Overcrowding at major spiritual sites as Vietnamese celebrate spring festival
Major spiritual sites in northern Vietnam were overrun by a sea of devout Buddhists last week, with many queuing for hours to get in and some even being overcharged by local tourist service providers.
Over 50,000 pilgrims flocked to Ba Vang Pagoda in the northern province of Quang Ninh, around two hours east of Hanoi, on Sunday, the eighth day of the first lunar month, to attend a spring festival ceremony.
Many streets leading to the pagoda were heavily congested. As a result, an 87-year-old man who was walking near the pagoda was killed after being hit by a car which was carrying pilgrims to the pagoda.
Due to narrow waking paths and overcrowding, many pilgrims became victims of jostling and pickpocketing.
During the seven-day Tet break that wrapped up last Thursday, the pagoda received 220,000 pilgrims, with the number of devout Buddhists arriving on the peak day reaching 75,000.
In the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in the northern province of Ha Nam, a three-hour drive from Ba Vang Pagoda, overcrowding was seen last week as tens of thousands of pilgrims descended on the country’s largest spiritual site to pray for good luck and peace.
Thang, a local resident, said pilgrims had to line up for many hours to get on a boat to tour along Tam Chuc Lake, which leads to the main worship hall.
On Friday, 40,000 pilgrims also flocked to Huong Pagoda on the outskirts of Hanoi on the opening day of its annual festival, which lasts for three months, and which is considered the country’s longest annual festival. Around 5,000 boats were arranged to ferry the pilgrims to the pagoda.
Dieu Thuy, a resident of Hanoi, said that on the 4th day of the Lunar New Year, she was overcharged by a boat service provider when her family booked a boat ticket for two people for VND260,000 ($11), while the actual price was only VND50,000 per person.
Nguyen Anh Tuan, a tourist service provider at the Huong Pagoda, said the package price for a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda costs VND130,000-140,000, including ferry, entrance and tram tickets.
However, some tourist service providers overcharged pilgrims or asked then to give a tip to the ferry drivers.
Vietnamese, especially Buddhists, have a long tradition of visiting pagodas and temples in the new year to pray for peace and luck during the new year.
By Quynh Mai & Phuong Anh – VnExpress.net – January 30, 2023