Festivals in Vietnam: not for the faint-hearted

By Hoang Hoang   July 17, 2016 | 11:00 am GMT+7

Pig murder, racing elephants and a violent ball skirmish: take your adrenaline-rush pick.

Pig chopping festival

Hosted annually in Nem Thuong Village, Bac Ninh Province (30km from Hanoi), the pig chopping festival has a long tradition in the region, dating back to the Ly Dynasty (circa 1009-1225) in Vietnam. The festival is celebrated on the sixth day of the first month in the lunar calendar to honor a regional general who used a long blade to chop wild boars in half to feed his hungry troops. The main ritual mimics the story, and no, it's not a regular scene you find at a slaughterhouse.

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The pig is taken on a tour around the village. Photo by VnExpress/Quy Doan

People from all over Vietnam travel to the town to see the one-of-the-kind festival, and to bring home money stained with the pig’s blood which is said to carry good luck.

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Executioner starts the chopping session at noon. Photo by VnExpress/Quy Doan

Animal welfare groups both domestic and international have spoken out many times about the gruesome festival, but the show goes on.

Elephant racing festival

You did not read it wrong, these are no MotoGP or Formula One racing, it is actually elephants. Held annually during March in the Central Highland region of Vietnam by Ede and M'nong ehtnic people, the festival’s purpose is to show gratitude to deities and ancestors and to ask for a prosperous year.

Arriving at the festival, visitors have the chance to try delicious authentic cuisine such as 'ruou can' - a spirit drunk through a bamboo straw, grilled meat, as well as learn folk songs, dances and above all, to behold the magnificent elephant race.

Brawling festival

Imagine hundreds of people play a sport that is a combination of American football and kung-fu, and you have the ‘Cuop Phet’ festival. On the thirteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar, the men of Hien Quang Village, Phu Tho Province (93 km from Hanoi) gather to play an ancient game, which involves forming teams and competing against each other for the possession of six small balls.

Villagers getting ready for action. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Villagers getting ready for action. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The balls are believed to bring good fortune and wealth to those who claim them so all the teams try really hard - sometimes a little too hard. You don’t want to be too close to the action, but watching the mayhem unfold from a safe distance would be quite entertaining.

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Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

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Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

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