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Vietnamese Customs

Vietnamese Soup

Tam Coc Rice FieldsSoup is customarily served for breakfast in Vietnam--big bowls of steaming noodle soup, with meat and any number of ingredients added at the last minute, like bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, chili peppers, lime slices, and green onions. All, of course, spiced with with plenty of fish sauce (nuoc mam), chili-garlic sauce, and/or hoisin sauce in nearby dipping dishes. It's an unusual melange of cooked rice noodles, raw vegetables and herbs, and shaved raw meat or seafood that cooks in the broth just as it's brought to table.

Phˇ, as it's known, is now hugely popular in the United States--and people line up at the doors of Phˇ restaurants night and day to sit at trencher tables and feast on the soup til sweat pours down the backs of their heads. The term phˇ translates as "your own bowl," since it's one of the few meals where the food is not passed around and shared.

"Small" soups, by contrast, are served as first courses--they generally don't have noodles; they're served in small portions; and they're called sup. The famous Sup Mang Tay, or Crab and Asparagus Soup is in this category--so is Sup Nam Trang, a fascinatingly complex soup of crab, shrimp, and dried white fungus (mushroomlike).

Finally, the class of soups known as Canh are generally served family style, out of one big bowl--often spooned into smaller bowls at table with rice. And they are generally light--also served as a first course to whet the appetite. These include Canh Sa Lach Soan (Watercress-Shrimp Soup), Canh Chua Tom (Hot and Sour Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup), and Canh Chua Ca (Hot and Sour Tamarind Fish Soup).

Da Lat Elephant FallsBut what about soups for snacks? Foodwriter Thy Tran from San Francisco at her website www.wanderingspoon.com writes "the Vietnamese enjoy sweet bean soups as snacks. The whole class is known as che, but they each have a specific name that usually reveals the color of the bean: che dau den (black bean), che dau trang ("white bean," or what we know here as black-eyed peas), even che dau xanh ("green beans," referring to the green covering on mung beans). Coconut milk, lotus seeds, taro root, tapioca, even crunchy seaweed are common additions. Western Vietnamese restaurants sometimes offer them as dessert, but they're really meant for snacking, which South East Asians love to do. You can serve che warm or chilled."

Thy adds, "Interestingly, the idea of using beans in savory dishes (other than sprouts) is not as natural for most Vietnamese people. Just like when I told my family, while sipping artichoke tea in Saigon, that in the States we serve the whole vegetable as a delicacy, they were horrified."

TET New Year

Ban Doc Falls in Cao BangTet Nguyen Dan, is the lunar New year Festival and it is the most important Vietnamese holiday. Tet is the celebration of the beginning of spring as well as a new year. It is the time for family reunions, exchanging gifs, best wishes and the beginning of a new year.

Literally, Tet Nguyen Dan means the first morning of the first day of the new period. Officially, Tet marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar. In reality, it is a friendly, festive, family holiday. Painstaking care is given to starting the year out right, since it is beleived the first day and the first week of the new year will determine the fortunes or misfortunes for the rest of the year. In order to start the new year right and set the best precedent, Vietnamese houses are painted and cleaned. New clothes are purchased for the first day of Tet and old debts should be paid and great care is taken to avoid arguments. Asian families exchange visits. The first visitor to the house on the first morning of Tet is very important. Particular care is taken to arrange in advance to have the visitor be rich, happy, and prestigious.

The holiday is also observed by a family visit to the church or pagoda to pray for good fortune and happiness. A sprig of the yellow blossomed. HOA MAI, is used to decorate the home. Tet officially lasts for seven days and ends with LE KHAI HA ritual during which CAY NEU is taken down.

The New Year does not fall on the same date each year, although it is always in January or February. The Tet holiday is officially three days but is often celebrated for seven. It is believed that the course of the few days of Tet will determine the path of the coming year. People are on their best behavior. People stop their quarreling, children vow to behave, and families make special efforts to gather together. Prior to the celebrations homes are cleaned and painted. However cleaning during Tet is avoided. The yellow blossoms of the Hoa Mai decorate the home

Da Lat Lake of SighsNew clothes are purchased and old debts are paid. Deceased relatives are also remembered during Tet. Families build alters with photographs, flowers, incense, money, and food. People typically visit the gravesites of deceased loved ones. At the midnight hour of the New Years' Eve Le Tru Tich is held. The spirits of the old year are rushed out and the new spirits are welcomed.

The first person to enter the home after the start of the New Year sets the precedence for the coming year. Many people will arrange to have a child or someone well off enter the home minutes after the start of the New Year. Food is enjoyed throughout the Tet holiday. One belief holds tht when a watermelon is cut open the redder the flesh the more luck the family will have in the Tet New Year. In the United States women and girls will often wear the colors of the Vietnamese Flag, red and yellow and men will wear black.

