Tens of thousands of monks, nuns, Buddhists and tourists from Vietnam and abroad have flocked to pagodas and Spring festivals at the beginning of the Year of the Snake, wishing for peace, good weather, happiness and prosperity for all people.

On February 15, the sixth day of the lunar year, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc beat a drum to mark the opening of the Bai Dinh pagoda festival in Gia Sinh commune, Gia Vien district in the northern province of Ninh Binh.

He joined local people and visitors to release birds and pray for peace and happiness for all people.

The ancient Bai Dinh pagoda on Dinh Mountain dates back 1,000 years. The renovated pagoda, the construction of which started in 2003, is one of the largest in Southeast Asia. Its treasures include 12 national records, including a 30-tonne bronze bell, a 150-tonne bronze Buddha statue and 500 Arhat statues.

The festival will last until the end of spring.

On the same day, the Huong Tich pagoda festival also opened in Thien Loc commune, Can Loc district in the central province of Ha Tinh, attracting dozens of thousands of visitors.

The festival marks the start of the Ha Tinh 2013 Tourist Year.

In 2012, the province opened a 900-metre cable car system that carries visitors to the pagoda.

Also on February 15, the Huong (Perfume) pagoda festival in Hanoi’s suburban district of My Duc officially opened with the theme “Traditional beauty of Vietnamese culture”.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has selected Huong pagoda festival as one of the six key festivals of the year, so all preparations for the festival were made carefully.

A ceremony to release fish into Yen Stream, a photograph exhibition called “Vietnamese ancient pagodas,” cherry tree planting and cultural and arts performances were the highlights of the opening ceremony.

The organising board said around 1.5 million visitors will go to the festival, up 8 percent from last year. Around 4,800 boats will be used to serve pilgrims during the three-month festival, the largest in the country. -VNA