Consisting of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong, Tay Nguyen remains to be a mysterious and undiscovered tourist destination in Vietnam. Recognized as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in November 2005, the space of gong culture is the distinctive cultural feature of this region. Attending Tay Nguyen Gong Cultural Festival will be an unforgettable part of your tour to Central Vietnam.

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The Space of Gong Culture – ‘the echoing sound of the jungles’

The space of gong culture covers five provinces: Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong. The space of gong culture consists of following factors: gongs, gong performance, gong bands, ritual festivals that use gongs (New Rice Festival, water wharf worshipping ceremony, etc.), and some locations where gong festivals take place (traditional rong houses, communal houses, long houses, water wharfs, fields, graveyards and forests in the villages, etc.).

Cồng and chiêng - traditional music instruments used in the Space of Gong Culture
Cồng and chiêng – traditional musical instruments used in the Space of Gong Culture

In gong culture, gongs are the material to connect men and the supernatural world. Gongs consist of two musical instruments: cồng and chiêng. Cồng has a knob in the middle and is used to make deep bass sounds, while chiêng is flat and suitable for melodious sounds. Gong’s musical instruments are made by the mixture of gold, silver and bronze. Their diameter varies from 20-60 centimeters to 90-120 centimeters. A set of gongs contains 2 to 12 or 13 units and even 18 or 20 units. Gongs can be found in every house in Tay Nguyen, and they represent the family’s wealth and prestige.

Males wear traditional costumes at Gongs Cultural Festival
Males wear traditional costumes at Gong Cultural Festival

The space of gong culture is covered by several ethnic groups such as Ba Na, Brau, Chu Ru, Co Ho, E De, Jarai, Gie-Trieng, Ma, M’Nong, Ro Mam, Xo Dang, Cham, Raglai, Bru-Van Kieu, Ta Oi, Coh, Hre, Choro, Xtieng and Cotu. In some ethnic groups such as Gia Rai, Ba Na and Xo Dang, only males are allowed to play gongs and females can only dance. In few ethnic groups like E De, females can perform gongs. Males wear the same costume when performing gongs: a dark-blue shirt with multi-colored cuffs and a traditional breechcloth.

Gong music plays a significant role in ethnic tribes’ spiritual life here. When a child in Tay Nguyen is born, he gets to know the sound of gong immediately. Gong is performed on many occasions, such as inaugurations of new houses, funerals, buffalo sacrifice, crop praying, etc. Each type of ceremony requires different rhythm, length and resonance. Local people think that Gong is mean to connect with the God and when they play gongs, God can listen to their wishes.

Watch this video to understand Gongs culture:

Some places to enjoy gong performances in Central Highlands

  • KonKoTu Village – Cultural Village of Ba Na ethnic group (Dak Ro Wa Commune, about 8km from Kon Tum City)
  • Mang Den Ecotourism Site (Dak Long Commune, Kon Plong District, Kon Tum Province)
  • Plei Op Culture-Tourism Village (Hoa Lu Ward, Pleiku City) and To Nung Village (Ya Ma Commune, Kong Chro District) in Gia Lai Province
  • Don Village Tourist Centre (Tri A Village, Krong Na Commune, Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province)
  • Jun Village, Lak Lake Tourist Site (Lien Son Town, Lak District, Dak Lak Province)
  • Doi Mong Mo Tourist Area (No.5 Mai Anh Dao St., Ward 8, Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province)
  • Lang Biang Gong Club (312 Lang Biang, Bondong Li Street, Lac Duong District, Lam Dong Province)

About Gong Cultural Festival 2018

Gong Cultural Festival is a festival that is organized to honor the Space of Gong Culture, which will be a highlight of your Vietnam discovery holiday. You can have a chance to immerse yourself in our pristine highlands, melodious folk music, relish the most delicious cup of coffee in Vietnam and sample traditional cuisines.

Time and Location

Gong Cultural Festival is held annually (non-periodical holding) in Tay Nguyen. No fixed location for this festival, it was organized alternately in Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Lam Dong and Kon Tum.

The Space of Gong Culture is restored at Gong Cultural Festival
The Space of Gong Culture is restored at Gong Cultural Festival

Gong Cultural Festival has been held since 2009 and attracts a lot of tourists who love to discover our unique folk performance in Tay Nguyen. In 2018, Gong Cultural Festival will be held at the beginning of November with the theme ‘Gong and Cultural Festival in Tay Nguyen’. November is the best time to visit the Central Highlands since it is the dry season and you can enjoy a pleasant weather here: slightly cold in the early morning and at night, and cool around the day.

This year, Gong Cultural Festival is organized in Gia Lai Province with the participation of 1200 artists. In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies in Pleiku City, many activities will be held in other districts such as Kbang, Đak Đo, and Chu Pah, where you can enjoy authentic gong music.

What to expect?

In our Central Vietnam Mountainous Landscape Discovery tour, you can have a chance to participate in some interesting activities of Gong Cultural Festival:

  • Street Festival in Pleiku City
  • Restore some ethnic traditional festivals such as New Rice Festival and New Rong House Celebration Festival
  • Gong music show performed by local gong bands from several ethnic minority groups and traditional music instrument exhibition
  • Photo exhibition of Gong Cultural Festival
  • Exhibition of traditional crafts, such as the art of adjusting chiêng, folk wood carving, brocade weaving, etc.

Suggested Itinerary to Enjoy Gong Cultural Festival in Central Highlands

For most visitors who come to Central Highlands for a honeymoon or romantic Vietnam tour, Da Lat is the most sought-after destination. Its cool climate, pine-crested hilltops, and romantic natural setting make Da Lat a perfect holiday retreat.  It is also quite famous for its flowers, particularly roses, as well as its colorful annual flower festival. There are many things you can do here, for example, biking around Xuan Huong Lake, staying in a private villa, picking up strawberries, and trying delicious street foods.

Heading north from Da Lat, you will pass through Lak Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake of Tay Nguyen. Paddling along this reed-covered lake, you can visit some M’nong villages located on the southern and western banks. Coming to Buon Ma Thuot, you are taken to the most famous coffee-growing area in Vietnam. While the city itself does not have many things to detain travelers, breathtaking waterfalls and mysterious E De hill tribes in Yok Don National Park will be a highlight of your eco trip to Vietnam.

Gia Lai - the host of Gong Cultural Festival 2018
Gia Lai – the host of Gong Cultural Festival 2018

Pleiku, the capital of Gia Lai Province, is the center of Gongs Cultural Festival this year. Perched atop a magnificent plateau and surrounded by valleys, this place is where you can discover the authentic highlands in Vietnam with Bien Ho Lake and spectacular Phu Cuong Waterfall and is the home to Ba Na and Jarai ethnic groups. 50 kilometers from Pleiku, Kon Tum is a great stop for those who love to explore Ba Na, Se Dang, and Jarai and visit traditional Rong Communal House.

Related Reading: Best Time to Visit Central Vietnam

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A Hanoian lover of art, cuisine and culture, Chi Nguyen enjoys exploring all elegant aspects of this city as well as discovering off-the-beaten-track destinations in the beautiful S-shaped country.

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