Weather: ⛅ ⛅
Novelty factor: 🍳 + 🎆
When we realised we would get an entire week off work after just three weeks of teaching (one of which was basically cancelled on account of “winter weather conditions”) I was overjoyed and immediately started brainstorming potential trips.
December 31st may be New Year’s Eve for a large chunk of the world, but in Vietnam they celebrate the Lunar New Year in February. Referred to as Tết by the Vietnamese, the week-long celebrations are a mahoosive deal and considered to be like a combination of Christmas AND New Year. As soon as we got wind of this upcoming time off we all decided to spend a week exploring other parts of this beautiful country. Out of the 120 English teachers working on this programme here in Vietnam a handful headed South, but the majority headed for the nearby town of Hội An.
Only an hour’s flight from Hanoi and located just outside of Da Nang city, the ancient town of Hội An sits quietly on the coast of Central Vietnam. Well, it sits quietly 364 days of the year with the exception of ‘Tet Eve’. On this momentous day tourists flee to the picturesque riverside area which consequently transforms into a scene reminiscent of the Zante strip.
During the day, however, the streets of Hội An are sunny and serene, the air clear and calm, a welcome change from our hectic and polluted base in Hanoi. Whether you wander the cobbled lanes by foot or on a bicycle you will come to discover the Old Town, made up of busy markets and amazingly preserved colourful stone buildings. Winding canals cut through the town, a reminder of Hội An’s previous status as a major port city.
I spent five days on ‘holiday’ here and during this time I made sure I exploited my temporary tourist label. During my break I got to spend the day cycling around town, zipping around the coast on a xeom (as a backseat driver), taking part in a fantastic Vietnamese cooking class and tour, bagging myself some absolute bargains from the vast custom shops and markets, and of course, seeing in the Lunar New Year with some brilliant new friends and the most unbelievable fireworks display of all time (better than Disneyworld even!!) Having five full days to spend doing as I pleased was total bliss and we all inevitably found ourselves becoming hideously jealous of fellow travellers we met who were free to roam around Asia as they pleased, not tied down to 9 hour day teaching contracts… But, their travels all sounded relatively short lived, and I found myself glad to be working and earning enough money to live abroad, amongst the Vietnamese locals, as well as being able to fund any travels after my time teaching is done.
I feel pretty fortunate to have seen Vietnam during the magical Tết celebrations. I can only speak for Hanoi, Da Nang and Hoi An, but these three places were all spectacularly decorated, and buzzing with excitement for the upcoming Year of the Monkey.
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới !