I have been really busy with art shows and family but will now resume my “Travelling through Vietnam” travel series.
The day after our nearly 6 hours on the road, we had a day off, which meant we walked for kilometres to get to the Museum of Vietnamese History located on the grounds of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical garden. I am not a fan of zoos and caged animals. As far as I am concerned, no animal should be taken out of their habitat and confined. It saddens me to think that we humans think it is OK to do this to other species. Nevertheless, we headed for the complex and after one hour walking in the beating sun along the streets of Ho Chi Minh city, we finally arrived at the zoo’s side entrance. Tickets were cheap and the beautiful gardens provided plenty of welcome shade to ease the 32C (90F) heat.
We spent a couple hours wandering the lush grounds, enjoying the family atmosphere and taking photos. We made it to the front entrance, never finding the museum. By that time, exhausted from the walk and the heat, we decided it was time to head back and retraced our steps between the huge trees, shrubs and flower bed arrangements to the side entrance, to walk back to our hotel.
That evening, there was a big event in town that had been in preparation since we arrived 3 days before. Nguyen Hue nicknamed “Flower Street” had been partially closed and converted to an unbelievable collection of flowers, plants, light sculptures and fountains marking the beginning of the Tết holiday (Vietnamese New Year, Vietnamese Luna New Year or Tet holiday) is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. The word is a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Dán which is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Say”. (1)
As we had walked by a few times in the preceding days, we noticed workers were progressively closing access to this wide street on several blocks as gardeners were working feverishly setting up displays, leaving only a few passageways to go from north to south. The previous day, we were told to go all the way around the area, sending us several blocks out of our way to be able to cross to the other side. We had heard of the “Flower Street” from our previous guide but didn’t know what to expect.
Anyhow, on Feb 2nd at 8pm is when the street officially reopened to thousands of impatient visitors that were clustered in front of the metal barrier. When the gate was moved aside, we all excitedly poured in; whether dressed casually, in their Sunday best or in colourful traditional attire, everyone seems eager to be photographed in front of the numerous displays.
Feb 5th marked the beginning of the Year of the Pig so there were cartoon renditions of pigs everywhere amongst the flowers. All the hotels and restaurants surrounding the street were decorated with millions of colourful lights. This marked the official beginning of the celebrations and we were so thrilled to be part of it, witnessing all the excitement. Children in their father’s arm could not open their eyes wide enough to take in the fascinating sight. Everyone was smiling, laughing, mesmerized with the overwhelming atmosphere of joy while the traditional New Year song played over loud speakers.
All this made for a wonderful experience. The next few days will be dedicated to family, traditional food and honouring the ancestors.
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