Chariot racing – Vietnam style

Colorful costumes are being tailored and bulls are being trained and fed with fresh grass in the month prior to the Dolta Festival

A competitor in a previous Dolta Festival bull race spurs on his team in front of the crowd - Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Chau Doc Hotel
A competitor in a previous Dolta Festival bull race spurs on his team in front of the crowd - Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Chau Doc Hotel

in the Mekong Delta.

In the Bay Nui (seven mountains) region in An Giang Province and surrounds, the locals are all talking about the annual Vietnamese version of a chariot race.

Traditionally celebrated by the Khmer people in An Giang, the Dolta Festival is now widely attended by all ethnic groups around the province and beyond, and draws a slew of domestic and foreign travelers from near and far. It’s all for a good cause – to celebrate the planting of the autumn-winter crops.As usual, the festive activities feature colorful parades, cultural shows, dancing and family dinners. But the most-awaited part of the festival is the bull races, which are open to contestants from An Giang and nearby provinces. This year’s races are already heating up the usually-quiet temple courtyard of Ta Miet in Tri Ton District.

According to the rules, each bull pair must drag a 1.2-meter-long rake with 50-centimeter teeth and two teams compete in each race. Two young nai (jockeys) control and use a rattan rod to drive their bull on over the 120 meter muddy track.

To further complicate their task, the bull teams must run forward in a straight line and are disqualified if they veer off the paddy field course. Red and green flags mark the start and finish lines.

Owners of bull teams from Tri Ton, Tinh Bien, Chau Thanh, Chau Phu and Thoai Son districts of An Giang Province as well as Hon Dat and Kien Luong districts of Kien Giang have registered to compete at the 19th annual races. The organizers also expect registrations from bull drivers from Cambodia’s Takeo region.

This exciting and often hilarious event is a spectacle with a crowd of locals and visitors banging pots and pans with cooking utensils to drum up the mood from morning till afternoon.

In celebration of this unique festival, Victoria Chau Doc Hotel will launch a fun-filled package from October 4 to 6. Priced at US$224 per person on a twin-share basis, the package covers a welcome drink and fruit basket upon arrival, two nights stay at the colonial-style hotel on the banks of the Bassac River, trips to the bull racing and Sacred Sam Mountain, a boat tour to the floating fish farm and unique Cham village, and a 45-minute Vietnamese massage.

The boat tour will take you on a journey to discover the life and culture of families living on the banks of the river for a welcome chillout after race day.

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