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Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms! What should you do in the evening in Hanoi? Would you like to explore Folk culture? After a few days visiting Hanoi, visitors may like to see something different, something is unique just being held in Vietnam? Outside the usual scope of performances tourists attend – mostly water puppetry – exists the Viet Theater’s artistic interpretation of “Lên Đồng” or “Hầu Đồng”, a traditional ritual in which a medium is possessed by several deities. Tứ Phủ – The Four Palace show is one of the latest shows in Hanoi that has been nurtured, idealized and arranged for 4 years before officially presented in late February 2016 in Cong Nhan Theatre which is three-minute walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam.

“The four palaces” or Tu Phu Performance was inspired by the ritual of the spiritual medium ship (Len Dong) of the Mother Religion believing in The Mother Goddess who brings about favorable weather, happiness and fullness to people.

What does Four Palaces mean?

Vietnam is already home to world intangible cultural heritages, including Nha Nhac (royal court music), the Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands, Quan Ho (love duets), Ca tru (ceremonial singing) and Hung King worshipping rituals. In 2016, Vietnam summited the dossier on “the belief of the Mother Goddess of Three Realms worship by Vietnamese” for UNESCO recognition.

Mother Goddess worship is a traditional practice in Vietnam with a long history, having stood the test of social changes. The belief in Mother Goddess worship reflects people’s desire for health, wealth and fortune. The practice rituals meet belief-related needs by people in their daily life and have been closely associated with historical and cultural figures, such as Lieu Hanh, Au Co, Vuong Mau (legendary Mother of Saint Giong).

The practitioners are comprised of temple guardians, ritual priests, spirit mediums, mediums’ assistants, musicians who perform the songs for the spirits, disciples and lay adherents who share the same beliefs in the spiritual power, supernatural strength and protection of the Mother Goddess spirit pantheon. All of these practitioners form groups who worship together, take part in traditional festivals and perform spirit possession rituals at temples and palaces dedicated to Mother Goddesses. The folk belief shows the respect of children towards their mothers while reflecting the UNESCO spirit of preserving cultural and religious diversity.

If you interest this post, please view: Indochina travel Vietnam to get more detail information

As a type of folk arts, Len Dong ritual is a spiritual performance

The reincarnatation of Goddess of Mountain & Forest Performance

The reincarnatation of General “Ong Muoi“ Performance

Four Palace Show

Four Palaces is created by Viet Theatre, is the 1st performance to bring Hau Dong ceremony of the Viet Belief on Mother Goddesses (Dao Mau) which is now recognized by UNESCO as the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage to the stage. Four Palaces show honors the magnificence, sophistication of the art in Dao Mau to introduce to the international audiences in Hanoi. The show is an exciting and spiritual journey that combines the effects of sound, light, and unique visuals during the 45-minute performance. The Four Palaces Show has three parts:

  • The Reincarnation of the Second Lady of the Highland
  • The Reincarnation of the Tenth Prince
  • The Reincarnation of the Little Princess of Highlands

Schedule: Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Duration: 45 minutes

Location: City centre – Cong Nhan Theatre (Add: 42 Trang Tien Street, Hanoi)

Enjoy the show.

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Peach Blossom – the special flower only blossoms in Tet

We just get back to work after Tet about 2 weeks and I have to say we still feel the atmosphere and the spirit of the holiday, which is a bit lazy and not fully concentrate on working.

As many years, Vietnam government have had in mind an idea of changing the Lunar New Year , to combine Tet with the New Year Eve with many other countries in the world.

They have their reasons and they are not completely wrong. We normally have 9 days of celebrating Tet. This could be too long, not to mention that Tet is after New Year Eve a month so we could get two holidays back to back and the affects to working time with foreigners because of the different celebrating period.

Tet also bring back old minded and behavior like a big feast, a whole month of playing, mass of worships and presents… Not to mention alcohol and the consequences of alcoholism. Not to mention gambling during Tet. Not to mention the fights when drinking, gambling. Not to mention the traffic accident in Tet …

If we want to join in the world economic and keep up with the world, this should be changed. They said we have made many changed many thing from the past, such as long hair, long nails, wooden clogs, using hieroglyphs… all of them can be changed so Tet is not an exception.

In tourism, Tet makes the cost of many services rocketing and even not available for you, causing lack of communication with your travel agents or can not visit any place because they are closed.

However, in the other hands, Tet is something special and meaningful to me and many other Vietnamese. There are many special things that we only willing and dare to do in this moment, like gathering together, saying loving word to our relatives, forgive any misunderstanding or dissidence, or don’t mind losses in helping others…

This is not about the date. This special feeling is only happened when we feel the weather start little rain, all flowers are blossoming and see the number 30 on our lunar calendar.

