Located nearly 7km from Northeast of Hanoi City, the ancient Le Mat snake village (common name as Snake Village), is famous for its tradition of catching snakes and making delicious culinary dishes from them. Not only the local people but also foreign tourists like to come here at least one time in their journey. After enjoying a delicious meal (often 8 – 12 dishes made from snakes) in Le Mat village, you will recognize that you hardly ever find such an “odd” snake village anywhere.
Le Mat village festival is an opportunity for every year the children and grandchildren to go to reclaim the land in Thang Long citadel (local people) to meet to confide and express their gratitude to the group. The village festival is held every year from March 20 to 24 of the lunar calendar, the main festival is on the 23rd of the third lunar month, worshiping the Imperial Citadel of Le Mat village. On the main festival, representatives of the descendants of the 13 western camps of Thang Long ancient team of 13 offered gifts from the capital to Le Mat village communal house to attend the festival. In the village festival, there is a unique snake dance, the snake made of bamboo roofing cloth symbolizes the sea monster that was defeated by the young man of Hoang. There are also contests for big and beautiful snakes, strange snakes, etc. to popularize the secrets of capturing snakes, raising snakes, exploiting venom, curing venomous snakes. Visitors attending the festival can enjoy specialities made from snake meat.
The tradition of snake hunting and snake meat processing in the village is closely linked to the legend of a village tutelary god Phuc Ngoc Trung, from Le Mat village. The story is that: in the 11th century, the daughter of King Ly Than Tong sailed on the Thien Duc River (the Duong River today) and was captured by a snake-shaped monster. Though the entourage was not large enough to save her, fortunately, a young fisherman named Hoang rushed into the battle and beheaded the monster. (An alternative version has the princess die, and the fisherman bravely retrieves her corpse). The brave young man refused all fame, gold and silver awarded by the king, merely asking permission to bring the villagers of Thang Long to the land west of Thang Long citadel. After being approved by the king, Le Mat people crossed the Nhi Ha River (Red river) to explore this area. He and the villagers set up 13 prosperous hamlets known as “Thap Tam Trai”.
Following his example, the people of Le Mat village, in addition to farmers, also develop snakes and snake raising. Currently, there are hundreds of snake households in the village, dozens of snake speciality restaurants and many cultural and artistic activities about snakes held annually. Le Mat is considered as a snake transaction center of the whole North, and a famous snake village in Vietnam and around the world.
In 1960s, Le Mat village was the main source of supplying snakes for restaurants and pharmaceutical companies. However, snake breeding there seemed to have vanished and today, it has been restored and developed more than ever thanks to the Convention on wild animal protection applied in 1993 and the status of “Craft village” ratified in 2007 by the Vietnamese Government. Since then, the “Traditional handicraft Le Mat village”, has turned into a new chapter in its history and attracting many tourists not only in Vietnam but also all over the world.
The snake-catching job in Le Mat village, according to elders here, is a secret handed down from father to son. Together with the snake-catching job, there is the snake-raising job and few families in the village make patent medicines for injury bitten by venomous snakes. The snake-catching job in Le Mat is famous all over regions because Le Mat people usually go to catch snakes everywhere but they don’t hand down the vocation outside. Maybe, Le Mat is the place where the number of people who work at catching snakes is more crowded than any place all over the North Delta.
Every day, the Le Mat snake village attracts about 1,000 domestic and foreign tourists coming here for sight-seeing as well as eating snake cuisines. There are about 100 households in Le Mat village breeding snakes for meat. You may be dazzled at so many delicious and tasty dishes here, from traditional dishes to new dishes, even “horror” dishes, etc.
After a day in Le Mat village, many foreign tourists happily leave their advice on new travelers: “It might be astonishing at first but you will have a fantastic adventure here if you are not “shocked” at the snake”