Long Tong festival of Tay ethnic minority in Ba Be

Cultural exchange between tourists and local people at the festival
Cultural exchange between tourists and local people at the festival

On the second morning one could see the crowds trailing across from the road like bats emerging from a cave. Nearer the site a huge crowd was straining to see the bull fight, held in a roughly fenced off area.  (Past experience of  bulls running wild in the crowd had suggested some kind of barrier). From what I could see, the bulls, led into the arena, did not seem particularly ferocious, and merely sniffed each other politely rather than lock horns, despite a bit of goading by men with sticks. They did eventually please the crowd by locking horns.
Bull fighting at the festival
Bull fighting at the festival

I made my way across a narrow bamboo bridge which creaked and groaned under the huge numbers of people pushing their way across it and emerged into a patchwork of hawkers ‘stalls, cooking Pho (noodle soup), tiny fish barbecued within a hand sized bamboo A frame, live shrimp being skewered to grill, large fish waiting for the grill sadly gulping in the bottom of tanks, as well as all sorts of unidentifiable delicacies, and plenty of drink. The most ubiquitous food was, bizarrely, frankfurters, grinning pinkly from almost every stand spiked on kebab sticks stuck into a piece of bamboo stem, just made for the job. Fires were charcoal braziers or fire pits in the ground, or just aluminium bowls filled with hot ash with a grid on top.   Not for food but for sacrifice were these poor chickens.
Sacrificial chicken at Long Tong festival
Sacrificial chicken at Long Tong festival

Groups of adolescent young men or girls ganged up, one little group of youngsters already on the cigarettes and rice wine at 10 in the morning. Testosterone was rife!
There are the usual fairground type games of trying to burst balloons with darts; hoopla, using plastic washing up bowls to throw over drinks bottles.  Many little children proudly clutched  hard won oversized teddies.
Magical paper lanterns at Ba Be festival
Magical paper lanterns at Ba Be festival

When darkness fell there was the most magical sight of lanterns floating on the lake.
Bonfire at Ba Be festival
Bonfire at Ba Be festival

Later still there was a huge fire, with the locals singing and dancing around  it.
Being the only westerners there as far as I could see, we received many cheery giggly hellos and some photos and requests for selfies and we felt thoroughly welcome.
By the end of the evening the trail had  reversed and the villagers were wending their weary way home, clutching balloons, cuddly toys, chewing on a stick of sugar cane, or wobbling unsteadily after imbibing plenty of rice wine and beer. Since most of them were riding motor bikes across the hills, one can only pray that they do indeed survive to plant their rice.
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Lois Pearson


Lois Pearson, or 'Mrs Lois' is a 63 year old retired music teacher. She was an expat for 10 years in the Middle East and travelled extensively from the late 70s. Finding herself independent of husband (divorced), parents (deceased) and children (settled with growing families in Australia), she sold up, packed her 'life' into store, and now travels the world on a different axis each year stopping in Oz for 90 days to be a proper Granny.  Over 10 months, she trekked the Lycian Way in Turkey, crossed the Black Sea and went by train to St Petersburg, taking the Trans Mongolian train (3rd class) through Russia to Mongolia where she attended the Nadaam races on horseback. She continued overland through China, Vietnam, mainland Malaysia, Borneo and Thailand, gaining her open water and advanced PADI licence, on to Australia, returning to UK via Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam...

  • Mr Linh
  • 25/06/2019 11:16:56

Thanks to the author for such a useful article.

  • Lois Pearson
  • 25/06/2019 11:19:02

Thank you!

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