There are many cultural events occurring throughout Vietnam over the second half of each year.
Compared to many of the religious celebrations held in Vietnam over the first six months each year, which rightly call for a degree of formality and veneration, August's Honchien Temple Festival is all about fun. Here the revelers put on imperial costumes as they take part in a vibrant procession near the Perfume River. Tourists are encouraged to participate in the exciting festivities.
The Kiep Bac Festival is one of Vietnam's most important historical celebrations. This is all about marking the moment in the nation's story when the Chinese Nguyen Mang invaders were finally repulsed. Kiep Bac is celebrated in the temple in Luc Dau, and commemorates the victorious Vietnamese general Saint Tran.
Festivities run over a five-day period, featuring a pilgrimage to the sacred temple, when Saint Tran's ancestral tablet is held aloft aboard a golden chair, and transported through bustling streets. Coinciding with this procession is a boat race held in the Luc Dau River.
Octoberace held in the Luc Dau River.
The Keo Pagoda Festival is a wild celebration of Duong Khong Lo. Amidst the jovial proceedings there are traditional pastimes, such as duck catching, cooking of rice and firecracker throwing.
The Oc Om Boc Festival is held in Soc Trang in the south of the country, each November. The main participants are the Kho Me people, who use this festival as a time to pay veneration to the Moon. Amongst the highlights of this festival is a noisy boat race that draws large and enthusiastic crowds to cheer on the rival participants.
Che Ngo is when indigenous Khmers celebrate their new year. This is another colourful event that is wonderful for visitors to witness. As well as noisy music and costumes, there is much feasting and a boat race or two! The skies are also lit with myriad lantern rockets.
The excellent thing about Vietnam's festivals as that they offer visitors a unique insight into local customs. Many of the activities that unfold at these annual events have been enacted for centuries. While Vietnam is certainly a technologically advanced and economically prosperous Asian nation, it is also a very ancient one. As a melting pot, it contains a variety of ethnic groups who can trace their respective developments back over many centuries. The various festivals pay homage to all manner of events and dieties.
While much of the proceedings appeared to be shrouded in deeply religious significance, there is never any hint that what visitors are witnessing is in any way private or sacred. Indeed, newcomers to the country are openly welcomed into the various processions and pilgrimages as active participants.
The festival celebrants become especially sociable in the evenings, once the pilgrimages and visits to the pagodas and temples have been concluded. As the sun sets, the banquet tables become laden with all manner of local delicacies. Against a backdrop of traditional music, visitors are invited to partake in sumptuous feasts. Enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine in this way, as an integral part of longstanding cultural events, is far more meaningful than grabbing a carry-out box from a market stall around the corner from a hotel!