The Flower Safari of Hanoi’s Tết
January 1, 1970
by Hiếu MD
As a result of globalization, many East and South East Asian countries are starting to abandon the Lunar New Year, and instead celebrate the Western New Year. However, in Vietnam, even in the capital city of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, the people just cannot abandon the Lunar New Year, which has already been a huge part of their traditional culture.
Lunar New Year, but us Vietnamese call it “Tết Nguyên Đán”, or just “Tết” for short, officially start on the 29th day of the last month of the previous year and ends on about the 5th day of the new year, when most people go back to work. On Tet, people from big cities usually go back to their hometown, to reunite with their family, to do the big house cleaning, and to celebrate the new year with best wishes to their relatives and friends.
Many people believe that a trip is at its best when it is on its preparation phase. I think the same can be applied to Tet when many people do the house cleaning, go to markets to buy many Tet decorations, new stuffs,… Among those are flowers, which play a big part in Vietnamese’s customs with Tet’s exclusive flower like the Peach Blossom, the Viola, the Kumquat,… This year Tet I went with my family to Quảng An Flower Market, which is the biggest and the most popular place for Tet’s flowers.
We were going to a traditional market far away, so it was going to take us a long time to get there. The market is quite narrow with an enormous amount of people visiting with the same purpose like us, so I picked the best vehicle for this job, a motorbike. Along with me was the BlackBerry Q10 to take pictures as I did not have my camera ready that day 🙁
The trip between my place and the market is about 6 km, which takes about 20 minutes on regular days. However, on Tet which is the time when traffic is so crowded, it took us 30 minutes to get there. If you’re staying around the Hoan Kiem Lake or the Old Quarters, it would take you the same amount of time to get there too.
The Nghi Tàm – Âu Cơ roads
When we came to Nghi Tàm road, we already saw many vendors brought their peach blossoms out onto the side of the road to attract buyers. But according to my family’s experiences, these flowers are often not good enough and have a unreasonably high price, so we just passed them, and headed for the flower market.
Fun Fact: This is region is also known as Quảng Bá region, between the West Lake and the Red River. It has the best atmosphere in Hanoi with its cool and quite setting. This region was also a resort place back in the French Colonial era because of that. Nowadays, taking of this advantage, many bars and café are built to serve the above average classes and foreigners.
The Market starts around here. You can already see the peach blossom in the bottom of the pictures as well as many flowers. Notice the barrier? Because the huge amount of people was gathering here, the polices had to have them set up in to keep order. Well I could not deny that there were many peach blossoms here, but I want to go deeper, to Nhật Tân Peach Blossom gardens, where all peach blossoms here are originated. Sadly, because of the traffic jam, the police did not allowed us to stop and take a picture of the Garden’s Welcome Sign :(, but you can find the Garden about 1-2 km down the Nghi Tam Road, which is Au Co Road.
The Nhật Tân Peach Blossom Garden
This was the inside of the Garden. We went on the 29th of the old year, which was only 2 days until the Lunar New Year Day, which means we were quite late to get the best ones. There were a few peach blossoms that we were quite fond of, but still, they were just not as good as we wanted. So we headed back to the Market, and this time, we entered the market with the bike.
On our way back the market, there were so many vendors with beautiful peach blossoms. But sadly, none of them met our criteria for a small branch to decorate our home’s altar.
The Quảng An Flower Market
So this was the Market. The biggest flower market in Hanoi is also the biggest Tet’s exclusive flower market. The pictures just could not tell how crowded the area was. I found some sunflowers, some gladiolus, viola,… I even met a fellow American with his daughter shopping for flowers (4th picture).
And we got it. We found a small dealer with exceptional branches of peach blossoms. It was just what we needed, beautiful small branches which had not bloomed yet (last Tet weather was so warm that most flowers bloomed – not ideal for Tet decorations). We bought 3 of them for a bargained price of 130.000 VND, about $5, which was much less expensive than on the side of the road and better than the ones were in the garden.
Having tied them together, we carried it back to our home and began our decorations for Tet. It took us 3 hours with our body exhausted, mostly because of the crowdedness and the traffic jam. I have used to Hanoi’s traffic before so it was not a surprise for me. Nonetheless, it was fun and a traditional act for us Hanoians, to decorate our home with wonderful, beautiful flowers.
Finishing this, I want to bring out a few tips whether you want to participate in this traditional act.
- Try not to use cars, although the distances are quite far, a motorbike will fit better. A regular bicycle also works, and it is even better if you want to slowly go through each store and take pictures.
- A common rule is that we should get the flowers that bloom exactly on Tết 1st However, due the increasing warm weather (thanks to global warming), more and more flowers bloomed much earlier. Try to hunt for the ones that haven’t bloomed.
- Bargain, bargain, and bargain. If you can, bring a local to go with you to assist with the bargain. You can save a great deal if you can do that.
- Most of the times, to decorate a room, you will only need branches of peach blossoms. Getting an entire peach blossom tree are often too big to fit in a room.
- And the most important, make sure the enjoy yourself in the most wonderful time of the year in Vietnam 🙂