Viet Nam News
By Phương Hà
We cannot be sure when it started, but a rumour about the Khe Xanh Stream has attracted visitors from all over the country to Bắc Sơn Village in Nghệ An Province.
The rumour or belief is that a bath in the stretch of the stream’s waters that flow through the village in Nghĩa Phúc will help women develop a fair complexion and children grow up healthy.
After setting out from Diễn Châu District, staying on National Highway 7 for about 80km will take visitors to the Lèn Rỏi Bridge across the Lam River. On the other side of the bridge is the mountainous territory of Tân Kỳ District, which hosts the stream with magical properties.
According to the villagers, the stream had been their main source of water, for daily use and for irrigation. It has a unique feature. It has three water sources and the area where they converge, called Mó Tôm, turns warm in winter.
Villagers in the area do not have to heat up water for bathing during the cold days of winter. A warm water bath awaits them at Mó Tôm at any time. Meanwhile, in summer, despite the scorching heat, swimming in the stream, which is shaded by surrounding mountains, is a cool, relaxing experience.
Predating the latest rumour by centuries is a legend that this land used to be an entrance to heaven and that the water flowing from it was holy. Anyone bathing in it would be come strong. Therefore, Khe Xanh has also been called Suối Tiên, or the Fairy Stream, and has been worshipped and preserved by locals. The stream is said to have abundant water all year round, even when all the wells in the village run empty during the dry season or drought.
Evidence of the water’s beautifying properties are the Bắc Sơn women, long renowned for their smooth fair complexion and long dark silky hair. Many visitors have been taken aback by their beauty, despite the fact that they work hard on the farm all day.
“The Khe Xanh water does change during seasons, but we don’t know if it is the secret behind the women’s beauty. What is true is that most of them have a fair complexion,” said Nguyễn Văn Quang, the village head.
One villager added a small twist, saying one’s complexion turns fair when submerged in Khe Xanh, but returns to normal on getting out.
“Everyone feels refreshed and healthy. So people think that it is the stream that that makes the residents of Bắc Sơn healthy, with people rarely falling sick,” he said.
Khe Xanh is a stunning work of nature. Its bed is layered with smooth and pure white stones. On either side are cliffs cliffs of various shapes that locals like to compare to birds and animals, as they do elsewhere in the country.
The water is so transparent that one can spot bubbles blowing from its bed, showing that the water springs forth from the earth, unlike other streams and rivers that run down mountains.
Trương Văn Đại, an elder, said that the army of Lam Sơn insurgents, led by Lê Lợi, who later became the King of Việt Nam (1428-1433) used to be stationed in the Khe Xanh area. During hot summer days, they used to go swimming in the stream, earning it another name: Cả Quan or Mandarins.
A temple on the banks of the stream is dedicated to Lê Mạnh, a talented mandarin with the Lam Sơn Army. Legend has it that Mạnh was killed in battle and carried to the stream’s bank by his horse. However, after finishing its mission, the horse also died. A moment later, the bodies of the mandarin and his horse were buried in termitaries, creating a huge grave.
Today, visitors to the stream also pay their respects to the mandarin and his faithful steed at the temple.— VNS