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Happy year of the horse

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buying peach blossoms

We arrived back from Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc last week to a Hanoi totally decked out for Tet – the Vietnamese new year. Today is the first official day of the week long holiday. The stalls at the Tet market are full of new year treats and decorations. Paper money, offerings, and joss sticks are sold for prayer to ancestors and bring good luck and wealth in the next life. People are buying candied fruits and strange foods like blackened birds and traditional Tet sticky rice in banana leaf. The streets are lined with lights and decorations and everyone is buying tress, blossoms, orchids and flowers. Not wanting to be left out, I have purchased a cumquat tree (which signifies good luck for the year ahead) and some peach blossoms which are hung with the traditional red decorations. We even gave li xi – red envelopes with money (in our case fake money) – at our weekend dinner party. Here are a few photos from around town:

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tents are lined with orchids for sale at the flower market

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decorations to hang on the tree and offerings to be burnt or taken to the temples

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streets lined with Tet specialties

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at the Tet market

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A Tet special – blackened birds served in cans, yes they are feet sticking out the top

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The cumquat tree which will reside on the balcony

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Our housekeeper added the tinsel

By the way… I am aware I have already broken one of my new years resolutions to write on my blog every week, but I figure since the Vietnamese new year is only just starting I have another chance!

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Rất mưa (very rainy)

ImageHeading home from dinner with friends on Friday night, the air was hot and thick… more so than usual. A typhoon was predicted for the weekend and we could feel it building in the dark air. We woke Saturday morning to heavy rain that continued throughout the day. While perhaps not typhoon level – Hanoi is a way inland – the rain was bucketing down. With no food in the house we ducked around the corner to pick up some fruit and veges from the market. We returned home drenched, but with a good looking pineapple and ingredients for soup, bread and marmalade.

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Despite the downpour, vendors and market goers seemed relatively nonplussed. People were plucking ducks, wringing chickens necks, chopping mystery meat, hawking bananas and custard apples. Scooters, still on the road despite the lack of visability, zoomed past, their drivers sheltered by colored ponchos, only visible as colored blurs in the rain. The bia hoi sellers brushed a never ending stream of water away from the small tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Zack gazed out the window and planned future holidays while I cooked… the marmalade was a bit bitter but I was happily surprised to find that my bread turned out perfectly.

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Nắng Nóng

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Escaping the mid-day heat in a nearby park

Nắng nóng… sunny and hot. To my readers in Australia who are shivering in the rainy Victorian weather, doesn’t that sounds lovely right now? Well you’re wrong. Last week was day after day of nắng nóng. A phrase Hanoians say in a tone reminiscent of “cold and rainy”… for once, hot and sunny weather is not something to look forward to. Growing up in Bright, 40 degree days are not uncommon but 40 degree days with air so thick I feel as if I’ll drown under Hanoi’s smoggy skies are another kettle of fish… or bowl of snakes is, perhaps more appropriate.

Around the corner is a small pop-up market. Every morning women arrive with long poles sporting baskets of goods and conical hats lowered against the heat and scooter fumes. If I go early on the right days (which I am yet to pin down) I may be lucky enough to see bowls of small snakes, withering in the sun next to half plucked dead chickens laid out next to their live brethren. Beside the watery bowls of circling fish, waiting to be unceremoniously slaughtered on the road; I buy bananas, pineapples, mangoes and something I thought was a lychee but is apparently a type of chom chom… a word I only know from Vietnamese class.

ImageWalking home in the humidity, half human half puddle, a strong wind picked up and blew bright green leaves across my path. As I thankfully turned my damp face to the breeze, I caught a sweet tangy wiff of the freshly cut passionfruit displayed at the small street stall where I occasionally drink café sữa đá (iced coffee). Given the rapidly descending light, I decided against stopping. As I reached home, the blackened sky opened up and the world was awash with water. In the darkness, shop lights flicked on and the street fell quiet, a rare sight for mid-afternoon. Fifteen minutes later it cleared and life resumed. The heat had gone… for now.