One main reason stirs up our wanderlust all the time that is the curiosity. Le Mat Village, a village full of snakes and scintillating legend of these venomous footless animals in your Hanoi tours or Vietnam tours will surely satisfy that desire.
Interesting tale of this village
Le Mat village is a small village in Viet Hung Ward (Gia Lam, Hanoi). Le Mat villagers were famous for their traditional catching and snake farming for 900 years. Le Mat is a unique village with both ancient and modern look. The village is located between Highway 1A and Highway 5 in Viet Hung commune, Gia Lam district, about 7 km northeast of Hanoi.
The birth of the snake village associated with the legend of Hoang- A Le Mat villager’s victory over the sea monster in shape of a giant snake.
The story goes: In the reign of King Ly Thai Tong (1028 – 1054), a princess of the king often cruised on the Thien Duc (or Duong River). One day, unfortunately, the boat was wrecked and gradually sunk to the bottom with the drowning princess. The king declared that if anyone could pick up the princess’s carcass, that man would be promoted and awarded tons of gold. Although many of the generals and village youths involved in the search, they found nothing.
Due to the courage, the talent of swimming, and snake catching, Hoang – the young man in Le Mat was patiently looking for and bravely battling the monster in the swirling waters, eventually regaining the poor princess’s body. The king kept his promise by promoting to a high position in the palace and granting many gold and silver, But he refused all those things! He just asked for permission to let him gather Le Mat village’s poor folks and the neighboring zones to exploit the western Thang Long Citadel ( Vietnam’s capital then) to earn off a living.
With the consent and encouragement of the king, he led the people of Le Mat village to traversed the Nhi Ha River (or Red River) to the west of Thang Long. Gradually, the land became rich and considered the traditional agricultural area of the capital, then the place was expanded to 13 hamlets that called with the name ”Thap Tam Trai” (now belongs to Ba Dinh district – Hanoi).
After he died, villagers in Le Mat village set up an altar and worshiped him on the southern edge of Le Mat village on the south bank of the Duong River. He has been revered as a saint. The communal house was built in the style of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). It is still quite intact, in front of which there are a large pond and communal yard. The communal gates also record a series of parallel sentences for the honor of the saint.
Around March (lunar year), the people of the old Thap Tam Tu Village and tourists come and bring flowers and gifts to commemorate Hoang – the courageous man.
The festival is very large-scale and time-consuming with preparations for several weeks before the ceremony. The artisans in the village have cooperated on the statue of a giant snake (representing sea monster). The youngest and strongest men in the village were selected for the snake dance team and act in the role of Hoang. A beautiful girl is also carefully selected to play the princess. On the day of the festival (March 23rd lunar month), the village is decorated splendidly far and near with colorful flags and festoons, bright candles and smoky incense sticks. People go fishing in the pond to make salad dishes and haul water from the well to make offerings to the spirit.
The thrilling experience of an American diner at Le Mat Village
The very first impression
“When led into a garden with leafy roof and snakes are available almost everywhere from wine bottles to cages, I was living the craziest moment in my entire life.”
Caged snakes are fastened and cut up with a sharp knife. Then the snakes are butchered and removed the heart, liver, spleen, and the reptiles are placed on the steel table to prepare for the next steps.
After sitting down at the table, I was presented with two types of liquids – red and yellow- with a still-beating snake heart on a plate. The red one is the mixture of Vietnamese wine with the serpents’ blood and the other one is with honey.
Stare solemnly at the beating organ in white wine, I slowly took the chopsticks, picked it up and scrutinized it carefully before dropping in the glass. I stood up straight on my chair, began pouring that spicy liquid into my mouth while retaining the snake’s heart at the tip of my tongue to feel the last time before swallowing. It’s crazy.
In addition to the glass of wine, I was also served a variety of dishes such as snake congee, snake fried with onions, crispy deep-fried snake’s skin, etc. The eat I love the most is cobra’s liver cobra poached with ginger.