Friday, February 26, 2010

Tet-Year of the Tiger, part 2

The countryside however is teaming with motorbikes. Since public and private buses for the most part are on holiday too, it is much easier to take one’s motorbike home. Here is a little video I shot as my cousin and I were making our way to our hometown in the countryside west of Saigon. Notice the other newly urbanized Vietnamese also going back home loaded with gifts for their family.

Going Home from Linh Nguyen on Vimeo.

This video is of us going further into the canals of the delta to a relative’s orchard for Tet lunch. My Aunt and Uncle are here with their two daughters, my cousins, and son in laws as well as their grandson.  My Dad is here too.

Going to Tet Lunch from Linh Nguyen on Vimeo.

All in all it was a very fun experience eating and visiting with my family. The last time I was in Vietnam for Tet was 1975.....It's been a long journey home!

Saigon Tet from Linh Nguyen on Vimeo.

This last video is of festive Saigon on the second night of Tet-the Year of the Tiger.
However last year was for all of us, may the New Year bring us all a new prosperity and find us in good health.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tet-Year of the Tiger, part 1

Tet is a very auspicious time for Vietnamese. This culture is steeped in superstition and reverence for the past, so a chance to do right and start anew is taken very seriously. 
In preparing for the New Year, flowers and good luck ornaments cover the entire country, from city to countryside. Yellow flowers of Hoa Mai, cherry blossoms and kumquat trees are for sale everywhere. It is not just tradition to go out and look at these temporary orchards, but it is also mandatory to purchase one for decorating your house in welcoming good fortune for the New Year.
These are photos of the flower market in Da Nang. (I stopped off here and Hoi An on my way south to wish my friends a Happy New Year.)

Here is picture of my buddy Frank, a fellow Hanoian on vacation in the south, at the New Year Flower Festival in downtown Saigon, being like other Vietnamese celebrating the Year of the Tiger.

Another tradition. and a recent tradition at that, is making ones way home for Tet. What I mean by a recent one is that urbanization is a relatively new phenomenon for Vietnam. When I first came back 13 years ago, the population was 70% rural. Now it’s more like 40-50% urban. Check out how empty the streets of Saigon and Hanoi are during the week of Tet.

I was thinking that Saigon was the most livable I had ever seen it-hardly any traffic, you could stroll on the sidewalks and there was a cool breeze at night. The temperature was only hot enough to make it two-showers per day as opposed to four-showers during the summer.

To be continued.....


Right before Tet, the Lunar New Year, a couple good friends organized an all day scavenger hunt, to get us all into the spirit of Tet. It was to be teams of two going around the city collecting pictures from a list that would prove difficult, to say the least. Only one team out of 40 completed the task with some shenangans.
We were to take a picture of a live tiger, to commemorate the Year of the Tiger. Since the event took place on the day when the Kitchen Gods give heaven reports of how good each and everyone of us were that past year, we had to document this as well. This came to form thru the burning of effigy or of the releasing of gold fish into a body of water. Also, we had to get a picture of Ong Do, a calligrapher, who this time of year is found all over the city painting black ink onto red canvases words of wisdom for the New Year. There was even a picture that we needed to take with a long haired Vietnamese man, a tourist, a shoe shine boy AND a girl on her Vespa. This was the hardest! But a few teams did manage, one by chance and one by pure group organizational skills. We had to translate a Vietnamese poem about the New Year and record a New Year story told by a native Hanoian. Here are couple of those pictures from our team, which was a threesome, made up of Kim-on the right, for the morning shift and Mandy for the afternoon trip. We decided to ride bikes the entire day.

This took us all over the city. Kim and I rode north over the Long Bien Bridge to look for a picture of Uncle Ho then we went west to the zoo to look for the tiger. But neither trips were successful so we had lunch with Daria, who was leaving for Switzerland-her home, for vacation. Next we rode over to the Temple of Literature for pictures of the Calligraphers. For the spirit of the Kitchen Gods we went back east to Hoan Kiem Lake. Then Kim had to head off for a work party and Mandy rode over to take her place. With Mandy, I rode all over the backpacking section of the Old Quarter looking for room 23, with no avail. Lastly, we heard that somewhere up north there is a place where lovers paint love notes to each other on a long stretch of wall overlooking West Lake. So, we circumnavigate the lake on our bikes in search of the most illusive point of interest on the list-an I love U stencil.  But this too deemed too difficult. 20+ kilometers later we found ourselves at the closing party for this Maratet-marathon Tet, event.

Maratet from Linh Nguyen on Vimeo.

In the end we had eight of the 11 tasks completed, rode 45 kilometers, drank about 4 cups of coffee at various places in the city, saw the zoo for the first time, rode over Long Bien Bridge for the first time and rode around West Lake for the first time....And yes! By the end I was looking forward to Tet-Vietnam's biggest holiday.