Popular cultural festivals of Vietnam

The 2nd day of the 1st month: Wrestling Festival in Lieu Doi, Nam Ha. The 5th day of the 1st month: Festival of Dong Da hill, Hanoi: celebrate the anniversary of King Quang Trung's victory over 290,000 Qing invaders to liberate Thang Long (now Hanoi). The 6th day of the 1st month: Festival of Eel-Catching in Pot in Ving Lac district, Vinh Phu province. This reflects the farmers' love for labor and the joy over bumper crops. The 10th day of the 1st month: Festival in Trieu Khuc village, Hanoi. Cultural activities of a traditional handicraft village. The 13th day of the 1st month: Lim Festival, Ha Bac. Festival of quan ho folk song singing. Boys and girls meet on river bank, on hill or in the yards of village's communal house and pagoda and exchange emotions. The 15th day of the 1st month: Festival of Spring on Ba Den mountain. The 15th of 2nd month (formal date): Festival of Huong Pagoda, Ha Tay: Traditional festival lasting over 2 months. Spring festival of buffalo fighting in Tay Nguyen Highlands highlighting the martial spirit of the ethnic minority people. The 10th day of the 3rd month: Festival of Hung Temple celebrating the death a anniversary of Kings Hung. The 9th day of the 4th month: Giong Festival, Hanoi, commemorating Saint Giong, a legendary child hero who defeated foreign invasion and saved the nation. The 26th day of the 4th month: Festival of Queen Su in Chau Doc. The 5th day of the 5th month: Water Festival in Nha Trang. People in the city go to the beach and have a bath for health improvement. The 16th day of the 6th month: Festival of Nghinh Ong in Tien Giang - Ben Tre. The 30th day of the 7th month: Festival at Lang Ong, Ho Chi Minh City. The 9th day of the 8th month: Buffalo fighting festival, Do Son, Hai Phong. The 13th day of the 9th month: Festival of Keo Pagoda, Thai Binh. Traditional communal festival. The 22nd day of the 11th month: Festival of Dong Quan in Chan Tien Pagoda, Hanoi.

Ba Den Mountain Festival Vietnam

My Son in Quang NamOne cannot visit Vietnamĺs Tay Ninh without going to Nui Ba, a beautiful high mountain located in the middle of the MeKong Delta, 11km from Tay Ninh. Nui Ba Mountain is often called Lady Den Mountain after the devoted daughter of a Vietnamese guard officer. She left her father's house and went to the mountain to become a monk after she was forced to marry a guard officer's son. She later died in Nui Ba. The Nguyen dynasty had a bronze statue made in her honor and gave her the title Linh Son Thanh Mau, or Saint Linh Son.

On the afternoon of the 30th of the last lunar month until the 2nd lunar month, tourists from Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces go on a pilgrimage to the Lady Den Mountain.

Pilgrims and visitors have to climb halfway up of the mountain to enter Saint Linh Son Temple. This pagoda offers vegetarian meals in exchange for which visitors can make a donation to the pagoda. Visitors can also stay in the pagoda for a few days. The monks are well known for taking excellent care of their visitors.

Visitors to this Vietnam landmark can also climb up to the top of the mountain, where a Saint Temple is located. During Spring, people from Vietnamĺs southern provinces visit this temple as a ritual; everyone believes that Lady Den Temple can fulfill the intellectual needs of spiritual people.

Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival Vietnam

Although the Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival is officially held on the 9th of the 8th lunar month in Hai Phong,Vietnam, preparations start several months before. Fighting buffaloes must be carefully selected, well fed, and trained. The selection of the official fighting buffaloes starts in May when qualification matches take place in small villages. Only 6 buffaloes will participate in the final fight.

The festival begins with a procession to the communal house where offerings from several little villages are presented to the gods; such gifts include a buffalo, a pig, and a basket of sticky rice. The procession, in which the buffaloes are covered with red cloth, also includes 12 young Vietnamese men, also dressed in red, who take the buffaloes to the fighting circle.

After the young men perform the "Opening the match" dance, a pair of buffaloes are led into the fighting circle. The two buffaloes fight until the defeated gives up and run away. The winner then goes on to fight another buffalo until a final winner is determined.

Quan The Am Vietnam Cultural Festival

Hue thien Mu PagodaThe Quan The Am Cultural Festival is organized on the 19th day of the second month (lunar calendar) every year with cultural activities which help restore and promote the traditional culture of Viet Nam.

The festival is held on Ngu Hanh mountain, in Danang City, Vietnam. The Quan The Am Festival was first organized in 1962, for the inauguration of the Avalokiesvara Buddhisattava statue in Hoa Nghiem cave at Thuy Son Mount, in the Marble Mountains of Vietnam. The same year, the festival was reorganized in Kim Son cave after the construction of the Quan The Am Pagoda on the Kim Son Mount. Until 1991, this festival was organized annually on a large scale and celebrations lasted for three entire days.

The Quan The Am Festival consists of two parts: the religious ceremony and the festival itself. The ceremony, similar to Buddhist rituals, consists of flower offerings and prayers. The Dharma-preaching sessions about Avalakiesvara Buddhisattava are also very interesting.

Several cultural activities bearing the national colors of Vietnam, such as singing folk songs, chess playing, music, painting, carving, lion dancing, offering lamps on the river, and classical opera also take place. The Quan The Am Festival is organized on the 19th day of the second lunar month; this festival, as well as many others, is held in an attempt to restore and promote the traditional culture of Vietnam.

