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Drum dance of the Giay



Of the ethnic groups who live in Ha Giang province, the Giay are clustered mainly in Tat Nga hamlet, Meo Vac district. Recent socio-economic development has made their life easier but has not changed their traditional culture.

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A shaman performs a ritual to take the drum out for a New Year festival. (photo:

The Giay still uphold the main elements of their customs and culture, including their traditional drum dancing festival.

Giay elders say that when their ancestors settled in Tat Nga, they built two temples called Mieu Ong and Mieu Ba, where local people could pray for peace and good luck.

They keep a big drum there that is used for community festivals. The drum is taken out only on the first day of each new year and returned to the temple the next day.

A Giay man named Vi Dau Min said, “The two temples were built hundreds of years ago to worship two deities. Mieu Ba is dedicated to a female deity in charge of land, crops, and good weather. Mieu Ong is dedicated to a male deity who is in charge of health, wealth, and happiness.”

The drum dancing festival is held on the first day of each new year. The Giay believe that the sound of the drum chases away the bad luck of the old year and welcomes good luck and peace into the new year.

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A man and a woman are selected to beat the drum. (photo:

People wear their best clothes to the New Year festival. They form a big circle to dance around the drum. The dance movements are simple and often imitate the motions of farm work. Men beat on the drumhead and women beat on the drum shell.

Vi Dau Min noted, “The first dance is to say farewell to the old year and the second dance is to pray for a bumper crop. The third dance is to ask the deities’ permission to take the drums out for a procession.”

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People dance around the sacred drum. (photo:

The drum is 1 meter tall and has a diameter of about 60cm. The drumhead is made of leather. The drum shell is made of ironwood or jackfruit wood. To open the festival, a shaman performs a ritual to ask for the deities’ permission to take the drum out of the temples.

He also prays for the deities to protect the villagers and allow them to begin the festival. The Giay believe that the sound of the drum calls the attention of the Heaven God to their prayers.

After several rituals performed by the shaman, the drum is carried around the village. As the drum passes through each house, it is beaten to sound a prayer for peace and good luck for the owner of the house and his family.

Each household gives the members of the drum procession food. The next morning, the villagers come together to return the drum to its place in the temple until the following year’s festival. VOV5


Your Vietnam

In Vietnam, centenarian does daily push-ups for good health



Living in a house nestled in a rubber forest in Long Ha Commune of Phu Rieng District under Binh Phuoc Province, located in southern Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Ket, 101, wakes up early every morning and does push-ups, her favorite exercise.

“My mother loves doing physical exercise. She does it twice a day to improve her health,” Nguyen Thi Hien, who is the elderly woman’s daughter-in-law, said happily.

After spending 30 minutes warming up, she does 30 press-ups every morning, but she shows no shortness of breath or exhaustion.

She is seldom sick. 

After doing exercise, she washes her face and has breakfast, and then goes to her garden to take care of a chicken flock and a grapefruit tree.

“My mother frequently tells us that she remains healthy and strong, so she needs no help to hold her while she is walking,” Hien, 68, said.

“Last year, she often wore a helmet and stood in front of the house to ask someone for a lift to visit relatives and acquaintances.

“They asked her how she came back, she just smiled and replied that she would return home by herself.”

Ket said, “I live with my oldest son and his wife. They go to work in cashew farms every day, while I stay at home to cook, feed chickens, and do housework.”

Once Ket scared her family.

“In 2019, my mother slept in a hammock for two days and two nights, frightening us a lot, and we took her to hospital. After medical check-ups, doctors concluded she was suffering no illnesses,” Hien recounted.

After such a long sleep, Hien and other family members looked after her more carefully.

On a weekend, her children and grandchildren gathered in the home. Thuy, Ket’s granddaughter, happily massaged her grandmother’s hands and back, while Ket was caressing her grandchild’s cheeks.

Their laughs warmed the whole house.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Bang, Ket’s 56-year-old daughter, and her son returned home to visit their mother on the weekend.

Bang boasted that she had bought a fish to cook tasty dishes for her mother.

Bang said that though her mother is old, she always follows the etiquette of polite behavior.

She often tells the adult children moral stories, Bang recounted.

The 101-year-old visits her garden and takes care of a flock of chickens every day. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

The 101-year-old visits her garden and takes care of a flock of chickens every day in Binh Phuoc Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

A role model for family members

One of many things Ket’s family members admire about her is her excellent memory.

Telling stories about her life, Ket said that she moved to Binh Phuoc Province for work in 1978 from a northern locality.

On deserted land, she and her husband built a house, grew rice, and landed several jobs to nurture eight children.

The elderly woman, named Ket, (R) poses for a photo with her family members. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

The elderly woman (L), named Nguyen Thi Ket, poses for a photo with her family members in Binh Phuoc Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

“A few years later, my husband was ill and passed away, so I had to bear the burden and became the breadwinner,” she recalled.

She still remembers all stories clearly, while her adult children admitted that they could no longer recollect the details.

