Sitting north of the Ma river in Thanh Hoa province, Cam Luong stream is also known as the the God Fish Stream of Ngoc village. The stream is about 100 meters long and 4 meters wide, and attracts many tourists to visit its many sacred fish, yet none dare to catch the tiny creatures.
|Photo: Cam Luong Stream / Bao Dak Lak
The legend of the God Fish Stream
Cam Luong stream is associated with the legend of the Snake God, who is worshipped at a temple on the bank of the stream. According to local Muong ethnic minorities, Ngoc village, situated at the food of the Truong Sinh mountain range, used to frequently suffer from drought until a legendary incident.
There was a childless couple that would grow vegetables and forage for food on the riverbank, and one day the woman found a strange egg. Thinking it was rotten she tossed it into the river before taking it home later where it hatched a snake.
The husband tried to release the snake at the stream, but it kept coming back to the couple at night, no matter how many times they let it go. Gradually the snake became a member of their family, and it seemed to bring the local villagers luck; they no longer had to endure adverse weather, and their lives became happy and comfortable. Villagers adored the snake, calling him snake boy.
One day during a sudden late-night storm, the villagers secured their doors and stayed inside their houses infeat to avoid the storm. The next morning, they found the dead body of the snake boy on the stream’s bank.
The villagers decided to bury the snake bot at the Truong Sinh mountain range and build a temple to worship him. Before the burial ceremony, deities appeared in the villagers’ dreams to tell them that the snake boy died after fighting water monsters to protect the village. Seeing his sacrifice, the Ruler of Heaven had made him a God.
|The Snake God temple / Baodautu
Since the temple was built, thousands of mysterious fish have appeared in the stream, guarding the temple until this day. The deities told villagers that these fishes were soldiers turned into fish to serve the Snake God. As such, locals also call Cam Luong the God Fish Stream.
A special stream
Scientists have found that the fish in Cam Luong are Doc fish (Spinibarbus maensis), a species belonging to the Carp order. Unique to Vietnam, they were discovered in 2007 in the Ma and Ngan Pho Rivers, and are listed in Vietnam’s Red Data Book, a compilation of rare and endangered fauna and flora in the country.
Most Doc fish in Cam Luong have a dark shade of green along the body but are bright red around the mouth. A few have bright colors like orange or pink. As they swim, Doc fish fins create silver streams of light as sunlight shines on them.
Doc fish in the Cam Luong stream normally weigh around 3.4 kilograms, but some might weigh up to 10. The largest can weigh up to 30 kilograms.
Doc fishes love to eat but never consume their own kind. They are not, so tourists here feed them vegetables or corn. They do not bite but hardly allow humans to touch them.
|A tourist feeding fish at the Cam Luong stream / Dantri
The fish only swim over a 100-meter section during the day and stay in caves at night. Locals say that the fishes do not drift away even during flooding. It is said the larger fish hide in caves and the smaller ones that are swept away eventually find their way back.
There are many local legends about Cam Luong Stream and the fish that live there. Some people are said to have passed away because they had ate the fish. Others got into traffic accidents after trying to catch or play with the fish. Even more mysteriously, the water in the Cam Luong Stream is clear, pure, and never fishy, despite a large number of fish living there.
In addition to the stream, Cam Luong attracts tourists due to the stunning beauty of its pristine forest and limestone mountain range stretching endlessly on the left bank of the Ma River. On the first month of the lunar calendar, tourists flock to Cam Luong to enjoy the traditional God Fish Ritual, a practice of the Muong ethnic minority group to honor the Snake. Close to the stream, tourists can also find Cay Dang cave with a gorgeous collection of large stalactites, and Ngoc temple, which worships the Four Mother Goddesses, a folk belief in Vietnam.
|Opening ceremony of the God Fish Ritual / Baomoi
Cam Luong stream is situated 88 kilometers away from Thanh Hoa city and 133 kilometers from Hanoi. Traveling there from Thanh Hoa takes around two hours, while from Hanoi it is about three hours.