For tourist, you can have a change to see the unique in our cultural, enjoy a non-busy street during these days. And if you are lucky, you can join with a local family and blend yourself in our feeling to deeply understand it.

Another Tet has gone and we are now facing this question again. This time, we would like to hear your thought about this. Your opinion could make us realize to change this event or make us feel more confident to continue what we are doing. Look forward to any comments.

 

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Each year, after the New Year Year about 2 weeks, everybody in Vietnam is getting excited and looking forward to our biggest holiday – Tet.

We need to work harder than normal days, concentrate to finish all the undone jobs and also arrange some future works after the holiday to have a long holiday without worrying about anything at work.

However, we are “lucky” to have our office not in the Old Quarter like others, but right next to a big kumquat garden. During January, they are always busy for customers who comes to check and buy a nice and fortunate kumquat to bring home for Tet.

Kumquat is an unique mascots in Tet in the North of Vietnam with Peach Blossom, while Apricot Blossom is represented for the South.

During a years, for 12 months, this garden has witnessed many changes, after each months. From the worst to the most beautiful that not many offices in Hanoi can have.

This was what happened after Tet in 2015. Trees had been bought and the garden looked like a mess!

Then the farmers start fixing it with new soil, using calcium carbonate to prevent worms, gathering left trees to arrange them in line.

New trees are arrived for the coming season. The thing is after Tet, these tree didn’t die. You can choose to throw it away or sell it back to the farmer or hire them to take care of your tree for the next Tet if you really like it’s posture.

These trees have to be green for the whole year and not have fruits until one month before Tet. This is a special technique of the farmers and they spend about 11 months to take care their garden while having a second job like others people.

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Finally, when we are about one week to reach Tet at the moment, these trees are ready to bring home and getting decorated to stand out in the living room.

We could be distracted by this lovely view but our team are proud to have it outside our window! Happy a New Year of Monkey! Wish you are always full of energy and happiness like him!

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From the last post, we continue our tours in Vietnam through Vietnam’s currency.

Now, we will visit two different destinations on 10.000 VND. This note is the most unique money in Vietnam because there are two versions of its still alive. One is made from paper, ones from the polymer and the paper note is much valuable (in culture point).

10.000 dong

Polymer – 10.000 dong with an important resources of Vietnam.

This is polymer 10.000 dong, which is public from 2003 by The Vietnam Government to improve the security. On this note, we are at The Bach Ho Oil Mine, 145 kilometers far from Vung Tau City. This is one of the biggest oil mines in Vietnam and produce 38 thousand tons of raw oil every day. Vietnam is always proud of having many, many nature resources but we are still finding a better way to take advantage on using these resources. Visit Vietnam with Indochina travel

Paper-10.000 dong, a lucky and rare money.

Paper-10.000 dong, a lucky and rare money.

About paper 10.000 dong, we head back to the north of Vietnam to go to a famous place in Vietnam – Halong bay. This is one of the Worlds Heritage and so familiar with all tourists so I won’t talk about this. Let’s see why this note is more valuable that the polymer version, even they have the same amount. The hint is about its color. In the entire of money note in Vietnam, there is only this one; paper 10.000 has the red color on it and a suitable amount of money. Maybe you have heard about this before, in Tet Holiday, we have a traditional activity is giving each other a lucky money to bring health, luck and anything you want in a new coming year. For this lucky money, it has to be red (because we believe red brings all the good things) but can not to be so small (like 200 or 500 dong) so that 10.000 is the best choice. Besides, recently, it’s kind of hard to find a paper 10.000 dong and they are not printed anymore so if you have that, keep it like a lucky charm.

20.000 dong with symbol of Hoi An.

20.000 dong with symbol of Hoi An.

Higher than 10.000 is 20.000 dong, a blue note which is very easy to mistake with 500.000 dong. Many people, even Vietnamese have that mistake. The picture you see is The Japanese Covered Bridge. The Japanese Covered Bridge or Cau Pagoda (in Vietnamese “Cau Nhat Ban”) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Hoi An, Vietnam. The original Vietnamese name of this bridge is “Lai Vien Kieu”. It is considered that the Japanese Covered Bridge belongs to the Japanese community in Hoi An, and was built in the early seventeenth century. No trip to Hoi An would be complete without visiting The Japanese Covered bridge. Besides, Hoi An is a must-visit city when you come to Vietnam, you will find that it’s a heaven of tailor-made clothes and shoes.

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An inportant place from Nguyen’s Dynasty on 50.000 dong.

