The Lunar New Year or Tet celebrations are once again nearly upon us and the pace of this city, in fact I guess the pace of the entire country is hotting up. Last night we drove into Nguyen Trai Street, a significant shopping strip here, and went for a stroll through the very up-market and hugely expensive Zen Plaza. Highly overpriced items were being snapped up by eager shoppers intent on making their purchases before the all important first day of Tet, which this year falls on January 29th. (The first day of Tet is calculated to fall 15 days prior to the full moon in February).
Nguyen Trai Street itself was jam packed with motorbikes and cars and throngs of people and there exists an overall air of expectation, not all that different from that which exists in Western countries in the days leading up to Christmas. It is considered to bring good luck and prosperity for the following year if, during the Tet period, your house is overflowing with food, drink and household items so every tiny shop is packed to the ceiling with stock and the supermarkets are packing thousands of fancy baskets containing gourmet products.
On the other hand it is considered to bring bad luck if any work you might be having done on your house is not finished by Tet and it is desirable that your house be looking its best for this time. Consequently builders and painters are working late into the nights and at one house a few doors up from ours they have set up large spot lights so that the entire front of the house can be painted through the night.
The traffic seems a bit more crazy right now also, if that is possible. Maybe its because some people are already partaking of the onion wine that is being brewed for the holiday. In our hem circular baskets of small onions are sitting out in the sun ready to go into the brewing pot and I can’t wait to taste it. I notice that the Bia Hoi’s close to our house are doing a roaring trade right now and the prices down on Alcohol Street in District 1 have mysteriously risen over the past week or so. Along Nguyen Hue Street the decorations are beginning to appear and it will be great to go and watch as thousands of families come to see and be seen in their brand new clothes for Tet.
Our hem has become full of strangers carrying bags and suitcases as relatives arrive from all over the world to be with their families. I estimate that the number of persons in our hem has doubled which must make things fairly cosy in some of the already overcrowded houses. A lot of our neighbors will be leaving to visit families in country areas so a real state of flux exists here and certainly there is a lot of extra tables out in the hem with families eating and drinking and welcoming members they haven’t seen for a long time.
I think that I might go and spend a few hours out at the airport and get some shots of people arriving. We were out there this time last year waiting for Brendan & Amber to arrive and we saw some of the most emotional and fantastic scenes.
Our housekeeper Ms. Tam has invited us to her house on the 3rd and 4th days of the Tet festival which is something that we are really looking forward to. Her family live outside of Ben Tre which is about a 4 hour motorbike ride south of Sai Gon in the Mekong Delta. Lisa and Mimi and I will ride down there and I’m looking forward to having a good look around this area that is so close to the ocean and sits in between the arms of the Mekong. We’re also looking forward to catching up with Ms. Tam’s 11 year old daughter Diem who we haven’t seen for about 10 months now as she lives with her grandmother and brother at Ben Tre so she can attend school. Last school holidays she spent a lot of time at our house and I’m afraid that we spoiled her rotten, but hey, she’s a great kid.
Last but not least the Mai bushes on our rooftop garden are beginning to come into bud, a true sign that Tet really is upon us. Hopefully they will soon be covered in yellow blooms, yellow being the symbolic colour of Tet and one that predominates in all decorations over this period.
So, more on Tet later, if I have time between all of the celebrations!!