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Giang Mo Village: Showcasing Muong Ethnic Culture

Giang Mo Village is located at the foot of the valley of Mo Mountain in Ca Phong District, in the Northern province of Hoa Binh. It is home to the unique Muong people, probably why it has been a favorite tourist destination for over 20 years now.

Like any typical province perhaps, Giang Mo Village is made up of stilt houses; old giant trees; paddy fields; chicken and other farm animals roaming around; children playing with high bamboo stilts and folk games; fresh air; and peaceful atmosphere, just to name a few. The Muong people in particular own gardens, raise poultry, weave and cook. Despite the fact that the province is near the capital, the one-of-a-kind ethnic group has managed to to maintain a unique identity that sets it apart from the rest of the Kinh society.

Every family in the village owns at least one gong that has been handed down through generations because the community believes that the musical instrument is so much more than what it is. Every New Year’s Eve, the local people beat into their gongs in a belief that it will invite their ancestos to join in their festivities. But the gong is also used throughout the year for different reasons such as weddings, festivals, and parties; and to ward off bad things. The latter is done by a group of women who go around the village singing and beating on their gongs believing that the loud sound will scare away evil.

When someone is building a house in the village, the gongs serve a utilitarian purpose by being played to motivate each other while neighbors work together in building the house. During hunting, gongs are used to scare away wild animals. When the season ends, gongs are also played to signify victory in the whole village. A long-lasting sound signifies that the men caught many animals and everyone is invited to share in and enjoy the bounty. As a musical instrument per se, learning to play the gong is easy. It is in creating a harmony and balance among the other gong players that the challenge comes in.

Aside from its unique gong culture, Muong cuisine is also quite interesting. The tribe has always been self-sufficient, using nature around them for almost all of their daily needs, having to reside before in valleys surrounded with lime mountains, near small rivers and streams. Steaming is their signature method of cooking because it maintains the sweetness and freshness of the ingredients. Steamed rice, fish, pork and vegetables are among Muong’s specialties. Steamed rice in particular is placed in a piece of bamboo wherein the rice is washed properly, mixed with peanuts, put into a bamboo trunk, covered with a banana leaf and then steamed. Muong food is also usually served in banana leaves and placed on a bamboo tray. Rice wine is the ethnic group’s traditional drink, immersed with leaves from the tro trang tree.

There are two important values in the Muong culture: showing their love through words and showing their respect through their eating habits. The latter is manifested in the tribe’s eating position wherein the elders sit higher than the younger ones to emphasize their authority. Visitors are expected to finish their drink in one go as a sign of sincerity to the hosts.

Amid its beautiful gongs and interesting food, Muong culture is a fine example of a unique culture worthy of a recognition and appreciation from everyone around the world.

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