“My mother can remember all the wedding presents in our wedding parties, and put a name to any of her grandchildren and relatives,” Bang said.

The 101-year-old remains healthy. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

The 101-year-old remains healthy. Photo: Yen Trinh / Tuoi Tre

Her children and grandchildren see Ket as their role model, and they are following her behavior, lifestyle, and moderate exercise.

“My mother is warm-hearted. She often gives money to her neighbor, who is a victim of Agent Orange, when he visits her home though she has little money,” her daughter said.

Regardless of her age, she takes a bath by herself every day without any help from her family members. 

Furthermore, she made banh tet, a glutinous rice cake, to celebrate the 2022 Lunar New Year holiday.

Her family members are often delighted with her recitations.

“Last year marked her 100th birthday, so she was presented with a strip of red brocade fabric by the state president. She was highly excited,” Bang said.

“My mother got the strip of fabric made into two ao dai [a Vietnamese traditional costume] and one ao ba ba [a traditional garment of people in the southern region],” she added.

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Your Vietnam

Ka Pét Reservoir proposal causes discord



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

 by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

An uproar broke out this week after an article raised a question regarding 600ha of special-use forest, the same size as the West Lake in Hà Nội, which was to be submerged in a new reservoir to provide water for the drought-prone South Hàm Thuận District in Ninh Thuận Province. 

The catchy headline grabbed the immediate attention of many netizens, who shared the story and called for an end to destroying forests. 

In 2019, a project on the Ka Pét reservoir received the National Assembly’s approval but was delayed due to the pandemic. 

The reservoir will submerge a valley of forests, deemed poor forests because all aged-old and hardwood trees were cut down. The reservoir will provide water for 7,762 ha of agricultural land in South Hàm Thuận District.

It’s also expected to provide about 2,63 million cubic water to Hàm Kiệm II industrial zone as well as water for daily use of more than 120,000 people living in the city of Phan Thiết and South Hàm Thuận District.

The Bình Thuân’s leadership, who proposed the Ka Pét Reservoir project, laid out their goals and ambitions: the reservoir also has a goal to control floods for the lowland of South Hàm Thuận District and the 120,000 population of the city of Phan Thiết accordingly.

In Bình Thuận Province, South Hàm Thuận is located in an area that is most drought-prone in the country. In the rainy season, there is much flooding whereas in the dry season, the water current is very limited, not providing enough water for people in the area.

Environment studies estimated that the current lakes and reservoirs in the province provide only 26 per cent of water demand in the region, still lacking about 100 million cubic metres every year.

Pro-reservoir arguments are based on livelihoods and providing water resources for the country’s driest area. They also have the support of Vũ Thanh Ca, Director of Việt Nam Institute for Seas and Islands, as well as Đào Nhật Đình, a prominent environment advocate and journalist. 

Vũ Thanh Ca, a respectable advocate for the environment among the NGO groups, has written his own assessments on how the reservoir should be built to store water.

He believes that any solution should consider the wellbeing of people living in harmony with nature and the environment. 

“Some people may suggest that Bình Thuận, as a dry province, needs to drop its agriculture and turn to industry and services. But I need to remind people that the sustainable pillars of development are: the economy, society and environment. Development will be in vain if it doesn’t bring in value for the people. Development must help create work, generate income and bring a better life for people,” Dr. Ca writes.

He writes that the development project must factor in the traditions of the land and its people, and continue the current strengths of Bình Thuận’s already known agriculture goods and products, travel destinations and service, which have been its primary sources of income.

Even if Bình Thuận is geared towards high-tech agriculture practices in the future, it still needs a strong and secure source of water. 

He cites statistics that show that the rain level during the rainy season, and the evaporation rates during the dry season do not match, which causes issues.

“It is worth noting that climate change shall feature higher temperatures and heat from the sun, which then drives the wind speed and dryness in the dry season. This means even drought shall be heightened and lack of water will get worse,” Dr. Ca writes. 

“To store water for the dry season, I believe that Ka Pét Reservoir with its channels shall provide enough water for the city of Phan Thiết and South Hàm Thuận District.”

In his response to critics of his methods and arguments, Dr. Ca accepted that they were only estimates. 

For the process of providing the Environment Assessment Report, only 15 days were given to collect public feedbacks and until now, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources reportedly has not received any documents from the Ka Pét Reservoir Project.   

Article No. 33 of Environment Law states that any environment-related project has to provide Environment Assessment Studies to consider its impacts for later approval.

The Head of the Environment Department under the ministry, Nguyễn Hưng Thịnh said they had not received any documentation. 

One thing can be agreed upon is that water means life. South Hàm Thuận District badly needs water for its residents and their cattle and farms. The issue rests on one question: how are we going to store the rain water during the rainy season for use in the dry season? 

Putting aside any group interest that submerging the 600ha of forest could bring, they still have a sound argument: water is needed for people and farms and animals. Without water, no one can survive. VNS


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Vietnamese veteran receives diary lost 60 years ago from US



Nguyen Van Thien, a war veteran from Tien Hai District in Thai Binh Province, northern Vietnam was astonished when the U.S. Department of Defense presented him with a diary he had lost 60 years prior.

