Friday, February 20, 2015

The first day of the Year of the Goat and its stories...

The first three days of the Lunar New Year are the most important in mind of many Vietnamese. There was even a guide what Don'ts or Dos during these days - not only to avoid a bad luck but also to bring a good luck back home in the future. Some rules sound reasonable like not to argue, not to break something...but some - funny, like not to sweep the floor (as it means to brush a good luck or money away from home).

Anyway to me the moment between the old year and the new year is the most sacred. When we prepare the offerings to see the old year off and to welcome the new year in, we call this moment "Giao Thừa". Its a beginning of the first day of the New Year.

                       The traditional ritual for offerings to the New Year Eve. 

First story - Saigon is changing... 
Saigon was suddenly getting warmer in the first day of Tết, no more fresh cold air blowing into my face as few days ago during my morning ride along the road. But what we, Saigonese, like the most during Tết was the quiet reigning atmosphere in town - no traffic, no air pollution, no noise , no chaos...This year it seemed not really quiet, probably many people prefer a solution of staying home rather than traveling to somewhere else.

                      Lê Lợi street in the morning of  the first day... 

Seeing the picture below, taken this morning in Trần Hưng Đạo street, a sudden memory flashed through my mind: I feel like an old day in Saigon before 1975, a sunny, quiet day before Tết when my cousin took me, a little boy, on his luxury, flashy Honda, tried to find a place to buy an extra pot (the one inside the rice cooker) for the rice cooker at home. He asked me to hold a pot full of rice, as to make sure to get a right one. I was stupidly embarrassed of holding it, seating behind him on his motor. My cousin left Saigon in the chaotic 1975, came back only once, visiting his mom in 1991. Never second time.

Life seemed far from ease for many people living in Sai Gon. Last night, right after "Giao Thừa" I rode my bike around the neighbourhood, seeing an old woman laying down next to her huge stock of flowers that she failed to sell, right on the pavement, and not only her, this year many farmers from the flower villages cried due to very poor business. I don't know why but I can't take photos of those poors or homeless and to share it here. I feel like unfair to them by doing that.Maybe I'm wrong.

                      The annual flower street festive temporarily moved to Hàm Nghi street this year...

Saigon will be changed in the next few years? Thanks to the mega construction site to facelift the city? or to the underground metro system under construction now? We didn't change much in almost 40 years. Saigon changed or not, not because of those comforts, flashy buildings but, maybe, the people's mentality, the social consciousness, behaviour...should be up to the new level. I feel not anger but painful when seeing people littering everywhere, or young parents carrying their young kids violating the traffic rules - intentionally.

                The construction site of the first Metro line in front of The Opera House...

             The first frangipani trees on the first ever Square, the pedestrian area along Nguyen Hue blvd

I first saw the decorated entrance of Bến Thành market few days before Tết. What can I say? No taste? Irresponsible? I don't find the right words to describe my mixed feelings - just feel so sorry for the hundred-year old market building wearing a poorly cheap dress for such a special occasion - the  New Year. And I didn't dare to photo the round-about in front of Bến Thành, the strange, alien decorations there simply terrified me.

                   The poor decoration for Bến Thành, a hundred year old building, worse than ever 

I don't want to spoil my first day of Tết. Better move on. But. I need to go back a little bit...when I passed by the theatre in Trần Hưng Đạo street, these years I already forgot the feeling of going out to theatre in Saigon. Nowadays mostly comedy or simply stand-up comedy in big, small theatres in town. Good to laugh, to de-stress...but sometime I couldn't laugh, a good laugh. I suddenly remember a recent scandal with a famous comedian-actress, she unwittingly turned her own private marriage life into a comedy for the public. She made a mistake of thinking who she was. People need to change first.

                          The theatre billboard during Tết in Trần Hưng Đạo street.

 Second story - Horns or no horns? 
There was a discussion, still going on, on some social networks about the goat family standing in front of the Flower Street Festive. Some said - female goat without horns. Others, even thinking further, declared about the freedom of two males with kid in the family, i.e the same sex marriage. It's quite funny when the young people pick up some small detail from unexpected things and make it disputable. I quite like it, the idea. However I have no idea whether female goat with horns or not!

                        The family of goats : two males (or female goat with horn) and kid - still disputable...

                       A couple of goats with horn again in front of some hotel.  

                    Another goat with horn, with or without partner...not very clear from this angle. 

                   A flashy goat, standing alone, in front of the building in Đồng Khởi street. 

The simple reason - every single goat, presented during Tết, with horns as it makes them more presentable, more strong, proud. But if the young keep paying attention to those small but good detail or issues, to bring them up, it would be very nice!

Last story to cheer up the mood for Tết 
I did enjoy my ride in the first morning of Tết, especially when I could catch some moments that I like as the below photo - a family with a special member, a very trendy monkey with Mohawk hairstyle, coloured in red.

                  An unique and very trendy family member...

or the different expressions of the Lion (or Unicorn in Vietnamese), thanks to the perfect skill of the Lion dancer-master. There are something interesting I just learnt, like the colour of fur means the age of the Lion: the Lion with white fur - the oldest, the yellow fur - the middle child and the black fur - the youngest. And the golden Lion like the one in this photo symbolised the liveliness. The red Lion as we often see - the courage.

                         Surprised by the crowd of admirers ? 

                       Embarrassed and walked away?  

                          Joyful ?  


                   Doubtful ? Hesitating before the next step?  

                  and finally - a perfect jump 

I came back home, after two hours riding bike in not really quiet Saigon, but I did feel the peaceful atmosphere here and there. Not like before when all business was closed during Tết, these days everywhere we see a shop banner "We are open throughout Tết", but Tết was probably a good time when we prefer to cook something at home, so I did enjoy my bowl of instant noodle with a five-colours ham I ordered from friend for family! It was very good!

                   The five-colour ham (chả ngũ sắc) a new speciality for Tết 

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