8 February 2015
Tet decorating is in full swing, with orange deliveries going by all day long, and flowers being planted everywhere. Flowers for sale, flowers around the lake, flower ornaments hanging across roads - seriously, flowers everywhere! Which is fine with me, I love flowers! The pink cherry blossoms seem to be in high demand, and cherry trees already in blossom also go by riding on the backs of motorscooters. Public parks and gardens also seem to feature the cherry trees - and the pinks are just gorgeous, both the pale pink we see in places like Japan, and a deep rich pink that is unusual but so beautiful!
Most of the flowers are real, but some are fake - the signs made out of silk flowers are just amazing! I have no idea how the flowers are attached to the boards (which seem to be plywood), but they are crammed together like mosaic tiles to make pictures, words, slogans, happy new year wishes. In flowers!
Of course, flower vendors are busy with all kinds of gorgeous bouquets and arrangements - orchids seem to be featured, both because they're exotic but also because they actually last a long time.
But I really enjoy the flower vendors who sell their flowers from the back of bicycles, standing on street corners like Vietnamese Eliza Doolittles. Well, I don't know if they're asking guv'nah to buy their violets, but they do say and call something. (My Vietnamese is limited to "thank you" and a few food items. And "train station" because it's the same word as "chicken." Really, both are ga - one probably is more nasal, or goes up, or something - I don't really hear enough difference to know. But ga means "chicken" and "train station.")
I'm not the only person taking tons of flower photos - professional photographers are out there with their huge cameras and lenses, right with all the tourists and travellers who are visiting from all over the world. The abundance of flowers really is impressive, and the quantity just seems to be increasing as the days go by. I can only imagine what the city will look like by the time Tet is here.
There are also vendors selling little gold colored charms, part of the whole good luck and good fortune concept. People have large versions of these charms hanging on their businesses or their houses; the small ones that are on this tree branch are designed to be hung on the orange trees that people buy and have in their house or business. (It's still a bit chilly to put the orange trees outside, so we see them mostly inside shops and cafés.) I liked the faux bling of these little charms, which I guess are designed to catch the eye of the deities and ancestors, so they give you good fortune and good luck.
And of course, the orange trees continue rolling by, one motorscooter at a time. Well, occasionally there's an entire truck full of orange trees drives by, looking like a mini orchard Birnam Woods.
We found an interesting statue and, well, almost a tableau. I don't know what to call it. The statue is of the emperor Ly Thai To, founder of the Ly Dynasty and the emperor who moved the capital to Hanoi. He's also the emperor who came to Hanoi and saw a golden dragon rise out of the Red River, so he took the dragon as the imperial symbol.
So of course his huge statue is flanked by two dragons - but these are dragons without legs, because they're river or water dragons.
The stairs have dragon sides, or clouds - remember from the Imperial Palace in Hue, the dragon symbolizes the emperor and the clouds symbolize his peaceful relationship with his subjects. So we see that in this little park, Emperor Ly and his dragons and the clouds. And, of course, flowers all over the place. With banners celebrating the anniversary of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Ancient and modern, all in one.
We also found some government building or residence. The signs are in Vietnamese, so we have zero clue. But the building was just so beautiful, I had to take a photo - perfect example of French colonial architecture, with the mansard roof (also called a French roof because it is just so typically French), the windows, the cement ornaments, and the whole thing in the traditional butter yellow. With a contrasting green-painted wrought iron fence. Could be a building in Quebec, or New Orleans, or any of the French islands in the Caribbean. Just quintessentially French colonial architecture.
We found several mosaics - the first is on a theatre right in the Hoan Kiem Lake area, an old theatre featuring the water puppets that are unique to Vietnam. (Yes, we need to get ourselves to a water puppet show.) The second mosaic is from the "Children's Palace" - we have no idea what the children's palace is, but there are swings and slides and even a little carousel. The whole thing seems closed during the week, but we saw some children playing there on weekends. So we aren't sure if it's a government-run place for kids to have fun activities, or if it's a place for daycare, or maybe day camp for kids with some sort-of government affiliation, or what. I won't get too technical, but the mosaics are mostly made from small squares of tile - similar to the sheets of tile you buy for your kitchen or bathroom. Saves time by not needing to cut the tile. But it makes the design much less detailed. I can't decide if the artists were going for speed, or if they were lazy. (Yeah, it's kind of like cheating at making a mosaic.)
We found a dessert café, and of course had to check it out. It was, well, it was like Barbie's Dream Shoppe. Seriously. Everything was pink. Bright carnation pink table tops and banquettes, with faux crystal buttons to make the tufted backs. Bright carnation beams on the ceiling. Pale pink walls and pillars. Pink decorations. I ordered an Italian soda of strawberry and watermelon flavors, which of course was pink. With pink whipped cream. The whole thing was just too funny. Richard was taken aback, but I loved it - it was so over the top girly in such a stereotypical way. Truly Barbie's Dream Shoppe! (I seriously could picture a few young women who thought this up when they were about twelve years old, and somehow kept the design and had the shop painted to match their childhood dream. It really had that adolescent feel to it.) Oh, and the pink whipped cream was quite tasty!
The little kids we saw today were very funny - one little boy lost a sandal but ran over to tell his mother. She told him to go get it, and he did. As he ran back to her, he kind of veered over and crashed his toy car into me. Uh, okay! I looked at his mom, she looked at me slightly shocked, and then we both cracked up laughing. (Who knows what thought lurk in small children's brains????)
Then there was this little guy dressed as a bear. We think. Maybe he's a koala. Or some kind of cat? He was just too adorable, though, and I had to get his photo.
There was also a family with a toddler and an infant, both in Santa clothes. I know, to us it's waaaay past Christmas. But it's still winter, the Baby Santa clothes are warm, and we all know that babies grow so quickly they only fit in clothes for a short time. So, well, Santa babies in February. Why not.
At dusk, the red bridge to the Temple of the Jade Mountain is lit. With red lights, of course. Very romantic!
We're off to Hong Kong tomorrow, and will be there for Tet, also known as the Lunar New Year or the Chinese New Year. Should be a huge deal in Hong Kong, so we're looking forward to that. As well as meeting up with friends who will disembark from a cruise in Hong Kong.
Next report, Hong Kong!