Vietnam, like many other countries with a traditionally marked New Year, also celebrates the Western end of the year with gusto and more than a bit of chaos. Although you won’t find much in the way of big celebrations for the December NYE out in the countryside, there’s a lot of fun in the major cities of the nation.
Here at the end of 2018, I think a lot is going to depend on the weather. I got the impression from a lot of people that the rainy season was late in central Vietnam and might last until Tet; the official New Year holiday in Vietnam which occurs in 2019 at the beginning of February. Either way, it will be chilly enough around Da Nang and Hoi An.
Probably the hardest thing is to remain relatively sober until midnight. There’s nothing worse than not remembering who you kissed at midnight and what promises you may have made…
While I’m generally happy to hang out with friends on NYE, I hate large crowds myself. A cozy bar or restaurant where I can sit for a few hours is my thing. Still it is fun to watch how the Vietnamese potter around on the night in excited groups just having a good time together. I’ve always liked the local idea of getting out of the house and eating out. And I do sometimes wonder if we Westerners have lost touch with social animals as we chat online with friends around the world while ignoring our friends sitting next to us in a bar.
Generally I avoid taking my motorbike to any major events as I simply can’t find the damn thing again in the maelstrom of people going home after the fireworks or whatever. Hoi An’s taxi drivers are a pain in the neck on big nights as they prefer to accept long rides instead of going a few blocks. How anyone in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City deal with traffic on the night is beyond me. If you can find a good place with a view overlooking the main intersections, it is a sight to behold.
Before you breathe a sigh of relief that 2018 is over, bear in mind that 2019 will include the UK leaving the European Union, Trump facing elections in America, the Australians wiping out a political party in their May elections, and of course, climate change bringing even wilder weather worldwide. Fun, huh?
One piece of compensation might be the Lunar New Year which ushers in the Year of the Pig, which is said to be a wealthy, prosperous year. For wannabe English teachers in Vietnam, it could be the year of the big bonanza!
This December I’m going to look for that perfect bone for my dog. I’ve been promising to do this all throughout 2018 and the dog is looking at me suspiciously. I think he thinks I’m stringing him along just to get him into the bathroom for that much needed wash. Every time I give him that innocent look he backs off and heads for the front door without looking back. How does he know these things?
I’ll be investing in some small presents for my Vietnamese friends too. In Vietnam, relationships are all important and even if they never reply to your Facebook messages, you gotta keep in good stead with them – particularly the plumber, the electrician and the local shopkeeper that gives you that local discount for months of solid patronage!
Actually the whole holiday period is a welcome break to me from the usual Facebook scene too. I’ve had enough of singing bowls, quantum self-healing sessions and people selling home-made presto. Uuh! Unfortunately my Vietnamese friends will send me badly posed selfies of them in front of a dirty river, rubbish-strewn café or strange decorations.
Well, whatever may come – 2019 will be a personal success as it proves I’m still alive! My goals for 2019? Stay safe on the roads; keep looking for the perfect pizza and writing a best-seller or making money from my cartoon stuff. Heck, I might even buy that swimming pool for the garden in summer!
And for all my readers out there, my boss and friends at Tuoi Tre News, my friends running NGOs, my best friend in the whole world, Hong Le, and all the rest of the cool crowd I met in this fabulous, complex, messy, noisy, entertaining country… HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!
And best wishes for the coming year!