I arrived in Vietnam during TET, the Vietnamese new year in late January, and it was a wonderful experience. The city is always busy and full of motorbikes but in the week leading up to TET it just gets hectic crazy out on the streets. Every one is buying food for their family, flowers for their houses and small roof top gardens and getting ready for the family holiday. TET is a time when every one inside of Ho Chi Minh City returns to their hometowns to go and visit their family for a week. It’s the only time that you will find Ho Chi Minh City deserted and quiet and most of the little quaint coffee shops closed.
Every single street vendor was selling happy New Year (chuc mung nam moi) signs or posters in red and gold. You could even buy gold and red festive painted watermelons. The streets were filled with yellow flowers everywhere and they packed the parks full of all kinds of flowers. It was amazing walking around between the flowers and seeing all the exotic fruit and blooms in Vietnam. Each flower stall was manned permanently so you could see the stall owners catching a nap in the hot afternoon sun every day. It is beautiful seeing the city covered in flowers and this was a fabulous welcome to my new home.
On New Year night every one gathers out on the main road to look at all the flowers and lanterns and take pictures. There are hundreds of people walking around with balloons waiting for the fireworks. There is no way that you can actually drive around on new years, it’s much faster to just walk to where you want to go.
On New Years day you will be excused if you think something happened and you are somewhere else. Most of the coffee shops and markets and small shops are closed and the streets are deserted as everyone has left the city for the country side. For the rest of my year living in Ho Chi Minh I never saw the city this quiet again..