I had some apprehensions prelude to my coming to Vietnam during Tet and same thing yesterday but I was glad to spend the New Year here in HCMC.
It was less sunny but still a little muggy today than yesterday. In the afternoon the heat was tampered by refreshing breeze here in downtown area.
The crowd was overflowing and festive, promenading at the almost one-kilometer Le Loi Ave. leading to the Opera House.
It seems I'm always in the right place at the right time.
Late morning, it's time to check what's happening and as I was mixing with the locals, I heard some banging of cymbals. I followed my ears to Dong Du St. just left of the opera House. I could never be luckier for they were about to start a street show at the Milano boutique at the corner of Sheraton Hotel.
This is my first time to see a street dragon dance which is composed of a troop of acrobats. One lone performer wearing a dragon-mascot mask-costume went up the pole installed there for the occasion. This nimble one contorted and balanced himself. Then two pairs of dragons handled in tandem by a pair of men, one on the head, the other the back, did a stepping and skipping act on about 8 rows of a pair of elevated metal stools set high at almost 2 meters (almost 6 feet). One mistep means a nasty fall. Great performance. It was just a preview of what's to come.
As they were about to wind up, again, my ears heard something coming from my back. I followed my ear to the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel and positioned myself in another good spot where another free show is about to begin. There were a train of dragon and tiger dancers clowning around and the piece d'resistance - an ivory skinned youthful looking lady with the sweetest smile and perfect abs wearing a slinky Aladdin costume, and gymanstic agility. She balanced herself in a tightrope and making unimaginable contortions. The best show ever. After her performance, she was offered ampaos by kids and locals, and other appreciative tourists while being showered with applause. It was a free performance but I felt guilty and pity so I joined in handing her 2 - 20,000 (US$4) dongs.
There were other street performances and even if I went back after a nap and shower in the late afternoon, there were still some more troops, one in front of Bong Sen Hotel just across, with some variations in their repertoire and costumes.
If anybody felt stuck in HCMC the next Tet, this is the sampling of what to expect.
Xin nian kuai le (via the Mainland) and gong xi fa cai (from Kuala Lumpur) to you. Point of information - that is a lion dance. i know, i know, it looks like a dragon. I thought the same the first time i saw it.
Hope the train tickets worked out.
Just a quick note to anyone travelling through HCMC on a budget during Tet - many shops are closed (as you'd expect) and the ones which remain open often have a 15-20% surcharge. Also, the kinds of places that stay open tend to cater to foreigners and have relatively high prices. The other day I ate breakfast at the Crazy Buffalo and it wound up costing me over 300,000 dong ($15 US). That's an American breakfast with a small juice and two cappuccinos.
Seemed pretty steep to me compared with what I've been paying for similar meals in other parts of the country.