We were fortunate to be in Southern Vietnam just prior to Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year (February 18, 2007). The Year of the Pig was being ushered in with an unassailable enthusiasm, as markets burst with flowers, sewing machines in tailor shops buzzed with the new year’s wardrobe and shops overflowed with green rolls of Bahn Tet (sticky rice, pork fat and soybean paste rolled in a banana leaf).
Saigon’s Tet Flower Market
Saigon’s Tet flower market took up the whole of Cong Vien park near Ben Thanh market. It was filled with every type of orchid, bonsai, and bougainvillea imaginable. Elaborate flower displays were soundtracked with funky tunes and children on school excursions waved furiously and yelled “hallo” as they walked by. The brave ones asked where we were from and then giggled uncontrollably as we tried to say “hello” in Vietnamese. Everyone was on a holiday high; you could feel it throughout the city.
Cruising Down the Mekong
In a bid to make the Cambodian border just before it shut at year’s end, we left Saigon for a Mekong Delta tour with three days left to go. In a parade of floats, boats filled with flowers went full-steam up the Mekong River for last-minute delivery to Saigon. In the Mekong Delta towns of My Tho and Can Tho, city blocks were engulfed in flower markets and abuzz with excited buyers. Boats pulled up to the docks and overflowed with bright pink bougainvillea and yellow carnations. People strolled the markets searching for the perfect floral combinations to ring in the new year.
If the volume of flowers is any indication, it’s going to be a very lucky year.