Longest Tet break creates the perfect holiday season

Viet Nam’s first eight day Tet ( Lunar New Year) holiday has created favourable conditions for local and overseas Vietnamese to enjoy the longest Tet, starting on February 3.

An increasing number of well-off Vietnamese have chosen to celebrate Tet abroad. That trend is expected to continue this Lunar New Year.

Popular destinations abroad at this time of year when the weather is cool or cold in much of the country are Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Hong Kong – where the weather is more inviting. Meanwhile, those with relations abroad often take the opportunity afforded by the long annual holiday to visit family and friends in the US, Australia and Europe.

My Hanh, who works for a foreign firm in Viet Nam, said her four-member family plans to enjoy Tet in Thailand.

“My two daughters and I are shopping addicts so we are very much looking forward to going to Thailand. We plan to spend all day and night shopping during our four days in the country,” Hanh said, adding that celebrating Tet abroad offers a welcome escape from domestic chores.

Hanh said that when she celebrates Tet here in Ha Noi she has to spend days shopping for food in overcrowded markets.

“I have to work very hard and it’s exhausting. This Tet will be different. Apart from being able to shop for clothes, I will have time to relax and read books, which I adore doing,” she said.

She said “I’ve already asked my mother-in-law to help me prepare traditional dishes to worship our ancestors for the last evening of the old lunar year and the first day of the new year,” Hanh said.

Meanwhile, Hoang Quan, who lives in Ha Noi’s Tu Liem District, has booked a holiday in Japan where his daughter is studying.

“I had to book a five-day tour to Tokyo at the start of this month to be sure of being able to get tickets in the run-up to Tet,” Quan said.

“My wife is a pagoda goer so it’s a good chance for her to explore and see how things differ in Japan,” Quan said.

Despite being relatively well off, he still worries about hefty shopping bills.

“It doesn’t matter. We will spend our time shopping at the Japanese yen 100-per-item shops.”

Duong Quang Phong and his family from Los Angeles plan to return to Viet Nam for Tet.

Phong said he had already booked a seven-day tour to Phu Quoc Island beginning on the second day of the Lunar New Year.

“Our six-member family will celebrate Tet on the island by ordering banh chung (square sticky rice cake) and many other traditional specialities such as nem ran (fried meat roll), dua hanh (pickled welsh onion) and canh mang (bamboo shoots cooked with pig’s trotters). We’ve rarely tasted these dishes since we settled in the US in the 80s.

“Spring tours over Tet will be more comfortable and interesting because tourism sites will not be as crowded as during the peak season in summer. The cool weather in the south will make our tour more enjoyable. We are looking forward to exploring the island’s natural beauty, as well as relaxing,” Phong said.

Like Phong, other overseas Vietnamese plan to return to Viet Nam for the holiday. Most have booked tours to popular destinations such as Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Ninh Binh, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Hue, and Hoi An, said Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of Ha Noi Redtour.

“Despite the fact that prices are 5-10 per cent more this Tet compared with last year, almost of our tours have been fully booked,” he said.

To meet increasing Tet demand, Viettravel, Fiditour and Ben Thanh Tourist have put on extra tours from the 28th and 29th of the 12th lunar month until the 4th of Lunar New Year.

Saigontourist is expecting 15,000 visitors, an increase of 15 per cent compared with last year, a company manager said.

But Hoan warned that holiday-makers should be wary of unlicensed tour operators. He said they were typically 20-25 per cent cheaper than those offered by mainstream operators, but that standards were suspect.

“Some of them have even tried to ‘resell’ their customers to other tour operators for a profit,” Hoan said.

Last year, the country’s tourism sector welcomed 5 million foreign travellers and 28 million local guests. — VNS Ha Nguyen

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