On its way to the sea, the Thu Bon River not only carries tonnes of silt to the fertile land in Quang Nam province, central Vietnam, but also contributes to creating many cultural heritage sites like My Son Sanctuary and Hoi An ancient town.
The Thu Bon River originates from small streams running through the forests of cinnamon trees and a rare variety of Ngoc Linh ginseng near the peak of Ngoc Linh Mountain which is over 2,500m high. This mountain is in the Truong Son Mountain Range in Nam Tra My district. In the districts of Tien Phuoc and Hiep Duc, the river is called Tranh (Picture), a very rustic name. However, when it runs through the districts of Que Son and Duy Xuyen and merges into the Vu Gia River, it takes the name Thu Bon.
In the past, the Cham people, an ethnic minority group of Vietnam, and their culture were greatly influenced by the Thu Bon River. One of the most glorious vestiges of Cham culture is My Son Sanctuary in Duy Xuyen district.
Visiting the sanctuary, one seems lost in the world of the Cham, surrounded by images depicting sacred ceremonies, parades of horses and elephants, shining palanquins and groups of Apsara dancers in colourful dresses dancing at the foot of the ancient towers.
Before flowing into the sea, the river also helped create one of the oldest and most beautiful port towns in Vietnam, Hoi An. Hoi An Ancient Streets, along with nearby Tra Que vegetable-growing village, Thanh Ha pottery village and Cua Dai Beach, have become a unique tourism complex along the river.
The Thu Bon River basin is about 10.350km2. It is one of the largest domestic basins in Vietnam, with great potential for hydro-electric power. There are plans afoot to build eight hydro-electric power plants in the Vu Gia-Thu Bon area.
During its trip to the sea, the river has created fertile fields and provided villagers with an abundant source of aquatic products, such as shrimp and fish. In the 17th century, it helped people in Nong Son incense making village, Tam Tang cloth weaving village and Thanh Ha pottery village to export their products to overseas markets from the sea port of Hoi An. For this reason, the villagers in the province always think of Thu Bon as the “Mother River”.
Annually, in March, the villagers in Duy Xuyen organize a jubilant festival dedicated to the “Mother River”. During the festival, they go to the river and invite her to visit their families and bring them a bumper crop and happiness.