Three expats living in Vietnam have shared with Tuoi Tre News some of the ways they plan to celebrate Tet, or the Lunar New Year holiday, and all agree that it is best to avoid travel.
Tet means family
Vietnam can be a challenging place for a foreigner traveling during the Tet holiday season. Various transportation companies are often stressed and have less tolerance for foreigners who cannot speak Vietnamese.
For this reason, and also because of the increase in prices, traveling inside Vietnam during Tet is not something I plan to do. I am often much happier appreciating the quieter roads and lack of construction noise in Ho Chi Minh City. I will also plan to take some short trips to places like Vung Tau and Cu Chi but will use my own transport and return the same day.
In 2013 my girlfriend and I managed to get train tickets to Nha Trang. The day before we planned to return to work, we went to the train station to buy tickets, but nothing was available. Then we checked plane tickets and only one seat was available.
After being turned away from the bus station because all the tickets were completely sold out, I started to panic. We finally found a small transport company that sold us two tickets on a 35-year-old bus with no AC and about 12 chickens in the back.
My seat was broken and I rocked all night. We stopped every five minutes to collect passengers and the driver kept falling asleep behind the wheel. After a 12-hour overnight ride I made it home with ten minutes to get to work. I haven’t traveled during Tet since.
If you compare traveling during Tet to traveling during non-holiday periods, really, there is nothing good about traveling. It’s slow, expensive and difficult. Operators often tell you there are no tickets and then you’re stuck in a city. Most services are booked out and hotels are 200 percent to 300 percent more expensive, especially in tourist areas.
There is no easy answer on how to improve the experience. The holiday is a time for family and for being together, so people all across the country try to get back to their hometowns to see family.
I believe that it is important for foreigners to learn these things about Tet so that they can try to be as patient as possible during the two-week holiday period. Understanding that services will not be readily available for just two weeks of the year is not a big problem. It’s also important to know that travelers during this time of the year should expect to pay a premium to enjoy the experience.
Tet is about family and, as a single man in Vietnam, I love the warmth and hospitality shown by so many of my friends here in Vietnam. The warm welcomes and invitations to visit homes are just amazing and one of the timeless charms of this country. By far my favorite part of Tet is the feeling of togetherness when I sit on the roof of a close friend's home and watch the fireworks at midnight. As the fireworks explode overhead, the refreshing taste of rice wine fills my mouth as we all shout, "1, 2, 3 Dzo." That feeling, for me, is truly the spirit of Vietnam. Maybe it is one of the reasons why I find it so difficult to even think about leaving this wonderful country.
I wish that all of my Vietnamese friends and their family experience peace and happiness every day of the coming year. I thank them for giving me so much purpose and for accepting me into their country and homes and I hope that the world will be theirs to experience. Thank you for loving and accepting me!
Ray Kuschert from Australia
Enjoy the peacefulness of Ho Chi Minh City
I have seen four Tet holidays in Vietnam. This year’s will be my fifth.
I used to think it would be a good idea to leave the country and avoid the crowds. However, I've had a really good time staying in Vietnam during Tet as well.
I once rode a motorbike with a friend up to Mui Ne and back. Before we left for the trip, I was quite worried about traffic conditions. I was picturing heavy traffic and people everywhere going back to their hometown.
We left on the 4th day of the new lunar year though everyone was at home already. We had the roads to ourselves so it turned out to be the perfect time for two foreigners to take a motorbike trip.
We had some problems booking hotels along the way as some were closed or running a skeleton service, but we always found somewhere to stay. We were actually expecting it to be even more difficult than it was!
If anyone goes on holiday during Tet expecting perfect service then they haven't done their research and should travel in Vietnam at literally any other time of the year when everything is running as normal.
I have spent one Tet in Ho Chi Minh City and I have to say I really enjoyed it because the city is really peaceful, as so many people have left for their hometowns.
There is not as much food available but some restaurants stay open and other restaurants have a slightly different menu with much less choice.
I don't think it's fair to complain about the lack of service during Tet. It is a national holiday so there are bound to be effects on the service industry. It would be similar if you were traveling in Europe over Christmas!
The most refreshing thing about spending Tet in Ho Chi Minh City is not having to deal with the rush hour traffic for a few days.
This year, I'm going to visit Da Nang and plan to stay with my girlfriend's family for Tet in Tam Ky.
We will also visit Tam Hai Island, which looks really beautiful.
I'm excited to eat traditional food and see Da Nang again as I really love that city.
Bill Thomas from the UK
Avoid traveling during Tet
I work in Can Tho and this year I decided to stay in the city instead of traveling.
The main reason for me not traveling is quite simple – the Tet holiday is one of the times of the year when the roads are at their busiest, people will be going back to their hometowns to spend Tet with their families.
Another reason why I'm not planning to travel during the Tet holiday is the road safety record here in Vietnam.
People will just be thinking about getting home as quickly as possible and not thinking about road safety.
Recently there have been quite a few road deaths because of irresponsible drivers, and that is when there isn’t a national holiday!
During Tet I just want to relax and let the world go because my work schedule during the year is usually so hectic.
Some of my Vietnamese friends have invited me to their home to join them to celebrate Tet so I have options, other Vietnamese friends of mine in Can Tho also want to meet me to drink coffee and beer so I'm looking forward to that.
What I don't understand is why the price of goods almost doubles during Tet, after all it's just the Lunar New Year.
In my country the prices don't increase at all during holidays, such as Christmas and our New Year.
David James from the UK