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Where will you be on Lunar New Year’s Eve in Vietnam?

Fireworks explode in the sky in Da Nang, Vietnam
Fireworks explode in the sky in Da Nang, Vietnam

New York drops a giant ball for New Year’s Eve – the Vietnamese create a nationwide traffic jam.

Regardless of where you will end up, it’s a mad, mad night in a busy country.

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In 2019, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year’s Eve (LNYE!) happens on February 4th in the Western calendar. If you’re a newbie to Vietnam, it’s a great time to get out about and check out how the Vietnamese celebrate their LNYE. The energy is stunning, the cheerfulness is infectious and the street decorations are nifty places for selfies.

Keep in mind that most Vietnamese will actually start their Tet holidays from the weekend until the following weekend so this year will be one of the longest holidays – about 10 days – in many years. So do your shopping and get your cash early from the ATMs!

The most common surprise for tourists and new expats settling in is the sheer size of Vietnam from the north to the south and it is even more surprising where you can end up on the night. In my first few years here, I used to go to the public firework displays but gave up after hours of searching for my motorbike after the main events. These days I like to find an out-of-the-way bar that’s not too over the top with decorations or loud music. It’s kinda nice to have a good chat in the hours leading up to midnight. Others, of course, will have more grandiose plans.

Ho Chi Minh City is planning fireworks in six locations for LNYE. Da Nang will display the fireworks near the Dragon Bridge and the center of the city, and Hanoi will hold its presentation all over the city and even some outlying towns. You can find the locations on Google easily. Phu Quoc, the southern tourist island, will also have shows although the best idea is to blow some money on a good resort dinner and decent view of whatever is going on. And home to the world’s biggest cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park will have celebrations in Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District.

I can recommend going out to the smaller towns as most will have something happening and there’s often a decent local show put on by the local People’s Committee that can be quite entertaining if, however, not that professional!

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It’s not a night for riding a motorbike. There are simply too many locals on the roads, they’re not concentrating on the roads, easily distracted and there will be no telling how intoxicated they might be. Taxis, although hard to get in some parts of Vietnam on that night, are your best bet. And safety in crowds with your valuables is a must – it’s the best night of the year for pickpockets. Go in a group anyway; even if things get a little pear-shaped, you’ll still enjoy each other’s company.

However, if you are out on the streets, don’t deter yourself from enjoying the noisy atmosphere – it’s a hoot and it’s a memorable night for email photos! This year’s weather is somewhat late in breaking into the warmer spring so plan for that as well. If the weather plays out nicely then hanging out at the street cafés with a cheap Huda beer is de rigor for the modern millennial.

Above all, try to get together with some Vietnamese friends as it makes the night just that more pleasurable and easier to cope with. It’s a good opportunity to practice some Vietnamese speaking and learn something more about the culture surrounding Tet and its many customs. Make sure you learn how to say “chúc mừng năm mới” (chook mung nam mo-e)!

Resorts and high-rise bars are a fabulous way to see the light shows and do some people watching. Expensive? Yes, but well worth it for avoiding the riff-raff, hoons and inevitable weirdos who come out of the woodwork on nights like this. But get your bookings in early! Every snobby Vietnamese nouveau riche wearing sunglasses at night while fumbling with t heirsmartphones will be there too!

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Basically, just go with the flow on the night and get out of the house. For those who want to stay indoors – many have pets and don’t want to leave them home alone – your pre-Tet-shopping will save your bacon (and cook it as well!) and ensure the night ends up in a crumpled heap on your sofa by dawn.

Still, wherever you are on Lunar New Year’s Eve – I hope it’s an exciting (or peaceful) night for you and your loved ones. And if you don’t have loved ones – it’s a good night to find someone!

Chúc mừng năm mới!

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