Near Hoi An is Hue – The Emperor Citadel, which printed in 50.000 dong. This is just a small part of the whole citadel, called Phu Van Lau (Phu Van Tower). It is small but has a great position in history. It’s a place with 3 main tasks, included: To announce the King’s Order; to honor one whom passing the country’s exam to be a Dr.; and to hold a special fest for people in some specific time. Recently, this place has broken because of termites but actually because this place doesn’t have any organization or department care about it to repair and maintain it. What a pity!

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Symbol of Hanoi for 100.000 dong.

Next, we fly to Hanoi and visit Temple of Literature on 100.000 dong. As you see in this note is Khue Van Cac, means the floor of the light of Khue Star. This small part is very popular and famous of this complex. Long time ago, this is a place for the King and his man discussed and showed their talent in poetry or literature. Because of this, Khue Van Cac becomes a symbol of intelligent and respected to talent people. Nowadays, Khue Van Cac has become a symbol of Hanoi with many stories around it. If you have time in Hanoi, don’t miss this place to know more about the history, culture and how Vietnamese people think.

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Ha Long Bay, an interesting place of Vietnam on 200.000 dong.

Then Ha Long again. You and I, we both know that Ha Long is truly beautiful and worth to spend time in there but Vietnam doesn’t have only Ha Long. There are hundred or thousand places are that beautiful and even more to discover or printed on money. But since the paper 10.000 becomes rare and no longer printed more, the government thinks that there have to be Ha Long on some money note because Ha Long Bay is one of the most attractive place for tourist in Vietnam now. That’s why on 200.000 dong there is an islet, among 1969 islets on the bay, called Incensory Islet (Dinh Huong Islet). This islet doesn’t have any special but someone think that it looks like an incensory, which means a big thing to honor the Earth and Sky and remind them when drinking water, remember who dug the well. Normally, you will see this islet on the way back from Ha Long Bay in the dock. Some guide may tell you that this is Sails Islet or anything they think it looks like.

On the lagerst money of Vietnam is the home town of the greatest person of Vietnam - President Ho Chi Minh.

On the lagerst money of Vietnam is the home town of the greatest person of Vietnam – Our beloved President Ho Chi Minh.

Finally, at the end of our tour, the biggest money in Vietnam – 500.000 dong is a special place of Vietnam. The house you see there is Ho Chi Minh’s House, where he lived when he was born until 10 years old. This house is located in Sen Village (Lotus Village), Nghe An province. This is Ho Chi Minh’s hometown where also is home town of many talented people, who hold many important positions in Vietnam Government. This place is not too popular with foreigner but all Vietnamese people know that place. Maybe to honor our Greatest President, the Government spends the biggest money to print his hometown on it. It is interesting to come here and find out more about his life, if you want to know him better.

Through Vietnam’s currencies, you have discovered many things about our country in many points. I know our country has to improve in many things but I am very proud of to be born as Vietnamese and I feel so, so good to live in here. I hope that through this, you will know somehow Vietnamese people think and act and maybe, make you love our country more.

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If you are have chance to visit a traditional Vietnamese family, especially in rural area, you might see an ancestor altar that is well located and arranged at the center of the house. The origin of altar comes from the ancestor worship which is typical for the culture of Vietnam.

Ancestor worship – one of Vietnamese beliefs shows respect, gratitude to the ancestor who had born and built posterity’s living. It includes of rituals, worship and other activities to indicate the reverence of generation at the present time to the first generations, grandparents and parents of their family who had passed away.

A popular sample of Ancestor altar

A sample of Ancestor altar in the countryside

Vietnamese ancestor worship has appeared since long time ago, based on the trust of immortal souls after deaths. According to the belief, the body and the soul are both associate and separate. They’re associate when they alive and separate when they die. When a person dies, his body dissolves into the land, but the soul still survives and moves to another world. This world is contrary to the living world and called with different names such as: coi ma (ghost world – of Ede ethnic group), hell, or heaven,… The purpose of building the other world is to satisfy the expectation of a better world. Vietnamese also believe that the dead people with magic power still visit and bless their posterity. So that the living people worship ancestors, show their respect, gratitude and ask for ancestor’s blessing of a happier and wealthier living. Ancestor worship has become not only a belief, the ethics of man, but also an important part of Vietnamese spirit living, especially in rural area. In fact, this belief is one of national traditions and although it is not compelling, it still appears in almost everywhere in the territory and deeply in every generation’s mind.