 Tay Nguyen Elephant Race Festival

Hue Imperial PalaceThe Tay Nguyen Elephant Race festival is celebrated in the Spring, in the 3rd lunar month. It is usually held in Don village or in forests near the Sevepoi River, in Dak Lak province. For travelers to Vietnam this is a must see event.

At the signal , the mahouts take their elephants to the start line .Once the start command is given, all the elephants rush to the exciting beat of the drums and gongs, accompanied by the viewers cheering. The winning elephant waves to the audience with its trunk. The elephant will often take this opportunity to flap its ears gently and to give tender looks to receive sugar cane from the viewers.

Elephant races are the biggest festival to take place in the middle highlands. It bears the martial spirit of M'nong ethnic groups, which is very famous for bravery and experience in hunting wild elephants. 

Cau Ngu Cultural Festival

This traditional festival of Thai Duong village, Huong Hai commune, in Huong Dien district is organized every year on the 12th of the 1st lunar month in memory of the village tutelary genie Truong Quy Cong, alias Truong Thieu. He was a native from North Vietnam who settled in Thai Duong and taught the locals fishing and trading.

Late in the night, a ceremony to pray for peace and abundant catches of fish takes place. Once every three years, games representing sea fishing activities are organized. After these games, all people watch rowing competitions.

Net-casting is a form of entertainment imbued with ritual character to commemorate the merits of the village tutelary spirit.

The Huong Perfume Pagoda Festival Vietnam

The Huong Pagoda , also called the Huong Pagada , is lacated in Huong Son , Ha Tay , 70 km away from Hanoi. Although the Huong Pagoda Festival is officially celebrated on the 15th of the second lunar month .Visitors can reach that area in Vietnam either by road or river .

The Perfume Pagoda Festival consists of enjoyable sightseeing trips to different Vietnamese pagodas , temples , and caves . This festival also features ceremonies held in the different temples and pagodas . People go to Vietnamĺs Huong Pagoda not only for the religious services ,but also to observe the beautiful natural scenery of Vietnam. 

The Ao Dai Dress

Central VN Sand DunesThe northern-4-flap dress is Vietnam's first "ao dai", only worn on the occasion of the Tet festival. The brown dress with the two fore-flaps tied together and let dangling matches with satin trousers and silk belts. Then the 4 flap dress has been modified into a 3-flap one: the collar being 2 cm high, the sleeves wrapping tightly to the wrists, breast and waist of main flaps, there is also a minor flap reaching down to the fringe. Buttons are made of plaited cloth and buttoned on the side. The collar is turned up obliquely to let appear three color (or 7 colors ) of the dress. The outermost layer is of brown silk or a kind of black gauze, followed by light yellow, pink, lemon green, and sky-blue... multicolored ones...., attractive yet decent, discrete and harmonious... Following the Europeanization wave in 1935, Lemur Nguyen Cat Tuong's "modern ao dai" made its apparition. It had puffed out shoulders, cuffed sleeves, a round collar cut breast-deep and laced, a corrugated fringe made of joined cloth of different colors and gaudily laced. During the 1939-1945 period there was a conflict on a esthetic concept, resulting in the restoration of the traditional ao dai. Young girls' collar was from 4 cm to 7 cm high, the roundness of which was ensured by a stipt starching, the flaps were of a broad width and of a 1958 and the beginning of 1959, Madam Ngo Dinh Nhu's low-necked, decollete ao dai was launched. At the beginning of 1971, the raglan-sleeve ao dai renovated by Mrs. Tuyet Mai overcame the wrinkling short comings at the shoulders and the armpits. From the early 1970's to 1975 it was the period at mini and hippy ao dai widely worn with tights and flares until 1989. The first ao dai beauty contest was restored under the communist regime since 1975 and the traditional ao dai returned to its suave beauty of old times. All young ladies were encouraged to wear the white ao dai to school which has been banned since 1975 after the falling of Saigon. All such contests as school beauty, sports beauty has been organized everywhere in the country, ao dai is the main category in these contests. Now only the Tien Phong Newspaper beauty contest is considered the official national contest and who is crowned from this contest become the national beauty queen and she will represent the country in all diplomatic occasions. This contest has been official started in 1992 and repeated every two year sine then ( 1994, 1996, 1998).

* Ha Kieu Anh, Miss Vietnam 1992-1993 * Nguyen Thu Thuy, Miss Vietnam 1994-1995 * Nguyen Thien Nga, Miss Vietnam 1996-1997 * Nguyen Thi Dong Khanh, Miss Vietnam 1998-1999

The year 1995 was the crowing year for the national ao dai. Truong Quynh Mai's ao dai was chosen the most beautiful national apparel in Tokyo... The 1995 renovated ao dai model suits well modern times, and is more beautiful at it's tightened at the breast, waist and back, its collar evenly circling round from 4 cm to 7 cm high, the sleeves just tighten the arms. Velvet ao dai, embroidered, painted and printed with flower pattern have created even more exquisite beauty features allowing Vietnam's ao dai to take off ever higher.

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