The name Nha Trang is derived from a Vietnamese pronunciation of the Cham word Yjatan or Eatran. “Yja” or “Ea” means “river” while “tran” means “reed”. It is believed that there once were plenty of reeds in Ngoc Hoi river. The river flows through the town. Later on, Ngoi Hoi River was renamed Nha Trang River. The Buddhist culture and festivals in Nha Trang play a significant part in reliving the rich Buddhist heritage of the province. Before, the communist government wanted to suppress religion after the Vietnam War. However, they were not completely successful, and because of today’s new environment of freedom and tolerance, religions in Nha Trang are still thriving and flourishing.
As a guest in Nha Trang, you have to know different respectful local customs. Make sure to remove your shoes when entering Buddhist shrines or any local people’s home. However, you can typically keep your shoes when entering Chinese temples. A simple, gentle handshake is also the most appropriate manner when greeting someone. Moreover, never confront someone aggressively or show anger in public as this is an unpleasant and quite embarrassing behavior in Vietnam.
When we talk about culture and festivals in Nha Trang, this beach town is commonly dubbed as the “City of Beauty” or the “City of Misses” due to the great amount of beauty pageants, both national and international hosted in this place. Not just the land of beauty, it also has numerous cultural festivities and events to offer. One is the Hung Temple Festival, which celebrates the anniversary of the Viet ancestors on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month in Hung Vuong Temple, which is located on Ngo Gia Tu Road, Nha Trang. The Hung Temple is rooted in the ancient legend of their ancestors Lac Long Quan and wife Lady Au Co who gave birth to a hundred eggs. The eggs hatched and turned into 100 children, where 50 followed Lac Long Quan, their father, to the sea while 49 children stayed with their mother to the highlands. The eldest son remained in the land and became the first king of Van Lang State. This solemn festival includes offerings of flowers and joss-sticks.
Yet another popular festival in Nha Tang is the Sea Festival, which is celebrated from April 28 to May 4. The festival involves many cultural events including a parade of cyclo pedicabs and carriages adorned with flowers, a beer festival sponsored by beer companies in Vietnam as well as an event of picture embroidering. There are also art exhibits of sculpture and pottery and many musical and cultural dance performances.
Cau Ngu festival is another unique festivity celebrated by fishermen in the southern central coast of Vietnam, including Nha Trang. Held in the communal house in fishing villages, this festivity comprises activities such as worshipping of forefathers, welcoming of the Mountain God and spirits to the shore and the worship of Mr. Nam Hai or Mr. Whale. The whale is regarded by the fishermen as a sea god, safeguarding them from any sea accidents. The Cau Ngu festival means, “asking for good catch” and is solemnly observed during the 3rd or 7th lunar month.
Other important culture and festivals in Nha Trang include Am Chúa Festival and Tháp Bà Festival. Am Chúa Festival takes place in Am Chua or the Hermitage of Goddess and is celebrated to worship Ponagar Goddess. Tháp Bà Festival or the Ponagar Tower Festival, which is deemed the biggest religious festival in Nha Trang, is celebrated to worship the Mother of the region, which is the Goddess of Cham.