Tet in Danang

1 02 2009

Danang, Vietnam

Danang offers about as much to tourists of Vietnam as Silicon Valley offers to tourists of America. In other words, not much in the realm of entertainment or foreign services. As the third largest city in Vietnam, I figured they would have enough international business clients to have an expat community and therefore some accomodation for the English speaking foreigner. That was a miscalculation on my part. Few signs or menus could be found in English and even fewer people who could speak the language. I wouldn’t normally find this to be much of a problem, but we had one extra handicap…Tet.

On the water in Danang

On the water in Danang

Tet is the Chinese New Year, which is also celebrated quite devoutly in Vietnam. Unlike our American New Year’s, Tet is a family affair where migrant workers from all over Vietnam travel back to their homes to celebrate as a family. Though Tet is on January 26th, it is celebrated from the 25th to the 28th. What this means for tourists in Danang was 4 days of randomly closed restaurants, grocery stores, and shops. We often found ourselves calling restaurants, receiving an answer in broken English, then walking 20 minutes only to find that the restaurant is actually closed. Luckily for us, the only reliably open establishment also happened to be the most gorgeous cafe we have ever visited called Truc Lam Vien, or Garden Center Cafe. Not only did it have an English menu and delicious food, it looked like some version of Asian heaven with various lily ponds, bamboo bridges, lush green plants, bonsai trees, pagodas, and blue and white pottery. As far as consolations go, it did a nice job.

Gardens of Truc Lam Vien

Gardens of Truc Lam Vien

Though Tet is a family affair, we did get to join in on some of the celebrations. Fireworks on the night of the 25th were a big event. Our walk during the day revealed the location of the explosives, so when 11:30 came we wandered out that spot to watch the light show. As was to be expected, the whole city came out with us. The roads were packed with people streaming in and the city center traffic circle was packed with people.

We sat in the center of the mayhem, much to the amusement of the locals and watched a really cool 15 minute fireworks show. Both sides of the river banks were setting them off, so it almost seemed like a battle at times. The east side of the river seemed to be winning on sheer volume, but we had the cool heart shaped fireworks, so I think we won for style.

Heart Shaped Firework
Heart Shaped Firework

Heading back to our hotel after the show was the most amusing of all. The communist love of order apparently does not extend to the roads in Vietnam because there was quite a standstill when several hundred thousand people attempted to leave the center on moto and on foot and all going in opposite directions. Gage and I literally found ourselves vaulting over tires as motos attempted to inch forward despite our legs being in the way. Proof positive that the Vietnamese people are much more comfortable in confined quarters than westerners.

For more pictures from Danang, click here.

  • Suggestions:
    There is apparently a microbrewery in town called Tulip, though our attempting to patronize the place failed twice due to their random hours. We even saw several locals turn away after attempting to visit Tulip, so apparently even the ability to call and speak to anyone there does not ensure that you will know when it is open. If beer is your thing, it may be worth it. Good luck.
    The Garden Center Cafe is gorgeous, especially at night. They have wifi, great food, and one heck of an atmosphere. It’s on Truong Cong Dinh, a couple of blocks from the river.
    Theres a noodle stall across from the Hoa Hong (Rose) Hotel that serves up a nice bowl of pho for 20,000 Dong. They also appear to be open when all other places are closed including fairly late into the evening. Order by pointing.



2 responses

2 02 2009

The first thing that came to mind when I read the title of your post was “The Tet Offensive”. I remembered hearing/reading about it during 1968 (I only know the year b/c I looked it up b/f I posted – I enjoy history but certainly don’t remember stuff so that I can simply pop out a date). The fireworks then were nothing like those you saw – as I’m sure you know. Thank goodness!!!!! Your descriptions of this most recent experience were fabulous, colorful (including the heart shaped fireworks and the Truc Lam Vien) and uplifting!

3 02 2009

Incredible adventure – occasional hardships mixed with joy and wonder.

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