Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Tet Tree

The first clue that it's Tet is that kumquat trees appear all over the city.  Similar to the Christmas tree, the kumquat tree is the ultimate symbol of the holiday season in Vietnam.  The trees are small (more like shrubs), bushy, and green, and are laden with dozens of bright orange kumquats.  Kumquat trees can be purchased in roadside lots and come in various sizes between two and seven feet tall.  They come with roots attached and are placed inside of white and blue-glazed ceramic planters.  The most typical place to display a Tet tree is on either or both sides of a main entrance or somewhere prominent inside a main room.  Optionally, the kumquat tree may be adorned with Chrismas lights and red/gold ornaments. 

Kumquat tree lots are everywhere!

Kumquat tree shoppers
Transporting a Tet Tree

Sold with roots attached and trimmed to fit into ceramic pots

A large and lovely Kumquat lot

A really big and especially kumquat-y tree outside of a cafe

Our building's kumquat tree with typical ceramic pot, Tet ornaments, and Christmas lights


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tet in the City

Officially, Tet (Lunar New Year) is celebrated February 2nd through 4th, but it's Tet in Hanoi for a pretty much the whole week and into the weekend.  In this, Tet is comparable to Christmas in the states, with a general feeling of good will surrounding the nation's (or hemisphere's) most important holiday. 

One special way that Tet is celebrated is through decorations. Like Christmas, Tet decorations start going up in homes and stores at least 2 weeks before the actual holiday.  

Decorations include huge storefronts sponsored by big names like Pepsi and Coke. 

Installation of Coke's Tet display at Vitcom Towers.
Pepsi's Tet display at Vitcom Towers.
Another large storefront Tet display.

 In the parks and around the lakes, the city contributes large Tet displays for public enjoyment.

Gorgeous floral display near the Communist Building.

A 30-foot long floral sidewalk display.  My "panarama" function makes it look curved, but it's actually straight and long.

Tet ornaments dangle 15 feet in the air.  Each ornament is about 2 feet across.

Potted plants are installed all around Hoan Kiem Lake.

Giant party balloons wave above the lake.
Installing party balloons at Hoan Kiem Lake.

Next post:  The modest displays of small stores and homes, including the Tet tree.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hanoi Holidays

The arrival of the Lunar New Year reminds me that I have yet to post an article about the Solar New Year and Christmas.  I spent the holidays in Brothers Hotel, a quaint family-operated place on the northeast outskirts of the Old Quarter.  The hotel was not inexpensive compared to other Hanoian hotels, but relative to American prices, Brothers Hotel was a bargain at $20 a night.  Plus, they are one of 6 hotels in Hanoi that allow pets, and I couldn't complain about their prime location to the heavily-touristed and very cool Hoan Kiem District. 

I'd jsut come from South Korea when Christmas came.  In South Korea, I didn't see much for Christmas decorations as it is not a very important holiday there.  I saw one huge display outside of the Central Bus Terminal in Seoul that confused The Nutcracker with Cinderella.  It included a large lighted picture display of Cinderella riding in a pumpkin carriage.  The display was guarded by 10-foot nutcrackers.  That pretty much covers the extent of the Korean Christmas.

So, when I arrived in Hanoi, I was thrilled to see Christmas displays in nearly every shop and restaurant window.  They had Christmas trees, Santas, snowmen, and wreaths.  Christmas lights twinkled merrily from every tree in the city. 

New Years was also a nice surprise.  The hosts at Brothers Hotel threw a little party in the back room for all the guests.  Seated on mats, about a dozen of us enjoyed eating Vietnamese vegetables, shrimp, noodles, and (unfortunately) intestines cooked in Pho (chicken broth) on a little campstove-like one-burner situated in the middle of the mat.  (The one-burner is a typical "kitchen" in Vietnamese homes.)  They also plied us with Vodka, which was greatly enjoyed and allowed the mishmash of internationals to communicate with ease.  The group included the host family, a French man, a Brazilian man, a Japanese man (whose only English was pick-up lines), a Californian man and his Vietnamese girlfriend, Kris, and me. 

It was a nice surprise to have a holiday celebration in Vietnam.  Had I stayed in South Korea, I would have had to work the holidays without any special notice of the holidays besides another viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Gathered around the New Year's feast

A super cute display outside of a restaurant in Hoan Kiem

Nativity scene outside the local Catholic church

Another super cute Christmas display

Kris and Santa

Frosty and me

In the Land of Dragons: Stone Dragons

This is Part Two of In the Land of Dragons: Stone Dragons.  There are of couple of iron dragons in here, too.  If you are intested in seeing more South Korean dragons, please see last week's post called In the Land of Dragons: Painted Dragons. 

Most of the stone dragons I saw in South Korea were decorative posts for stairs or bridges.  I also saw a number of dragons atop stone pillars at many of the temples.

Dragon guarding a bridge at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul

Another bridge dragon at Gyeongbokgung.
Many of the rooftops have these protective charms.  I think the dragon head may be iron. 
See the dragon in the top tile?   I'm pretty sure these are slate tiles.
This dragon tops a huge 10 foot tall  bell at Suwon Fortress.
Twin dragons commonly appear on these temple pillars.  This pic was taken at Tangeumdae Temple in Chungju.

More temple pillars at a countryside temple and burial mound site outside of Chungju.  The next few pictures show the twin dragon details of these pillars.

That's all the dragons I have for South Korea, but I've been snapping pics of Vietnamese dragons for my other blog:  I'm still collecting those pics, so it'll be awhile before I post them, but keep checking back.