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HCM from A-ZTuesday, 10/10/2006, 02:03

Whales, the legend of seafarers


Whales, the legend of seafarers

Sailors or seafarers in Vietnam often call whales Ca Ong out of a mark of respect, since they hold a special, deep rooted, affection for them. Infact, the fishing folk even hold an annual festival to celebrate and remember the special animals, which spend much of their time in the depths of the ocean.

In recent days the piscators of Phan Thiet, the pretty coastal village in Binh Thuan, have been busy preparing for the biennial Nghinh Ong Festival, which will take place between 11 to 14 August.

Although the Nghinh Ong Festival is also held in other coastal regions, such as Can Gio and Ca Mau among others, the celebrations are perhaps more well-known because of the local Chinese community who still live area, and who have better retained the original form and historical essence of the occasion.

For many years, in seafarers� eyes, whales stood for a close friend and represented the God of the Seas that needed to be worshipped. For example, in some regions when a whale died and was washed up on shore, the locals would bury the animal and hold a funeral ceremony out of reverence. Then, after several years of internment, they would exhume the whale�s skeleton and carry the bones to their temple to be worshipped in posterity.

So, to some extent the festival is a time for fishing communities to pay their respects and express their gratitude to the oceans, the provider of food, jobs and money.

In more contemporary times, the Nghinh Ong festival has come to epitomize and encompass the localities wider traditional cultural values, reflecting their spirit, celebrating life, and a chance to wish for peace, prosperity, and happiness for the whole fishing community. One may even say that the festival has come to epitomize the daily traditional values of the fishing folk.

But why are whales so important to seafarers� lives and why have they selected a whale for a god to worship? It could because of an old fisherman�s tale.

Legend has it that one dark, stormy night, the gods of the ocean became so furious that they sent huge hurricanes and torrential rains, and it seemed as though all of the fishermen would be swept away and drowned, and the boats sent to a watery grave at the bottom! Then, in the midst of the danger, a whale came to help the fishermen and accompanied them to the safety of the shore.

So, if you can spare the time, why not pay a visit to Phan Thiet where, quite apart from the beautiful beaches where you can swim in the cool, clear waters, you will be able to take part in a wide variety of festival related activities.

This year�s official program is scheduled to include a traditional Chinese fashion show, with Fukien, Hainan, Chaozhou and Guangzhou inspired clothes, as well as the more familiar dragon and lion dancing performances, and southern style opera contest.

Obviously, the celebrations shall also be a gastronaughts delight with mixtures both Chinese and Vietnamese influenced traditional and modern seafood, as well as the more routine, everyday specialties.

By the way, if you decide to go to Phan Thiet be sure to drop by the Van Thuy Tu Palace, where the largest whale skeleton in Southeast Asia is on display.

You can get to Phan Thiet City by bus or train, or perhaps more easily as part of a tour group. Lua Viet Tour have organized a couple of special trips for the occasion that are scheduled to start on August 12 and which can be tailored to suit your own personal choices and budgets.

For further details contact Lua Viet Tour at 677 Tran Hung Dao Street, Dist.1, HCM City. Tel: 924 1458 � 923 3616 or visit website:



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