Tet or Lunar New Year is a very special occasion to Vietnamese people just as Christmas and New Year combined to Westerners. Right when December hits, we say that Vietnamese Tet holiday is coming, very soon.
Even though the Lunar Calendar varies from years to years, Tet falls somewhere between late of January to the mid of February. However, the spirit of Tet traditions actually begin one or two weeks before Tet; when legend has it that the Kitchen God rides a carp up into the heavens and reports on the things that have been happening over the course of the year. He then returns back on the 30th of the last month of the Lunar calendar.
Tet is actually a family festival to local people. This is when people travel back the place where they were born. Most of the government agencies, restaurants, many little street stalls, markets close on this day for people gathering and celebrating Tet together. During Tet holiday in Vietnam, most of things are shut down…
Sound like it would be not a good time for traveling, right? But if you have already booked your flight without noticing it would be Tet, here is some advice for you to have the best trip in Vietnam:
As mentioned above, Tet is when people returns to their family; therefore, the transportation including car transfer, train, flight are nearly fully booked. No doubt, it would be a big difficult for traveler to get the seat, so you should remember to book the tickets in advance. The closer to the Tet, the higher price for every service you need to pay. If it is possible, you should book all needed service via a reputable travel agent to get a good price. Moreover, you can always be sure your service is already well prepared without any worried.
Unlike popular myths, hotels and hostels during Vietnamese Tet holiday are abundant. There is no need to worry about overbooked hotel rooms. Tet holiday is a not a leisure travelling time for most domestic so you will have many choices with regard to accommodation.
- Before Tet (2 weeks before 29th of December in Lunar Calendar):
This is actually the best time for you to explore traditional customs of local people. It’s great to see people are busy in cleaning and decorating their house to welcome the new coming year.
The markets sold various fresh food open later than usual for people to buy the food to be kept in their refrigerator during Tet. Therefore, don’t forget to visit the local markets before Vietnamese Tet holiday.
However, among them, my most personal favorite is the flower markets that operate for about two or three weeks before Tet (but then close on Tet’s Eve). The sight of trucks and cyclos carrying plants in full bloom all over town is something I look forward to every year. It’s something so special that you can only see before Tet.
- During Tet (1st until 3rd of Jan in Lunar Calendar)
Bad news is most of things will be closed during Tet including museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses.
If you travel during Tet, you’d better to arrange these time by a beach for relaxing. The good news is the beach will be empty as this is not an ideal time for traveling of domestic market. The beach of Hoi An or Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Con Dao would be the best choices for traveler.
Hoi An is where you can find many lovely reasonable accommodation; next is Nha Trang then Phu Quoc and the last is Con Dao.
If you love the tranquility, cities will be vacant (on the actual date of Tet). This is the great time to enjoy this atmosphere of the city. Or, visit a pagoda and watching people burning the incense, praying for their luck, health, wealthy that would come to them during the whole year.
Most of restaurant will be closed during Tet. Some are open for specific time in a day but there is surely an extra charge at the restaurants.
Some food stalls are still opened but the cost of food would be higher than usual too. Normally in the North, the sellers at the food stalls only sell snail noodle on Tet due to its sour and plain flavor; that helps beating the fat and high calories traditional food which people often have during Tet. They are the traditional food that is not available elsewhere or else-when such as Banh Chung, boiled chicken, pickled onions.
If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, that would be the ideal case for you to experience the culture of Vietnam. However, you need to be aware of what they avoid on Tet holiday
Like restaurants, many shops will be close for the first few days of the lunar new year. Some market will still be open, with much fewer vendors than you normally see; even in major trading points like Dong Xuan market or Ben Thanh. To your surprise, many products will be sold at a very reasonable price; because most sellers want to start a smooth sales year. Try not to haggle or if you do, do so politely or else it will be considered to bring about bad luck for the whole new year.
If you plan your Vietnam cultural highlight 14 days tour during Vietnamese Tet holiday, make sure everything is well booked in advance.
Quyen Nguyen – Travel Lover