For over a week now, the local parks have been filled with vendors selling massive potted chrysanthemum plants, orchids, and an incredible selection of trinkets and gift items for family members and friends.
This is a time for renewal. New clothes are purchased, huge meals prepared, and the sidewalk in front of each business and home is thoroughly scrubbed clean to help facilitate a new beginning.
HCMC is virtually closed, because this is a time traditionally spent with family. Since most people here are from somewhere else, they travel to their family home village or city with gifts for their family. Most stores and restaurants were shuttered yesterday for the holiday and will re-open in five days, maybe a week. Here in the tourist-heavy area of District 1, there are a few restaurants still operating and the hotels are open, but well over half are shuttered.
For this Westerner, it's a big strange to be wishing people a Happy New Year for the second time in a month, though it feels good to see everyone so happy.
Thank you to my Seattle friend Huong for suggesting I extend my trip a few days to experience this. It is wonderful!
Happy New Year!