Having lived overseas for a long time, I have been trying to spend time in my hometown during the Lunar New Year, which we call Tet. In Hanoi, the cold weather makes being with our family feel cozy and warm, which is different from other cities in the South like Ho Chi Minh City. Every Tet, I have a few favourite places to go, and pretty much they carry a major part of my memories in Hanoi.
Nhat Tan flower village
Nhat Tan flower village near West Lake is famous for its numerous floral gardens. Each year, when Lunar New Year (aka Tet) comes, Nhat Tan is crowded with a lot of sprint flowers and plants. The most popular choice of flower in Tet in Hanoi is the peach flower. With various shapes representing growth and luck, peach trees are the best ornamental trees for Tet, which is why you can see them inside Hanoi families. Hanoi peach farmers usually take care of these trees for almost a year before selling them in New Year. Some peach trees that have artistically unique shapes are created by experienced bonsai artists, which will require more care and effort.
Beside peach, Nhat Tan village also has seasonal flowers such as daisy, butterfly flower, chrysanthemum, etc. These flowers have become more popular in Tet as people want to have more variety of festive colour.
The photos below were taken in Hanoi, 2014.
I saw quite a few professional photographers here. Flower farm in spring is probably a popular topic for those wanting to capture the beauty of changing season.
There were many props at the flower village for visitors to use for their photos. This couple were considering this red booth for their next photoshoot.
Nghi Tam flower market
Nghi Tam flower market is considered as the centre flower market in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam. I took these photos only two days before Lunar New Year, and the market was more crowded than ever. Fresh flowers sold in the market are brought from Nghi Tam village nearby. The market usually opens early in the morning. I once passed by Nghi Tam at 5 am and saw the market already crowded with many stores opening. Every Lunar New Year, flower markets open from 19th to 30th of the last month of the year.
Whenever I come back to Hanoi in Lunar New Year, Nghi Tam is always my favourite place to visit. It has a lively atmosphere, crowded street, varieties of flower, colours, and scents. Flower plants such as apricot blossoms are also for sale here to serve families that want to have a vibe of the warm weather from the South of Vietnam. Everyone at the flower market looks excited and rushing to buy the most beautiful ones so that they can rush to the next things before Tet comes. I felt like being part of Hanoi when walking at the market. If you are lucky to visit the city during Tet, you should check it out.
The photos below were taken in Hanoi, 2014.
Temple of Literature
In Vietnam, those people who wish to be intellectually smart in the new year will go to the Temple of Literature. They pray to have clear, smart thought, and good luck in exams. Exams in Vietnam are considered as significant events in a school year and used as a primary assessment tool to determine whether or not a student can go to his/her dream school. Therefore, many people seen here are those preparing for their final exams in summer.
The photos below were taken in Hanoi, 2013 and 2014.
The letters written on red papers describe the necessary virtues that an intellectual person should have. For example, they are wisdom, patience, integrity, and determination. At the Temple of Literature, during Lunar New Year, many experienced calligraphers open their stores to write these letters for calligraphy lovers. Most people visit the temple to bring home a letter as their new year luck charm.
These photos reminded me of when I was preparing for the national university entrance exam. During Lunar New Year, my family and I went to the Temple of Literature to pray for good luck in the coming exams. We waited for around 15 minutes for the ink to dry. I passed the exam. I’m not sure whether it was because of my superstitious belief, but I was definitely determined to pass the exams.
… and more temples
Temples are usually the most crowded place during Tet. Many families don’t go to just one but two. Students, people looking for love or marriage, business people looking for success, etc all have designated places to go to pray and ask for their desired things. I used to laugh off at this ritual, but my recently-formed belief is that if someone is willing to through the hassle at crowded (and occasionally sardine-packed) temples and spends that much effort to pray, the person is determined enough to get what he/she asks for.
For me, going to temples is a great thing to do at any time, especially when I want to step aside from the usual daily life and stop worrying. The quiet atmosphere and the smell of incense are like fresh air for busy thoughts jammed by crowded Hanoi streets.
Even the streets look sparer during the first few days of Tet when a lot of families spend their Tet in other cities.
Whenever I thought of Hanoi, I thought of this picture. At the middle of the flower market, I saw this monk. People kept passing by. Noone stopped. She simply stood there. And Tet was still closing by.
That’s a photo for thought today. Thank you for reading through this long post! I hope you enjoy it.