This was the most beautiful Lunar New Year (Tết Nguyên Đán) we’ve ever celebrated in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). I think it was the most enjoyable due to the fact that we truly embraced everything there was to experience.
It was extremely atmospheric walking into a sumptously decorated Tao Dan park in District 3 to a surprising array of competitive displays. There were bonzai trees galore, the traditional yellow-flowered trees of a southern Vietnamese Tet celebration, rocks and minerals and incredibly detailed minature garden scenes. It was great to see the traditional caligraphy created on demand for hanging at home, and there were lots of different dances and live music performances too.
I visited Dam Sen park for the first time, and what struck me the most was the wonderful feeling of space, carved out for holiday makers and family days out in the middle of a bustling city. The traffic was almost non-existent on getting there – I really recommend travelling around Ho Chi Minh City during Tet because it is so chilled out and peaceful.
Dam Sen has a lot to offer including an Aquarium, beautiful gardens, a lake, monorail, water park and loads more! We just pottered around this time and enjoyed the scenery. I felt a wonderful sense of new beginnings and tranquility walking around the quiet gardens near the water.
Nguyen Hue always delivers an impressive stroll through living, blooming sculptures and temporary gardens around the theme of the year’s animal. This year was the rooster, whose colourful plumage lent itself well to the decorations!
Beauty was everywhere and tranquility immersive as the traffic receeded, shops shut and people spent time just stopping to look, see and simply be.
It is such a privilege to be in Vietnam during the run up to Tết Nguyên Đán (Lunar New Year). It is our fourth year in Vietnam and we have stayed in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) every year during this celebratory time. Many people go away from the city either to visit relatives or go on holiday abroad but we’ve always really loved being around to soak up the atmosphere!
Our first year here was the year of the horse (2014) then came the goat, then monkey and this year will be the year of the rooster. Saigon is vibrant with hues of reds and yellows predominantly but all of the colours of the rainbow can be found at the cho hòa (flower market) where everyone enjoys getting their flowers and decorations ready for the new year.
I have visited the famous flower street of Nguyễn Huệ every Tet I’ve been here, (which is always amazing and I’ll include another post about that after Tet) but strangely I hadn’t been to the amazing flower market on 23/9 Park (Pham Ngu Lao Street near Ben Thanh Market), District 1 before.
So this morning I went along to see where the locals buy their blooms and it was a revelation! What a beautiful and atmospheric place, especially in the early morning light before the hottest part of the day takes hold. I highly recommend pottering around this beautiful market, where you’ll find friendly sellers and sensible prices for breathtaking floral displays.
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
As a few people have asked me to share the lyrics to ‘Song for Saigon‘ I thought it would be cool to share them with the world, so here they are.
Song for Saigon
Saigon growing up my window
She’s creeping right under my pillow
With warm lights and motorbikes and sleepless nights and I know,
It’s go with the flow
In this place which goes by many names,
Both different yet somehow the ‘same, same.’
There’s smiling and trying and guessing
..Means ‘no’ when you’re ‘yes-ing’…
Where the city sleeps whatever ways
A nap can be taken most times of day
A floor here, a desk, but by far the best is stretched
the length of a moped.
Stop, watch the ride
of the people who live, the people who give their
calm, moving tide
of peaceful exist; it’s hard to resist this life.
Hard to resist this life.
Language can defeat me
With much local hilarity
Em tên là Claire
một hai ba yo!
hẹn gặp lại
Rất vui được gặp em
Drumming dreaming anti-rhythm
The unrelenting sound of construction
Blends into calls of street food stalls and busy malls
Then hush; the heat of the day
There’s a beauty in her coloured hems
Old houses standing tall and thin since then
When bicycles and cyclos ruled before
The sound of an engine…
Such a happy, truthful open place
With an honest and an easy grace
The busy waves of peoples days and humid haze
While I’m just observing.
Saigon lives near, chaotic yet placid here
Rising high, her focus on present times.
It’s hard to resist this life.
Claire Cameron Copyright 2013.
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