In Vietnam, it’s the Year of the Cat, not the Rabbit

When my sister planned this short family trip to Ho Chi Minh City over the Chinese New Year break, we expected to just be holed up in the hotel and not see anything much and purely having a relaxing time. Instead we were greeted by tremendous festive cheer. It didn’t matter that most shops were closed. The streets were filled with excited young families and many in traditional attire – it was just so vibrant.  I looked taking photos of the elegant Vietnamese women who were striking and willowly in their skin tight, jewel toned, ‘Ao Dai’.

photo by bookjunkie

Take a look at this fashionable mum’s heels!

photo by bookjunkie

A romantic couple striking an old fashioned pose.

photo by bookjunkie

Most couples I saw were in their twenties and had babies. Harks back to my mum’s time when people married in their early twenties and had teenagers by the time they were my age. What struck me was how much the young parents were enjoying their children. Fathers also doted on their kids. It must be quite different in a war torn country that has lost a whole generation. Life must take on a whole different meaning.

photo by bookjunkie

The Saigon city area in what I believe is the equivalent of Singapore’s orchard road was filled with teenaged girls as well.

photo by bookjunkie

The lady in fushia looks a bit like a Singapore DJ and TV presenter Jean Danker. My partner who has been to this country a couple of times thought that the Vietnamese people look quite a bit like Chinese Singaporeans. I felt that some of them have quite a distinctive Vietnamese look though. I guess I would have to stay longer in a country to be able to identify unique facial features.

photo by bookjunkie

Many locals were trudging up this ‘mountain’ of flowers for their Tet photo moment.

photo by bookjunkie

The streets had a similar light up like what we have back in Singapore’s Orchard Road and China Town. But home though we don’t have fresh flowers.

photo by bookjunkie

People thronged at the temple to pray for a good new year.

photo by bookjunkie

Professional photographers were at the area to make a buck.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

For Vietnamese girls, long straight hair seems to be favored, although these teens seem to have their hair styled into curls.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

Not everyone was enjoying the photo sessions in the hot blazing sun.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

The city centre of Saigon known as Lei Loi Boulevard was filled with fresh flowers, balloon peddlers and families taking photos.  I was so taken by the colourful helium balloons on a stick.  My mum told me that she saw these during the 50’s and 60’s in Singapore, but to me these are completely a new experience.  Especially the ones unique to Vietnam, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a military helicopter!

Snapped a pretty young lady in an orange black floral outfit, who borrowed the stick of balloons from the street vendor to pose with.  The vendors were all completely fine with you taking photos.  Try this in Singapore and you would get scolded, probably.  Vietnam is developing fast, but you can feel that there still a strong village like sense of community.  It’s not an individualistic society, which is what I loved about this place.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

The children in traditional attire were my favourite.  I love how their parents indulged them and you could tell that the children in Vietnam are precious understandably as a whole generation has been wiped out by the war.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

There were fresh chrysanthemums everywhere with the yellow adding to a feeling of happiness during Vietnam’s biggest celebration of the year.

After bunny mania in Singapore, it was a refreshing experience to see cat mania to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Tet) in Vietnam. How did the cat replace the chinese rabbit? You can read the full article at the Inquirer, but basically it’s this:

1. The Vietnamese wanted to distinguish themselves culturally
2. In the Vietnamese zodiac tale, the cat knows how to swim and didn’t lose the race.
3. Cats are friends to farmers as they chase away crop destroying rats.
4. Purely semantics – The Chinese word for rabbit is Mao which sounds like Meo in Vietnamese, which means cat.

Everywhere we went in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh) we saw, Tet Tan Mao which means Happy New Year of the Cat in Vietnamese and cats lovers will rejoice – there were posters and figurines of kitty cats everywhere.

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

photo by bookjunkie

About bookjunkie

Blogging about my daily life in Singapore helps with my mid life crisis.
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11 Responses to In Vietnam, it’s the Year of the Cat, not the Rabbit

  1. lynnette-net says:

    you know why! the word ‘rabbit’ got lost in translation!

  2. Maria says:

    Beautiful photos (as usual!) I love the ao dai, and those kiddies are adorable in their traditional dress. Thanks also for the Inquirer link; it was very interesting. I don’t understand the part about the Chinese word for rabbit being “mao,” though — in my Mandarin classes I was taught that rabbit is “tu” and cat is “mao,” which kind of wrecks the logic in the article’s explanation. Unless they’re referring to a different Chinese dialect?

  3. Amazing! So many beautiful photos. I love that you took pictures of those adorable little ones. Enjoy!

  4. thanks for sharing this post with the great photos! it makes me miss vietnam so much!! ^_^

  5. I absolutely love your travel photos in general, but checked out your Lunar New Year photos especially, since you mentioned it on my blog comment. And you’ve really captured the vibrant colors, and celebration! Yes, I think originally the cat may have been the original “rabbit”, from some sources I’ve checked out. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    Margarita

  6. Kaho says:

    Wow, your photos are so fun to look at! The city looks so different to me. When we were there, there was still some Christmas decoration, but when you were there, it was completely changed to Tet (obviously…). I loved seeing the different faces of the city!!
    Kaho

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