Community and Fishermen to Host a Festival to Remember

Dragon of Nghinh Ong

17.08.08 The Nghinh Ong Festival, also knows as the Guan Kung Greeting Celebration, will begin next Tuesday the 19th, in Phan Thiet City.

The festival will last for three days and will remember a Chinese general and warrior-saint honored by the Hoa Chinese community.

The activities will begin at 5am on Tuesday, and will culminate on Thursday morning (7am-ish) with nearly 900 Hoa people (ethnic Chinese) marching through the central streets of the city, such as Nguyen Hue, Tran Hung Dao, Hai Thuong Lan Ong, Nguyen Tri Phuong and Ngo Si Lien. The best spots to observe the festival are usually around the Ca Ty Riverfront downtown.

Nghinh Ong ParadeThis year, the festival will also feature royal dances and the masquerade acts of Chinese legends. The celebration will continue with an enormous parade filled with costumed performers, mystical dragon outfits and lion dancers, with the highlight being a performance of the greatest dragon dancers from around the country. The large green dragon, which is the center of the parade, requires more than 50 dancers to animate it, and is believed to be the largest such dragon in the country.

For the occasion, Ong Pagoda (Guan Kung Temple) will be decorated with flower garlands and multi-colored lanterns. People will gather to pray for happiness, health and good fortune for their families and friends.

The festival will also include a Vietnamese-Chinese cuisine fair. The festival is a long-standing tradition of the ethnic Chinese community in Phan Thiet city, but was only held every few years. It was organized by the local government for the first time in 2006 and has since become an even larger, yearly tourism event.

The festival also coincides with the "Cau ngu" or "Lang Ca Ong" Festival for Whale Worship, beginning on Wednesday, August 20, and centered around the Van Thuy Tu Temple on Ngu Ong Street (Fisherman Street, Duc Thang ward, Phan Thiet), which is the oldest temple dedicated to whale worship in Vietnam. Built in 1762, the temple now contains over 100 whale skeletons and other strange species of fish, most of which are 100-150 years old. Most noteworthy is a 22-meter whale skeleton, which is estimated to have weighed 65 tons when alive. The temple was recognized as a national relic site in 1996, although it has not been marketed yet to foreign tourists. Nghinh Ong actually has a double meaning--to the fishermen it is a welcome ceremony associated with the whale spirits they worship, but to the Chinese, it is a welcome and worship of their own deity.

National Day Looming in Phan Thiet

01.09.08 September 2 is Vietnam’s “National Day” state holiday. More popularly celebrated in Hanoi, the day is the anniversary of when Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945 at Ba Dinh Square. Later Ho Chi Minh’s tomb was built on the site and has become an important pilgrimage site for many Vietnamese. No official ceremony schedules have been posted, but typically these include music, cultural performances and speeches in celebration of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and Vietnam’s Communist Party. Expect more traffic around town and occupancy in hotels to be higher.

Half of Viet Nam’s Oldest Couple Passes Away

22.10.07 Truong Thi Ba died last Saturday at the age of 100, at 539 Thu Khoa Huan Street, Thanh Hai Ward, Phan Thiet city. Ba, born in 1907, together with her 105-year-old husband Phan Tan Tro, will be officially recognised tomorrow as the only couple in Viet Nam that have lived beyond 100 years. Binh Thuan Province is reportedly home to five elderly people who will receive special recognition for the new over-100-year-old records.

Nine New Records for Binh Thuan Province

20.10.07 The 10th meeting of record makers of Vietnam will be held in Phan Thiet on October 23, when nine new national records will be recognised by the Vietnam Record Book Center. The new records include: the largest area devoted to dragon fruit plantations in Vietnam (4,127ha); the largest number of coastal resorts in Vietnam (78 resorts and hotels); the place with the oldest fish sauce factory in Vietnam; the pagoda with the largest wooden bell in Vietnam; the place with the largest Nghing Ong (Whale worship) festival in Vietnam; sand dunes that change their shape most frequently; the first Vietnamese business to grow Spirulina alga; and the longest blue dragon (49m), at Quan De temple. While a number of the records do seem a bit contrived, establishing the officiality of the claims helps to build credibility in advertizing in the tourism industry and international business.

Cau Ngu kicks off in Phan Thiet

02.08.07 The Cau Ngu Festival began in Phan Thiet on Wednesday and will end on Saturday. In the Cau Ngu ("Fish Prayer") Festival, participants pray to the "big fish" (whale, dolphins, sharks, etc.), asking them not to hinder them in fishing trips during the coming year.

