|Yen Tu Festival, one of the most famous spring festivals in the north, opens today, offering balloon rides for the first time. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Dan
QUANG NINH (VNS)— The Yen Tu Festival, one of the country's most famous spring festivals, will offer a wide array of activities when it opens today, including hot-air balloon rides for the first time.
The festival is traditionally held on the 10th day of the Lunar New Year in Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi City in the northern province of Quang Ninh. It will run until the end of the third lunar month.
Bui Thi Kim Thuy, deputy head of the Yen Tu Relic and National Forest Management Board, said that this year's event would feature several new highlights, including hot-air balloon rides over the area.
The new service, launched by the Ha Noi-based Chien Thang Company, costs VND200,000 (US$9) for adults and VND100,000 for children. Each balloon can carry three adults and six children (equivalent to 500kg). Tourists will receive safety instructions before they take a ride.
"We hope it will be an interesting experiences and attract more tourists," Thuy said.
The festival opening would also include the hoisting of a 25.5m-long and 20m-wide Buddhist flag, which would fly between the peaks of Chua and Giai Oan mountains, Thuy added.
Known as the country's biggest Buddhist flag, it will fly for 10 days displaying five colours that represent the solidarity and unity of Buddhism across five continents.
Another highlight will be a photo exhibition depicting the area taken by veteran artist Do Giang, who is known for his aerial pictures of Ha Long Bay.
To top it off, a spring flowers festival will add more colour to the event.
As a prelude to the festival, a ritual was held to officially open the forest in Yen Tu yesterday, along with a variety of folk games.
The roads to Yen Tu are already packed with pilgrims and tourists, who are eager to greet the start of the festival today.
This has led to traffic jams on several sections of the routes leading to Yen Tu Mountain and Hoa Yen Pagoda, where part of the festival is being held.
This year, the organisers have decided to move vendors from the Giai Oan and Dong pagodas at the top of Yen Tu's highest peak in order to prevent overcrowding.
They will also ensure the cost of goods remains stable, food hygiene and safety standards are met, environmental laws are adhered to, and small-change money exchanges are banned.
The board said that security officers, the army and young volunteers would be deployed to manage and guide visitors.
Traffic Police have also been instructed to manage transportation flow to avoid congestion on the road leading to the relic site.
The area received nearly 300,000 domestic and foreign tourists during the 10-day Lunar New Year holiday.
This year's Yen Tu Festival is expected to receive over two million visitors, including 2,500 Buddhist pilgrims.
Yen Tu has been considered one of the country's Buddhist hubs since Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), the third king of the Tran Dynasty, founded "Thien Truc Lam Yen Tu", Viet Nam's hallmark Buddhist meditation sect.
The king and his two successors built hundreds of pagodas and shrines throughout the Yen Tu complex, including famous structures which boast thousands of prized statues and artefacts.
Provincial authorities started preparing a dossier for UNESCO recognition of the complex as a World Heritage Site in December last year.
The area has a beautiful natural landscape and awe-inspiring scenery, along with the surrounding ancient pagodas and heritages.
Yen Tu was officially listed as a special national relic site in September 2012, and has been declared one of the 10 most attractive spiritual destinations in Viet Nam by the Vietnam Records Organisation. — VNS