Our team was fortunate enough to be in Vietnam during a national holiday, the Hung Kings Festival, which celebrates the original founders of the country. A local school hosted a day full of activities like slowest (yes, slowest) bicycle riding to best bánh chưng (rice cake) contests, bamboo dancing, and traditional song, dance, and funeral orations.
Holidays give you a unique peek into a culture, allowing you to see the way the people preserve and celebrate their history, and having this opportunity to experience the day with the local students was especially wonderful.
Two days after the holiday, Binh Duong was home to the National Tài Tử Music Festival. The festival showcases traditional music (and food…I must learn to make these pancakes) from Southern Vietnam. The style of music, Đờn ca tài tử, is embedded into the life and culture of the region and has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
As a visitor to a country, it can be hard to really understand the culture. You are often separated from the authentic experiences that make a society unique. If you’re lucky, you get an experience that gets you a little closer, and I knew as I skipped across the bamboo reeds, hand in hand with a nervous looking 10th grader, that I was quite lucky indeed.
Thank you to Elizabeth Hickey for video contributions.