Vietnam is a country which has a rich, wide variety of ethnics and religions, so the ancestral cult has differences between areas, ethnics and religions. Worshiping ancestor has relationship with other religions such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism… Before the August Revolution, Confucianism was the backbone of Vietnamese society, affected and developed ancestor worship system. When the influence of Confucianism decreased, Buddhism bounded to ancestor worship more. So, especially in the North of Vietnam, people consider this belief as one part of Buddhism. The altar often worships both Buddha and ancestor. Catholicism didn’t allow Christians to worship ancestor not until 1964.

Vietnam has 64 ethnic groups, living in different areas, under different living conditions, that make the variety in the practices. The observing ancestral cult of Viet (Kinh) group seems to be the most popular, typical, outstanding, and represents for the belief of the whole nation.

Ancestor worship can be divided into 4 types according to its sphere:

+ Nation: Worshiping Hung King – the first King who created and built the nation.

+ Village: Worshiping Thanh Hoang Lang – the Deity who has huge contribution to the village.

+ Lineage: Worshiping the forefathers of the ancestry.

+ Family: Worshiping the passed away people of the family.

Different from the Western culture, in the past, Vietnamese consider that the death-day is more important than the birthday. So, annually, Vietnamese choose the death-day to celebrate a commemorative anniversary for the deceased, known as death-day or death anniversary.

Ancestor worshiping is an important ritual in wedding ceremony

Ancestor worshiping is an important ritual in wedding ceremony

On every first day and 15th day of the month, the family prepare offering to their ancestor. The offering of fresh flowers, fresh seasonal fruits are presented on the altar then the head person of the family burn incense and pray. In death anniversary or big occasions of the family, bigger offerings will be prepared with flowers, fruits and dishes as a normal meal of the family. Vietnamese people consider this ritual as a way to communicate with ancestor.

The Vietnamese life is changing day by day, the culture is also more colorful with the coming of Western wave. However, the belief of Ancestor Worship is inside every Vietnamese person and always reminds us of our origin.

 

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Cheap, fun, thrilling, awesome are words to describe about the experiences in a local hair dressers.

It’s pretty common to see the little sign “Cắt tóc” in the North or “Hớt Tóc” in the South of Vietnam. Cắt = Cut. Hair = Tóc. Easy right? Now when you come in here, beside the normal circle of washing your hair first, then cut your hair, then blow dry it. There are extra pleasures. Seriously, I am not talking dirty nor the issues of happy ending in the pink dim light hairdressers here. Trust me, it’s truly an experience.

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Skinhead scratching

In most places, the lady will still work on your skinhead like it has never been washed before. It’s not that she hates you, she is actually trying to please you by scratch where you feel itchy 😉 . So if you don’t like her nails scratching into your poor skinhead, then ask in advance for a “soft scratch”.

Ear washing

Not many people like this so normally they will ask before doing it. Lying on the hair-washing chair, she will spray the water into your ear, then clean it with some shampoo, spray more water to wash away the bubbles. It sounds ok when you do it on your own in the shower, but make sure you are calm and be prepared if try it in the hairdresser.  I found it a bit weird feeling.

Face wash

A face wash often to be included into the process and is charged extra if you use it. You can also have a face mask while washing your hair.

Hair Pulling

At some part while your head are at massaging stage, you will feel a small amount of hair will be gently rolled together and pulled, a small noise will come out after every pull. Don’t freak out, it’s just a trick make you feel that your hair is going off your head and make a crack, but it’s not. Vietnamese find that relaxing.

Ear Picking

OK, your ears will be clean out and your ability to hear things are much better. Though this is freaky to most people. The lady will wear a front light like a miner, have a thin metal tool on her hand, and start to work on your ear. You need to trust her, otherwise, this cleaning process can never be done. It will feel weird or nice, depends on how you feel. After that, she will use cotton buds to clean again. Helllloooooo? Can you hear me from so far away?

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Haircut

If you have straight hair, fine. If you have curly hairs, please be warned that Vietnamese hair dressers wont know how to deal with original curly hair. They can make straight to curly no problem. And it is best if you can take a few photos of the hairstyles you want and show to them. Then they will cut as you want.

Blow Dry & Hair Modelling

The final process. It can be as simple as blow dry or fancy with complicated hair modelling up to your taste.

Price: A full process can be up to 250,000vnd (= 12 US$) – please note this price is applied for small stores only. In mid range hair salon, it can be up to 25US$. or a high-end top quality one is about 80US$.

Dont worry! Here is some quality English Speaking hair dresser in Hanoi for you to try:

* Tran Linh Hair Creation – 1 Hang Bun st., Hanoi. Money range: $$$

*Dinh Hair Salon: 2A Cua Bac st. Money range: $

*Q-cut: 53 Au Co st., Tay Ho District. Money Range: $$

Enjoy!

