Tet, or Lunar New Year, celebrations are a private family affair in many cases, but we still managed to
find ourselves amongst the thick of it.
We had moved to a nice hotel in the tourist part of the city, a little more expensive than what we’re used to, but it was worth it.
Our receptionist had nothing but giggles when we asked her what we could do to observe the celebrations.
“Oh Saigon is closed over Tet,” she giggled. “The market is closed, the war museum is closed,” more giggles.
We told her that was okay, we had already seen the attractions. She gave us a map anyway, showing the way to Times Square, where the annual flower display was on.
“Better you go now,” she giggled. “Vietnamese are afraid of the sun. We do not like the sun, hehe, it will be busy later when the sun goes down.”
So Times Square was where we began after filling our bellies with pho.
And it was beautiful. The theme of course was year of the monkey, but they weren’t the only feature. My favourite was a giant globe with Australia pointing to us. There were even cherry tomatoes climbing up vines.
After a rest we headed back that way to find a good spot to watch the fireworks. We were on foot luckily, because it was difficult enough to get through the throngs of motorbikes also heading to the fireworks. Many of them lined the footpaths and the roads, just sitting on their bikes in anticipation.
We found a good patch of grass in the middle of the four lane road and sat enjoying the show.
The next day we headed out to district five, Chinatown. We went back to the same pagodas we had visited a week earlier, when there were a few people here and there making offerings and praying,
But for the first day of new year, we couldn’t get inside the temples. People were moving packed in like
sardines, with one arm in the air holding incense sticks or flowers.
We enjoyed standing outside across the street and just observing, watching friends hug, strangers give offerings to monks, and children who would rather be home playing.
There were plenty of eateries open to give us choice in what we wanted without having to go to the tourist places (read: expensive).
Even though we set out on the second day of Tet, we came across plenty of happy people, wishing us well and telling us happy new year, so we repeated back to them: chook mung nam moi.