Binh Lieu district, which is often compared to Sa Pa township in Lao Cai province, has a pristine natural beauty and unique cultural features of the Dao, Tay, Nung, and San Chi ethnic groups. From Binh Lieu town, we drove about 10 km on a twisty track past large terraced fields to Dong Van, a border commune where 90% of the population are Dao.
Every year, when the summer begins and star anise and cinnamon forests turn green, the Dao in Dong Van prepare for a big holiday.
They believe that the 4th day of the 4th lunar month is not a favorable day for any work. If they plant trees, the trees will not blossom or if they build a house, the house will collapse. They set aside all work and go out to have fun.
Tang Sam Mui, of Khe Tien hamlet, said, “Today is the 4th day of the 4th month. We don’t work, just play. The taboo has been observed by our ancestors since the old days. We can ask friends to go with us. People, who don’t want to go out, stay at home to embroider.”
Since the early morning, the way to the market has been packed with people wearing beautiful costumes. The red hats of the Dao stand out from the indigo and black clothes of the San Diu and Tay. They go to the market to shop and meet their friends.
Men gather around knife and shoe shops while women crowd into embroidery material shops, show off the skillful embroidery on their own clothes. The sparkling smiles of Dao women with gold teeth add color to the occasion.
Chiu Thi Men from Khe Mooc shared, “I go to the market to meet my friends. We drink beer. Some of them get so drunk they forget to bring home their belongings.”
Young boys and girls drink and sing Pa Dung and San Co love songs. The boy sings “I see a flower on the other bank of the brook. I want to go pick it but there is no boat.” The girl replies “Don’t worry. Pick a leaf to make a boat to come here”.
Trang Gi Sinh is from Tien Yen district, which is 30 km from Binh Lieu district. He and his parents left their home at 5 a.m to come to the market to meet their daughters, who is married to a man who lives in Dong Van.
“We meet our sister and brother-in-law. Then we drink for fun. Sometimes, we get staggering drunk and can’t go home,” Sinh said.
In recent years the fair has been more exciting with the addition of Dao people from other area – Ba Che, Dam Ha, and Hai Ha – as well as Kinh, San Chi, and Tay people.
Trinh Thi Nghi, head of the culture and information office in Binh Lieu, said, “Hoping to restore the traditional cultural values of ethic people, the “keep off the wind” festival of the Dao with its Pa Dung and San Co folk singing was re-organized in 2007.
We have also revitalized the Luc Na temple festival, the Then singing of the Tay, and the Soong Co singing of the San Chi. The Dao festival will be promoted in the provincial tourism development plan.”