Ba Men Temple is located on a stone island inDau Be Archipelago,which is regarded as the South boundary of Halong Sea and Cat Ba (HaiPhong) Sea.
It is said by the fishermen that more than 200 years ago, there were 7 sisters who faced a giant storm when they were relaxing on their boat along the coastline of Vietnam’s middle region. Unfortunately, unable to save themselves from the cruel storm, they died. The wave carried their bodies away: the oldest sister’s and the second oldest sister’s bodies were found in Cat Ba, the third oldest sister’s body is found in Ha Long, where people built a temple to worship that unlucky woman.
According to the local inhabitants, Ba Men Temple is a very sacred and holy place where people always visit and worship before sailing beyond the coast. Even though the construction of Ba Men Temple was funded by charity donation of people from both inside and outside the province, it still have a wonderful architecture includinggreat halls and rooms, as well as beautiful gardens and yards. Ba Men Temple Festival became an annual event 10 years ago and all of its activities are determined by the fishermen.
On the 19th day of a lunar year, one day before the festival starts, many people bring their gifts to the temple. Apart from sticky rice, chicken, wine, fresh fruit and cakes for the goddess, they also bring the inevitable stuff such as sugarcanes or sweet potatoes to worship wandering souls. To close the worshiping procedure, people burn the paper boats in which they have written down the wishes for the coming year: good health, tranquil sea, more fishes, good luck, etc. However, the Festival does not begin until the following day.
On the 20th, since early morning, all boats come back to the harbor to prepare for the swimming competition between different villages in the region. As usual, 4 teams take part in this event: VaGia, Ky Da, Ha Nam, and Cao Minh. After the long and exciting race, the winners will be honored and receive their prize in front of the temple so that people can admire their strength and skill. However, no matter how their destiny ends up, each of the participants feels delightful as they have a chance to enjoy the fresh and beautiful breath of Spring with their family during the festival.
The most unique point of Ba Men Temple Festival is that it is organized without the intervention of any third party such as the local government or the national tourism department, etc. Even so, in general, this is still a well-organized traditional festival full of cultural values. It deeply reflects the fishermen’s hope of a more favorable life, their gratitude towards the ancestors and their happiness when having a chance to live and work every day.