We finally made it…we are in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam!!
And thus commences our tour of South East Asia. We are looking forward to the food, the drink, the people, the beaches, the cost-effectiveness, the pagodas, the buddhas, the shopping, but most importantly we are looking forward to our upcoming visitors!
My Mom and Dad arrive tomorrow in Ho Chi Minh City, and will be travelling with us for a month! Shortly after they return home, Shawna’s sister Carly, meets us in Bangkok for six weeks, so we have a real incredible couple of months to look forward to. Its been over seven months since we saw any of our family in real life… and it is much overdue!
In the time that we have been in Vietnam we haven’t done a lot…basically just waiting for the parents to arrive. We did make a quick trip up to Dalat (more about that coming soon!), but we have just really spent our time walking through Ho Chi Minh/Saigon (for the record, both Shawna and I prefer the pre-war name of Saigon to the current Ho Chi Minh City, but yes they are one in the same).
As luck would have it Shawna and I arrived in Saigon two days before the Lunar New Year (aka Vietnamese New Year aka Tet). This is similar to the idea of Chinese New Year, with the exception of the time difference. It is generally a very family-focused affair, as opposed to the debauchery that is more common in the Western World (although I am sure there were one or two Vietnamese who were stumbling a little as the fireworks went off).
Walking through District 1, the street are lined with flowers, lights, balloons, performers. Families are out all night long taking in the incredible displays, and Shawna and I were no different. The official New Years Eve was January 22nd. On that night nearly every home had an ‘alter’ in front off of it, with offerings of fruit, flowers, and incense. When Shawna and I went for a post-fireworks snack, we were given a piece of the lucky watermelon from the alter in front of the restaurant. This means good luck to us for 2012!!!
And then to top off the night, when we got back to our hotel, our hosts provided us with a red envelope (red is a lucky colour) of New Year’s money. Receiving this money is also supposed to mean good luck for the recipient – this is going to be one heck of a year!
One side note on this crazy city: The traffic hear is absolute madness. There are over four million motorbikes on the road, so we have learned to be careful real quick. As best we can tell, the best way to survive crossing the street is simply this: once you start, do NOT stop! Walking at a slow but steady shuffle across the street, keeping your eyes on the oncoming traffic has worked for us so far. They see you coming, and will (hopefully) calculate where how fast/slow they need to go in order to not hit you. Should you panic and freeze up (or change your pace for that matter), and all bets are off. Good times!
Other than that, we have been here long enough to have our go-to restaurant and have secured a great place to stay ($15US/night for an ensuite double with A/C!)
We will have plenty of things to show Mom and Dad and many more posts to come about our time in Saigon and the rest of Vietnam.
And until then we leave you with a few pics which we took during the week-long celebration that was Tet!
Chúc mừng năm mới!!
And of course we can’t forget about this happy duo ringing in the New Year. I have never seen a tambourine man so dedicated to the cause!