The festival includes the "NGHINH ONG" ("Man Welcome "--or in this case "Fish Welcome"). When a whale or a giant dolphin died and was washed ashore, people gave them an elaborate funeral to welcome the spirit of the fish. Women once cried and went into elaborate mourning to show their respect and venoration for the animals. Their remains are then stored in a local temple.

When participants ‘CAU NGU’, they also ‘NGHINH ONG’ at the same time, with or without any dead fish. The festival demonstrates the duality of both respect and adoration, as well as bondage to fear that is present in many local festivals and religious practices.

In the past fishmen used to tattoo their bodies to scare away whales and sharks when they fall into the water. They also painted their boats with eyes, fins, scales and tails for the same effect.

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Previously, the provincial government has combined the festival with the Chinese "Quan Kong" celebration, which remembers the birthday of a Chinese general and warrior-saint, who is honored by the local ethnic Chinese community. The holiday happends at about the same time, and is an opportunity for the local government to promote an even larger tourism event.

Phan Thiet Cau Ngu Festival

21.07.07 In Phan Thiet City from August 1 to 4, visitors have an opportunity to observe a traditional festival for fishermen called 'Cau Ngu'. Cau Ngu is a local festival, and involves worship of Ong Nam Hai, or the Whale, which is believed to help fishermen. During Cau Ngu, fishermen pray for calm seas, an abundant catch of fish, and peace for all. The celebrations consist of both religious customs and activities for entertainment. In Phan Thiet, the festival is centered at Van Thuy Tu Temple, a national cultural site containing some 100 sets of whale bones, including the largest whale bones in Vietnam. Hundreds of large and small boats will take part in the ceremony of Nghinh Ong, which is the heart of the festival. Fishermen in traditional costumes will parade in their boats, inviting the souls of whales from the ocean to come to Phan Thiet, in order to receive offerings and aid the fishermen in the next year. The festival will continue with a procession of floating flower garlands and colored lanterns on Ca Ty river. At night, the river will sparkle with some 5,000 lanterns. The festival also includes dragon boat and coracle racing. The best place to observe the festivities is along the riverfront at the Phan Thiet Market downtown. As with any large festival, leave your valuables at your hotel. The festivities draw large crowds from around the province, which makes them a prime opportunity for pick-pockets.

Dragons of Nghinh Ong Rear Heads, Phan Thiet

Nghinh Ong Parade in Phan Thiet 200411.08.06 Residents of Phan Thiet this weekend are celebrating the biennial Nghinh Ong Festival, which will take place between August 11 and 14.

Nghinh Ong is devoted to whale worship and is celebrated at the Ong pagoda by thousands of Chinese and Vietnamese participants. It originated in the Chinese community. People gather to pray for happiness, health and good fortune for family and friends. Ong Pagoda was built to worship Quan Kong in November 1770 (Year of the Tiger), in Duc Nghia Precinct, Phan Thiet City. It has a beautiful Chinese architecture and a statue of Quan Kong as well as an old bell originally cast in Guang Tung (China). On festival days, the pagoda is decorated with flower garlands. Colorful lanterns are hung during the night.

The normal festivities include an enormous parade with costumed performers and dragon, kylin, and lion dances with nearly 20 Chinese clubs from Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, Ninh Thuan, Tay Ninh, Long An, Can Tho, and Hue. The highlight is always a performance by a troupe of 150 people forming a kylin--a mythical beast looking like a cross between a lion and a dragon--and the longest in SouthEast Asia.

HCMC’s Tran Huu Trang Theater will also put on cai luong (traditional southern opera) - Luong Son Ba-Chuc Anh Dai, and Thanh Xa-Bach Xa (Green and White Snakes) shows.

This year’s official program (added to by local officials) is scheduled to also include a traditional Chinese fashion show, with Fujian, Hainan, Chaozhou and Guangzhou inspired clothes.

Although celebrated in some other parts of the country, the best place to view the festivities, as with the Mid Autumn festival, is considered to be Phan Thiet. It is truely a unique cultural event and untainted by the modern tourism industry because it is still produced for and by the local community in traditional form.

As with any large gathering of people, it is best to leave your valuables back at the hotel when you visit the parade or other festivities. Gangs of pick-pockets and thieves from other cities and provinces often show up during festivals to take advantage of the crowds (Phan Thiet otherwise has a extremely low crime rate). Take precautions to keep cameras and wallets secure.

Mui Ne Beach : Phan Thiet : Hon Rom : Khe Ga : Mui Dien : Vietnam



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