Lung Phin Village Fair in Ha Giang

Lung Phin Village Fair is not only a place to exchange goods and rare highland’s agriculture produce, but more importantly, it is a community gathering place where minority people in Ha Giang meet up and take part in cultural exchanges.

Lung Phin Village Fair officially takes place on Monkey Day and Tiger Day of every month (sorted out in Lunar Calendar, following 12 animal designations legend that are popular in Vietnam and various Asian countries) in Lung Phin Commune, Meo Vac Suburban District, Ha Giang Province. Lung Phin Commune is located about 15 kilometers distant from Meo Vac Town; tourists can get there by taking the 4C Highway following the route Dong Van – Meo Vac – Yen Minh.

Lung Phin Village Fair is a big fair festival of over 16 Vietnamese ethics groups living in the Stone Highlands areas and is one of the most unique “backward fairs” in the country. It is called “backward fair” not because it is underdeveloped somehow to be compared with other community fairs held around the country, but simply because it is held regularly every six days, meaning this week being held on the Monkey Day and the following week being held on the Tiger Day. The village fair is in operation during the day, from around 4 -5AM to 4-5PM.
As keeping the routine procedure, villagers and traders from all around the area gather up together at early morning, carrying goods on their traditional papooses to catch up with the first opening hour. The unique feature of the fair is that, sometimes, traders’ goods remain at only some sugar canes, a bunch of homegrown organic vegetables, a chicken or a dozen of eggs… The simple, homely essence of the fair has attracted a considerable number of local and foreign visitors to be tuning in. Homemade specialties like honey, Lung Phin iced-sweet soup, mints… to black chickens and handmade material like brocades particularly interest the fair’s visitors.
Apart from the pure enjoyment to take part in the fair to exchange goods, young people from various ethnics groups put quite a higher expectation to this regular community festival: it is to have fun with fellows from other villages and find themselves a life partner. That is why young people in the fair are usually dressed up in their best outfits, like they are going to attend a fancy party. Young ladies timidly hide their heartfelt smiles behind the blush cheeks, walking lightly in their colorful traditional dresses. It is easy to catch sights of a graceful H’Mong lady in her floral print dress, a charming Dao lady with twinkling silver accessories…, making up a vibrant picture of the multicolored fair. Kids are dressed up as well; to them, the village fair is a special occasion on which they can follow their parents to buy toys and have snacks.

To young men in the mountainous areas, the regular Village Fair is also a good chance to keep up with their fellows from other villages and enjoy a hot pot of thang co (a mountain specialty, traditionally made from horse meat, including almost all the internal organs such as livers, kidneys, lungs… sometimes, pork and beef might be also added). A bowl of thang co seems to never runs out, just like wine never goes dry. Take a bite of meat, dipping it in peppers and salt to enjoy fully the pleasant taste in a cold mountainous day. Old people gather around the pot and drink socially to wish each other well. Young people enthusiastically eat and drink and raising their singing voices to express their feelings towards their partners. Only visitors hesitantly take up all courage as well as curiosity to get a taste of thang co.

The young men usually raise up their voicesfirst when they have drunk up enough rice wine singing:
 “Gọi em bằng tiếng khèn/ Sao em mải mê hát/ Chẳng nghe tiếng khèn anh…/ Bát rượu dưới chợ phiên/ Anh uống uống thật say/ Thương anh dìu anh lên ngựa/ Thương anh theo anh về bản/ Thương anh hãy về cùng anh” (My pan-pipe is calling / Why are you still deeply absorbed in singing?/ Cannot catch my calling…/ I want to drink up/ All the wine at the fair/ If you love me, stand me up to the saddle/ If you love me, come with me to my village/ If you love me, be with me). The singing voice of a half-drunk man goes so soothing and soft. Then shy ladies in the fair reluctantly sing after: “Tay em biết cầm kim khâu áo, anh không có lòng thì thôi, có lòng thì về, ta ở với nhau một ngày. Tay em biết cầm sợi se lanh, anh không có lòng thì thôi, có lòng thì về, ta ở với nhau một đêm... ” (I can stitch up broken parts of your shirts/ If you don’t love me, let me go/ If you love me, come with me, be with me for a day. I can make you brocades/ If you don’t love me, let me go/ If you love me, come with me, be with me for a night…)

When it is time the village fair finishes, everybody becomes reluctant to be going home. They again set time till another fair to meet up. Each pack of rice, each bunch of vegetables are gradually heaped up to follow them back home.
Visiting the regular village fair of Lung Phin, experiencing the unique cultural features of people in the mountainous rural areas of the country to deeply approach their simple yet full of meaning lives… 

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