 

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Hue is a slow-burn town, one of major tourist spots in the Central region of Vietnam as it’s Vietnam’s former imperial capital – a world’s cultural heritage. Foreign visitors love this place because of its peaceful and quiet environment.  Above all, Hue’s cuisine is such a sensation.  If you are into Vietnamese food, you may be able to recognize the taste difference of people in the Central, the North and the South. The Southern Vietnamese people prefer food with a sweeter taste, while the Northern food is a bit plain. Hue’s food or the Central Vietnamese food is known for being very tasty, salted and spicy.

The story of Hue traditional sauces is long, and even simple snacks require specific ingredients.

“Bánh Nậm”, rice dumplings, are served with sweetened fish sauce, and fresh chili adds kicks to the sweet and sour taste. What you expect is the rice floor, with a bit of shrimp and pork meat being smashed so you can’t see the meat clearly. You can only ‘feel’ it when eating. The fish sauce to go with Bánh Nậm really depends on your flavor, whether you want it to be salty or sweet.

2 - banh nam

Bánh Nậm

1- Banh Nam

Phrynuim leaves are used to wrap the cakes, the most typical of which is the Banh nam. To make this cake requires skilful hands that can arrange the pastry evenly on the leaf, topped off with a fried shrimp then wrapped into a rectangular shape.

To fully enjoy “ Bánh Bột Lọc”, tapioca cake, it needs to be complemented with salty shrimp paste and a generous amount of chili. It is covered with banana leaf. In each cake, there is a piece of shrimp and ground pork.  It is saltier, therefore, it is served in a very small plate.  If you are not origionally from Hue, you might not be able to stand the spicy taste of tiny green chili peppers grown on the mountain slopers surrounding the city. “Bánh Bột Lọc” is very hot, but once you get used to it, it will leave a strong impression in your mind forever. Another specialty is a cake that is folded and then devided into 2 parts. The first is vegetarian and the second contains meat. Naturally, each requires special sauces to go with it.

3 - Banh bot loc

Bánh Bột Lọc

4 - Banh Bot loc

Steamed clear tapioca cake

“Bánh Bèo”, Bloating Fern-shaped cake,  usually serves in small bowls, with the rice flour, shrimp paste, fried onion, and fish sauce. You may find other places serve the dry shrimp paste, unlike the one in the picture. It depends on what style you want. The fish sauce for Bánh Bèo is quite sweet and not so salted.

6 - Banh Beo

Though also made of rice flour with shrimp filling, banh beo is in small round shape that looks like a flower petal with red pistil in the center. It is put in a tiny bowl using with fish sauce when serving

Once you have tried these dishes, you can never forget the experience

Once you have tried these dishes, you can never forget the experience

The story of flavors of Hue can not be fully conveyed in a short space. Each season there is a special food to be tried. Hue sweet soup is a must-try for visitors, and includes red bean, green bean, horse-tooth bean, chickpeas, lotus seeds covered in loganberries, tapioca, and taro, to name just a few ingredients. The small shops that sell sweet soup are an unforgettable  memory for the many visitors who frequent the small lanes of Hue.

Generations of Hue residents have created special foods for every season, each of which complements the unique beauty and charm of Hue.

If you are in Hue, dont miss these places:

– Ba Do restaurant: Add 7A Nguyen Binh Khiem. Mrs Đỏ (Mrs Red) is just an amazing woman with great Hue food.  Very simple spot but tasty treats.

– Hanh Restaurant. Add: 11 Pho Duc Chinh st, Hue. Best grilled pork rolled on leek stork served with rice paper, herbs and peanut sauce.

– Huong Cau restaurant: 4 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Hue. All Hue style food with a little garden to chill out.

– Mandarin: 24 Tran Cao Van st., Hue. The menu has both international and local food. Owner is a great photographer, his photos are hung in the restaurant so it’s both art and great food at the same time.

– Ngoi Do : 10/7 Nguyen Cong Tru, Hue. Local foods with nice settings in a quiet alley.

If you are in Hanoi and read this make you kicking yourself for not spend your time in Hue, please visit:

– Net Hue restaurant: 207B Hang Bong st., Hanoi. A tiny spot on the small alley but always crowded. This is the closest of Hue cuisine you can get.

– Ngon restaurant 26 Tran Hung Dao st. A nice setting in  french villa with big menu from North to South, though you may want to ask the server which one is hue cuisine cause they are not listed as region.

If you are in Saigon, dont worry come to Hy Restaurant (Address: 15-17-19 Ton That Thiep st., Dis 1).

Enjoy!

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