In a very special moment during U.S. President Joe Biden’s two-day visit to Vietnam, which wrapped up on Monday, Thien finally received the notebook he believed to be lost forever. 

The diary’s long journey home began about a year ago when Thien received a phone call asking if he was the writer of a war diary. 

Immediately, Thien realized the diary in question was a notebook he had lost during a military operation called ‘Junction City’ in early 1967.

Now, decades later, the diary is a stark reminder of the fierce war and the camaraderie he shared with his fellow soldiers.

Thien is the only son of a martyr from Vietnam’s revolution against France. As such, he was exempt from conscription during the American war in Vietnam. 

However, when the war began to escalate in 1965, then-17-year-old Thien felt he could not sit back and watch as his fellow countrymen served in his stead. 

He then began sending in application after application until authorities finally allowed him to join the war effort.

Several months later, after spending considerable time training with a 443-strong air defense battalion from Thai Binh, Thien traveled south for battle. 

It was then, amongst the heart-breaking loses of heroic soldiers on the battlefield, that Thien began noting down the things he saw and the ways he felt.

According to Thien, losing the diary felt like losing a piece of himself and the threads holding him to some of the most profound, agonizing, and glorious memories of his youth. 

During those days, there were strict regulations on what information soldiers could record about the war. 

As such, Thien included no personal information in the diary and, therefore, believed he would never see it again.

The diary was given a leather cover and a leather box before being handed over to its owner. Photo: Thien Dieu / Tuoi Tre

The diary was given a leather cover and a leather box before being handed over to its owner. Photo: Thien Dieu / Tuoi Tre

Years later, when a group of Vietnamese researchers at Harvard University involved in a ‘Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War’ project was researching, cataloguing, and sharing information about the memories of Vietnamese veterans during the war, they came across Thien’s diary.

Flipping through the pages, they stumbled upon a note Thien had written grieving a fallen comrade.

“February 13, or the 24th day of the first lunar month, [is] the most sorrowful day as my brother, my comrade, laid down his life while on duty. Nguyen Van Xuan, [in] Dong Quach Village, Nam Ha Commune, Tien Hai, Thai Binh,” Thien wrote at the time.

In early 1965, Thien’s battalion made a stop in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum on their way south. Some soldiers took charge of gathering rice for the battalion, including Thien’s close friend, Nguyen Van Xuan.

Unfortunately, Xuan caught malaria while gathering rice and passed away. Xuan left three remembrances for Thien and asked Thien to transfer his watch to his wife in their hometown.

Xuan’s death marked the first fallen soldier in Thien’s battalion.

According to Dr. Nguyen Hai, director of the Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War project, it was Thien’s note about Xuan that gave the researchers hope that they might find the diary’s rightful owner.

Researchers in Dr. Hai’s group later visited Xuan’s family, hoping they could shed some light on who the owner of the diary might have been.

During the meeting, Xuan’s daughter shared that she believed the author of the diary to be Thien. 

She added that Thien had returned to Thai Binh in 1972 to be treated for wartime injuries and had brought Xuan’s watch with him to place on his altar, where it still sits today.

The page Thien wrote about his comrade – the clue that led the diary back to its rightful owner. Photo: Thien Dieu / Tuoi Tre

The page Nguyen Van Thien wrote about his comrade – the clue that led the diary back to its rightful owner. Photo: Thien Dieu / Tuoi Tre

Recognized as a martyr after nearly 6 decades

Among the documents and exhibits that the U.S. Department of Defense handed over to Vietnam during President Biden’s visit to the Southeast Asian country was a report by Dr. Hai’s team regarding the fate of 563 Vietnamese martyrs.

Vietnam goes to extraordinary lengths to search for the remains of martyrs in order to recognize their sacrifice to the country. 

One such martyr was Dang Thanh Tuan from An Duc Commune, Hoai An District, Binh Dinh Province, south-central Vietnam, who was recognized as a martyr in late 2022, more than 50 years after his death.

Tuan was a southern student studying in the north. He wrote letters with blood begging to join the army in 1964 and was accepted in 1965.

In early 1966, he left home for the south. His family never heard from him again despite spending nearly 50 years working with agencies to hunt down information.

Thanks to the support of many people, they found documents that the U.S. military confiscated during the war in Vietnam on the Internet, including the list of Vietnamese martyrs and their death notices, consisting of Dang Thanh Tuan.

At the beginning of 2020, Tuan’s family wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi asking for help to verify the information.

Dr. Hai and his team eventually dug up considerable information on Tuan and, on September 8, 2022, the Vietnamese prime minister signed a decision to recognize Tuan and eight others in Hanoi and nothern Hai Duong Province as martyrs.

“We never skip a single piece of paper because we understand that a piece of paper could decide the destiny of a soldier or family,” Hai said.

The Unseen Legacies of the Vietnam War project is part of a memorandum of understanding signed in July 2021 between the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense.

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