Many people in Cho Lach, southern Ben Tre Province, long for the Doan Ngo Festival (May 5 on the lunar calendar) more than they do for Tet, for its fresh fruit, music and mud baths.
Cho Lach is famous for its durian, with yellow sections and small seeds, mangosteens, pink-succulent pomellos, pomellos with green rind, mangos and plums. The area has also well known for fruit seeds for hundreds years. There has been an increasing trend that at the Doan Ngo festival, people come to Cho Lach to spend their time in those gardens, in which they can enjoy eating different kinds of great fruit.
In an agricultural nation, much attention is given to the changing of seasons. Tet Doan Ngo, the summer solstice (fifth day of the fifth lunar month), is celebrated to bring harmony between the yin and yang principles of nature.
This Taoist practice features brightly painted dragon-boats and offerings made to the God of Death.
On that day, Vietnamese people eat fruit early in the morning before having other food. It is believed that doing so will help to protect people from worms and viruses.
Following this tradition, for the past five years, Ben Tre Province has organized the yearly festival from May 1 to 5 on the lunar calendar (May 27-31 on the solar calendar) to introduce the area to tourists as a land of great fruit. Garden owners could bring their best fruits to compete with other gardens or to present them in a fruit fair. This activity has encouraged fruit garden owners to find different ways of growing great fruit for the highest award.
This year, the area will be even more attractive because many bonsai gardeners who have won golden hand awards will gather here to display their craft.
The festival also takes place from May 27-31. In the past, the festival was organized to advertise the locally grown fruit, but this year it aims to introduce visitors the bonsai grown in the shape of animals and hybrid fruit trees.
The Ben Tre Agriculture Department, in conjunction with the Ornamental Plant Association, has organised a competition for ornamental plants, an exhibition of the ornamental art, the Golden Hand Prize for cross-seeding fruit trees and fruit decorations.
After watching these competitions, tourists are invited to visit bonsai gardens and the area where gardeners grow seeding fruit trees to understand why Cho Lach was recorded in Viet Book for the areas where producing the largest number of seeding fruit trees in Vietnam.
Come to islets to eat oc gao
A famous dish in Cho Lach during the time of the Doan Ngo festival is banh xeo (a kind of cake made of deep fried wheat, beef and bean sprouts), and oc gao (special snail). This is a traditional countryside dish in the South. However people can only find oc gao in this season and only Phu Da and Cho Lach Islets have the special snails. The oc gao season is from April to July, and May is the best time. Oc gao can also be boiled and dipped in fish sauce, mixed with chopped lemon grass or rolled in rice-steamed pancakes to be eaten with copra.
Together with the fruit festival, a cooking competition is organized where local chefs often choose oc gao dishes.
|Oc gao (special snail).
Mud bath in Tien Islet
The trip would also be incomplete without a mud bath at Tien, a small islet in the Ham Luong River.
The area is below the water level and surrounded by a dyke. Many families have settled down on the islet for its gardening. as soil has accumulated beneath the dyke to form a large sand bank.
For nearly 10 years, thousands of people from Vung Liem, Mang Thit in Vinh Long Province or other districts of Ben Tre Province have flocked to Tien Islet. People from Tien Giang also come by boat. On many boats people even bring drums and other musical instruments.People also swim in the river or sunbathe. Some call the islet “the second Vung Tau”. Boats also bring in additional mud for mud baths before high tide covers the area and the festival ends.
VIETNAMNET - (30/05/2006)