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    Fire walking in red Dao Village

    Fire walking in red Dao Village
    The celebrations involved praying to ancestors and ceremonial dancing to ensure a fruitful year of rice in the upcoming harvest. All the men in the village with the surname “Lee” were involved in these prayers which sent them into a trance-like state before they jumped into a fire and walked on hot coals. YES – WALKED ON HOT COALS. This experience was a feast for your senses….drums beating, fire roaring, chanting and singing, electric-red traditional head dress and the glares and giggles of the children as they tugged on my arms and touched my foreign skin. The ceremony continued for 5 hours, with more dancing, fire walking, beating of drums and the scattering of rice. The Dao ethnic minority is incredibly diverse in all aspects of life: social and religious practices, architecture, agriculture and dress. Rows of terraced rice fields zigzag up steep mountains, creating breathtaking views in an area where farming remains the major source of income. Rice is still the staple crop and this annual ceremony is a very important part of the Dao calendar to ensure a plentiful harvest.

    Fire walking in red Dao Village 1

    Dao people came to Vietnam some six centuries ago and now number around 500,000 in Vietnam, with related groups in Laos, Thailand and China. They boast a particularly striking traditional dress, characterized by a rectangular patch of embroidery sewn onto the back of their jackets, and both men and women sport silver or copper jewellery and tasseled shoulder bags. Dao women wear elaborate headgear, usually a triangular-shaped turban, either embroidered or decorated with silver coins, beads and colored tassels. It’s also common for Dao women to shave their eyebrows and sometimes the whole head, coating the skull with wax.

    Working in the tourism industry presents a double-edged sword. On one hand we want to preserve and protect local customs and traditions from commercialization and the negative effects of tourism. Yet on the other hand, we want to share these wonderful experiences and invite the whole world. So to discover this Red Dao village, still so rich in tradition – without televisions and coca cola – was exciting. It was exciting to see that in 2006, travelers can still step into their own personal Discovery channel. But we must ensure this is how we leave it. To be sensitive and respectful of these local cultures so our children can have the same experiences and our world can continue to be a melting pot of traditions and cultures.
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