Some travel tips during Tết Holiday

Tet or Tet Nguyen Dan is a Traditional New Year of Vietnam, according to the lunar calendar. Tet takes place from the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. For the Vietnamese people, Tet is the most important time, just like Christmas, it is the time that we think about our family; no matter how far we are, we go back home. Therefore, before the holiday, the demand for transportation increases dramatically. But after the 29th December of Lunar Calendar, the whole country enter go-slow mode: no more traffic jam, most shop, and stores closed. But it is the best time to travel to Vietnam; it is the rare time that you can see the beauty of old buildings that were left during French Colonial time; the old pagoda cast its shadow on the braved street of Old Quarter.

While you can enjoy some downtime in Vietnam, there are some tips that you should take note while traveling to Vietnam during that time.

When is Tet?

For the year of 2018, Tet Holiday falls from Thursday 15/02/2018 to Sunday 18/02/2018. During that time most services closed, and there are only a few restaurants beside in-hotel restaurants operate. Therefore, if your hotel doesn’t provide dining service during this time, you should ask for any recommended restaurants.

Travel

About three days before the Tet Holiday, it is going-home time, so DON’T travel during that time or you will stuck in the crowd like a ham in a sandwich. The prices for buses, trains, and airline are skyrocket. Additional plastic seats will be added to bus and train for higher demand of local folks, and they might bring livestock on board. Even flights become a nightmare for tourists, long delay time, a high number of fellow local travelers who quite often be first-time flyers, so they seat wherever they want, usually taking the window seats, and put their luggage wherever they see a space.

Watch out for valuables

It seems that even thefts want to have more money to bring back home. That means, watch out for your valuable things such as phones, wallet, camera, etc.  Be careful with street vendors, shoe-shiners and “xich lo” drivers who try to sell some food, fixing your shoes, or ask you to take a ride.

Accommodation

While most restaurants and other services closed, hotels and resorts are packed with people who want to enjoy Tet in a new way. Booking ahead is the way to go here. In the famous tourist cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, etc., it is easy to find a hotel in online booking site. But in smaller destinations, especially ones that only have small family-run guesthouses, you should be prepared for some difficulties. If you are lucky to stay with a host family for Tet Holiday, you will have a really fun time cooking traditional foods and enjoy a “Tat Nien” (Year End) Meal with local folks.

Where to go during Tet

Depending on the policy of each company, some will operate throughout the holiday with a cut-down of staff; some others will close for three days. Places such as Ho Guom (Hanoi), Hoi An, Da Lat, Nguyen Hue Street (Sai Gon) are crazy, fun and brilliantly confusing, and are top destinations during the Tet holidays for the Vietnamese. Some choices for ones who hate crowded places: Trang An (Ninh Binh), Hue, Mekong Delta, Con Dao Island.

Some other tips

Avoid wearing dark color clothes when you visit someone’s house in Tet, choose something with a bright color such as red and yellow. Because red and yellow are considered the color of luck, while black and white are the color of dead and misfortune.

No bargain when shopping during the holiday as it will bring bad luck for the shop-owners for the whole year.  And the prices of things are uncommonly higher than usual.

Take extra careful when crossing the road or driving by yourselves. It is time for party and alcohol of Vietnamese, thus, a higher number of drivers who are drunk, or who drive carelessly.

Vietnamese Lunar Calendar

 Prior to adoption of the Western solar calendar system, the Vietnamese exclusively followed a lunar calendar in determining the times of planting, harvesting, and festival occasions.

 

Though today, people in Vietnam use the western calendar for most practical matters of daily life, the old system still serves as the basis for determining numerous seasonal holidays. This coexistence of two calendar systems has long been accepted by Vietnamese people. As with the Chinese, Vietnamese lunar calendar begins with the year 2637 B.C. It has 12 months of 29 or 30 days each, and the year totals 355 days.

A lunar month is determined by the period required for the moon to complete its full phasic cycle of 29 and a half days, a standard that makes the lunar year a full 11 days shorter than its solar counterpart. This difference is made up every 19 years by the addition of seven lunar months. The 12 lunar months are further divided into 24 solar divisions distinguished by the four seasons and times of heat and cold, all bearing close relationship to the yearly cycle of agricultural work.

Approximately every third year, an extra month is included between the third and fourth months. This is to reconcile the lunar calendar with the solar one.

Unlike our centuries of 100 years, the Vietnamese calendar is divided into 60-year periods called “Hoi”. This “Hoi” or 60-year period is divided into two shorter cycles; one of a ten-year cycle and the other of a 12-year cycle.

The ten-cycle, called “Can” is composed of ten heavenly stems. Their names and approximate translation are as follows:

  1. Giap     water in nature
    2.    At         water in the home
    3.    Binh     lighted fire
    4.    Dinh     latent fire
    5.    Mau      wood of all types
    6.    Ky        wood set to burn
    7.    Canh    metal of all kinds
    8.    Tan      wrought metal
    9.    Nham   virgin land
    10.   Quy      cultivated land

The 12-year cycle, “Ky”, has 12 earthy stems represented by the names os 12 names in the zodiac. Their names and translations in order are:

  1. Ty       the rat
    2.    Suu    the buffalo
    3.    Dan    the tiger
    4.    Mao    the cat
    5.    Thin    the dragon
    6.    Ty       the snake
    7.    Ngo    the horse
    8.    Mui     the goat
    9.    Than   the monkey
    10.   Dau     the cock (the chicken)
    11.   Tuat    the dog
    12.   Hoi      the pig

A Vietnamese year is named after the combination of one of the names of the ten heavenly stems and one of the names of the 12 earthly stems. For instance, 1964 was the Year of the Dragon, “Giap-Thin”. Giap is the first of the ten-year cycles and Thin is the fifth of the 12-year cycle. The year 1965 was “At-Ty”. This follows down the line each year. The ten-year stem is not usually mentioned when discussing the year. Thus, we hear “the Year of Dragon” or “the Year of Snake”, etc. Giap-Thin, the Year of Dragon, will not return for a 60-year period. This is true of all combinations.

The Vietnamese like the lunar calendar because they can be sure of a full moon on the 15th day of each month. The lunar calendar can be quite precise and synchronized with the seasons so long as correct astronomical data are used.