27.01.2017 - 27.01.2017 30 °C
Here in Vietnam they celebrate the Chinese New Year. Today is New Year's Eve and everyone is getting ready for the new year of the Rooster. Everywhere we walked today we saw people cleaning - motorbikes, cooking utensils, windows, floors, etc. - everything should be clean to start the new year. Maybe the origin of "spring cleaning"?
After we had breakfast, I asked about doing some laundry. I usually just wash things in the bathroom sink, but our sink didn't have a stopper so that wouldn't work. Ms Yang gave me a large basin and showed me where to do it (right in the courtyard where we had breakfast). Then both she and her nephew kept offering to help me or do it for me. I said no, I do this all the time. I knew they were busy cleaning for the new year and didn't need more stuff to do. I got it done, but I've never had such a big interest or audience for laundry before.
Once that job was done, we went for a little walk looking for a place to buy a SIM card for the phone. We had to be back by 10:00 am to FaceTime with Aly and Tani. We couldn't do it yesterday on Aly's birthday, so today was the day. We had a good little visit and then went back out exploring.
We did find a SIM card, although ended up with a Mobifone instead of Viettel, which is what we wanted.
Everyone seems to need a new plant/tree to bring in the new year. And if it has yellow flowers, so much the better. We saw many versions of people carrying plants on their motorbikes since we've arrived, but this one takes the cake. He couldn't even sit up straight. The pot is so big he had to bend forward to drive!
We had a chat with a teenager waiting on a motorbike. We were at a street corner and trying to decide which way to go. I asked him if he spoke English. Yes, he said. Then we discussed SIM cards and where we could get one. He told us he has a scholarship to go to high school in Boston, and so has had to study English to be ready to go. He was very helpful and friendly.
Our hostess, Ms Yang, invited us to come back for 1:00 to have dinner with her. This is a New Year's Eve tradition, to have a special dinner with family at noon. At night they might go out, but would be home for midnight and make sure all the lights were on (so no going into the new year with any darkness). A couple of other guests also joined us for dinner, Ito from Tokyo and Helen from Beijing. We sat in the courtyard (where we ate) and visited with Helen for a long time after the meal was over. She has excellent English and was waiting to take the train to Da Nang. It was very interesting to spend time with her and learn about life in China from her perspective.
After a little rest (waiting out the heat of the day), we set out again. We had been told that downtown by the Saigon River, people would be congregating and enjoying the evening. So we walked down there (just a couple of kilometres) and found a restaurant Don had picked out as a good place to eat. Unfortunately it was closed due to New Year's! So we went a little farther and found a large Vietnamese restaurant. An interesting experience - you need to order multiple things on the menu, everything comes just as is - no rice or accompanying veggies. Maybe just this restaurant, we'll see.
We walked down among the throngs of people. Several streets were closed off to traffic (thank heavens!) but even getting thru the crowds was difficult at times. At one point, we were trying to cross a very busy street and a police man came and offered to help us. Walked us across the street, waving at drivers and riders as we went. You need nerves of steel to deal with this traffic. It's more organized than Phnom Penh, but travels at faster speeds and is more terrifying when crossing the road.
The main activity downtown seemed to be selfie/portrait taking. Everyone posing in front of the flower and light displays and all dressed up to get their pictures taken. There didn't seem to be any entertainment - a few vendors - we got gelato! So after awhile, we got a taxi and came home to go to bed. No, we didn't stay up to see the new year in.