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