chuc mung nam moi!

2010 is a big year in Ha Noi--actually, its 1000th big year. Although the official anniversary is in October, if New Years was any indication, the whole year will be as suffused with the event as the typical Vietnamese wedding dress is with glitter...

On the morning of New Year's Eve, I took the bus to the stop at the top of Hoan Kiem Lake, a couple kilometer walk from The Gioi Publishers. Then, I inadvertently but delightedly walked right into a flower festival that was set up along the lake in honor of the anniversary. Fortunately I had some extra time and my camera.
Legend has it that, as the founder of Ha Noi first approached its banks via the Red River, he saw a glittering golden dragon rising from the mist... ...thus the ancient name of Ha Noi: Thang Long, or "Rising Dragon."

And the recurring dragon motifs in its decor. This one, if you can't tell, is made of pineapple. The ones above are constructed primarily of flowers.

Ha Noi seal (thanks wikipedia!)

This one is for all my dutch friends out there. In case you can't read it, the sign says:

"These tulips are a gift from Netherlands to Ha Noi on the occasion of its 1000 years anniversary, presented by the Dutch minister for agriculture, Ms Gerda Verburg."
And I thought I'd have to miss tulip time this year!

After work, my host family picked Ali and me up and we all went to supper at Kitchi Kitchi, a restaurant that lives up to its goofy name. It is an all-you-can-eat buffet that serves lau, a traditional Vietnamese dish that usually entails putting various raw foods to cook in a simmering pot of broth. Kind of like fondue, but with chopsticks. And noodles. Usually a whole group gathers around one large hot pot, but Kitchi Kitchi has created a variation on lau in which each person has her own mini hot pot sunk into the counter in front of her. Additionally--and quite exciting to me when I entered the restaurant--there are conveyor belts running all along the tops of the counters with various food items--veggies, tofu, baby duck eggs, pigeon eggs, meat, fish, noodles, and some mystery items--that you pick off and throw into your pot.

Apparently, pictures aren't allowed (I guess they're afraid someone might copy that cutting-edge technology--the conveyor belt), but I took this one before I knew...

After supper, we went bowling. Cosmic bowling, even. Complete with the ABBA Happy New Year Song--on repeat. We played three games, then left at about 10:30 to go check out the flower festival I had seen earlier in the day. It closed just as we got there, and as Co Van's attempts to use us two foreign girls to get past the security gaurds failed, we left to go...eat more. The food selection suprised me. We had chau, a kind of rice gruel, like oatmeal but with meat instead of sugar..This is where we welcomed 2010 with some confetti and yet another play of ABBA's song. It was a pretty fun night! More than I usually do to celebrate New Years.

I took a moment to look back on where I was at this time last year. It was funny to realize that among all my frenzied ideas of what I might be doing this year, I didn't have the faintest guess that I might be in Viet Nam. In fact, most of the times I had ever thought of the country were probably associated with Forrest Gump.

It makes me chill out a little as I start to think/worry about future plans--they probably won't turn out at all as I expect. That's sometimes a scary thought, but its also pretty exciting!

Happy New Year!

left: the younger of my two host sisters, Nga.
right: my host mom, Co Van. Not to be confused with my other sister. My dad did when he first met her...


  1. I can't believe the wooden shoe gift! That is hilarious!

  2. does the title mean "happy new year"? if so, literally or just used the same way?

  3. Yep. literally, "wish happy year new."

    "chuc mung" together is also used to congratulate.