Chúc Mừng Năm Mới !

still life with gin & tonic, cucumber, and flowering apricot tree.
"I love Saigon during Tet", my French friend Ben told me. "The streets are completely empty.  You can walk down Hai Ba Trung in broad daylight with your eyes closed, and not fear of getting hit by a car. It's wonderful".

Ben has been telling me this every so often after meeting him 5 months ago.  Since i've moved here, i've been curious as to what goes in in Saigon during Lunar New Year.  For the uninitiated, Tet is Vietnam's biggest holiday. The country shuts down for a good week. Most people who live and work in Saigon are from other parts of the country, so there's been a slow, mass exodus out of the city for a few days now.  Very little is open.  I plan on catching up on much needed sleep, exercise, lounging about on my sunny terrace, and engaging in bouts of day drinking. As one does.

Just now, walking back from the market for tonic and soda water supplies (because, priorities), I was hit with a massive sense of deja-vu. I couldn't quite place it at first, and then I realized exactly what it was: Saigon during Tet is like Paris in August. The heat, the near-empty streets, with few motorbikes and taxis, and I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia i've not had in a long, long time.  I always liked Paris in August, when all Parisians clear out and go on vacation for a month, when very little is open, when you can walk down a neighborhood street and not encounter a single soul.  During those times, it feels like the city is there just for you to explore, all yours, your own private Paris.  I hope to have a good time exploring quiet Saigon during this next week.

Edited on 2/8: sad to report that Hai Ba Trung is as crazy as ever with motorbikes, taxis, and busses barreling down on you. BEN LIED.


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