Spending two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday was certainly a fun experience. The days building up to Christmas were quite festive, and we were curious how this would translate into New Year’s celebrations. We weren’t disappointed!
A few days before New Year’s we took a walk down the backpacker district to get some good Italian food (a welcome escape from Asian food for the past month)!
This is a typical street side scene in Vietnam. Little food vendor with little chairs and little tables. I wonder why they don’t just go full-size?
It’s funny to see the Westerners sit at the itty bitty tables and chairs…
Snails and shells…
Next, we walked out to the main street towards the big tourist market (which we didn’t enter). In the big central median, we discovered they were having a massive New Year’s Festival! They had erected a huge stage where we briefly enjoyed watching a fashion show or beauty contest of some sort.
This is the traditional Vietnamese clothing for women–áo dài. It is a form-fitting, high-necked silk blouse that goes all the way down to the feet, with a side slit starting just at the pant line. This blouse is tailor-made for each individual, and the coordinating pants under this long shirt result in a very polished, elegant look. Too bad that I, a big-busted Western woman, would look awful in it!
Around the stage there were blocks and blocks of vendors with various wares and foods. The Vietnamese LOVE their seafood (for a family that abhors seafood…that was a fun challenge). Octopus, anyone?
A nearby pond had some people paddling around, and some live performers were singing pop music from microphones in a boat. I’ve never seen that kind of performance, before!
Back near the center of town, they had closed off the heaviest-trafficked street and erected a large dome for the New Year’s celebration.
Night performances had started, and would continue until New Year’s Eve. This included live singers, acrobats hanging above crowds, and people performing on long stages that were set up in the large center median of the now-walking-street.
When Christmas Eve rolled around, we were astonished at the amount of traffic that started building up on the streets in the late hours of the evening. Our great family-friendly hotel was about four blocks from the main plaza, but was on a quiet street where we never had car or motorbike parking. Well, the rules changed for New Year’s, apparently. This was looking out our hotel window at the ever-increasing crowd and the sidewalks which were befoming chock full of motorbike parking. Everyone was trying to park as close as possible to the main plaza, and this was as close as they were now getting. It was insane!
We had already decided it wouldn’t be worth trying to drag the kids into those crowds, so just before midnight we took the elevator to the top floor of our hotel, and set ourselves up to watch fireworks from the rooftop.
The Ho Sen Hotel’s roof is not set up for entertaining, but it was nice enough, and this is the small crowd we celebrated our first minutes of 2013 with.
Can you see the motorbike parking on the sidewalks in the photo below? Good luck getting your bike out of if your bike was parked first.
We felt bad for all of the people in motorbikes and vehicles on the downtown streets. They clearly weren’t going anywhere, anytime soon, as the traffic was at a standstill. They’d be lucky if they could see the fireworks at all, and since they couldn’t abandon their motorbikes, they were stuck there waiting and waiting.
Ho Chi Minh City, alive with New Year’s Eve traffic!
The fireworks were over the river, and we thankfully had just enough of a view!
And that was that. A few kisses were exchanged, and we were back to bed!
Apparently they tear down the main New Year’s dome in the city center several hours after midnight, so they can get the stage out and traffic flowing the next day. However, this does not mean the festivities are over on New Year’s Eve in Saigon.
The next evening we met up with another traveling family and went back to the major market plaza in Saigon. We just stayed outside, enjoying the sights of the outdoor market. We’re not active shoppers nowadays (the backpacks don’t allow it), but it’s always fun to do some window shopping.
Ella is such a motherly type, and always eager to act like a big sister to any younger kids we meet! Here she is holding her new friend’s hand.
We walked back to the big park with the stage and street vendors.
There was a stage set up for a water puppet show, which sadly wasn’t going when we were there. And also a nearby stage had some comedy sketches in Thai, with overly dramatic actors evoking laughs from the crowds.
The products being sold were unique, and I had to stop for a moment and drool over the coconut wood teapots! I’m a sucker for wood!
The girls mooched some sugar cane juice out of us—and eagerly watched the man juice the cane in a metal contraption.
Back at the large stage we found better entertainment tonight. These women were twirling bits of fabric that expanded to look like umbrellas when spinning.
They were quite the acrobats! Keep in mind…the reason these fabric umbrellas are expanded is because they are spinning at full speed!
If you’re considering spending Christmas and New Year’s in Saigon, you are going to find plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied! We had a great time, and are certainly pleased that we chose this as our holiday destination in Asia this year!