The Vietnamese Lunar New Year (TET) is celebrated in late January to February. Generally it’s on the same day as the Chinese New Year except when the new moon occurs on different days due to the one-hour time difference between Vietnam and China.
Tet is a very special time in Vietnam, more so then what Christmas or New Years day would be for us. I actually didn’t feel much of the festive spirit or great new year feels while I was there but during TET – the vibe was everywhere!
The whole process of TET occurs over a few days, from cooking special foods to cleaning the house, visiting others and giving lucky money to others, especially kids and elders. I was fortunate to receive some lucky money from a principal!
This time was given as public holidays which was a perfect opportunity to take my first trip to other parts of Vietnam, and it just so happened to be my birthday so all in all I was feeling pretty blessed, lucky money included.
Two English lads and great mates of mine Rory and Jake joined me for Nha Trang, the 3 of us being the perfect amount of chilled, go with the flow, beach loving, hotel bumming, football loving, KFC eating, random driving friends.
A 10 hour night bus drive from Saigon, arriving earlier then our check in time that morning, had us wander to the beach first (of course), to say hello to the peace that the beach always gives and then a mission to find food. If there is one thing that Nha Trang some how gave us, it was a lot of Buffet options.
Before finding food tho, a few leeches to clean our feet was a random must.
So one of the first things you notice surrounding Nha Trang are Russians. Yes, Russians. Menus and signs written in Russian in fact because that’s how many Russians live and holiday in Nha Trang. There’s actually a direct flight from Moscow. Historically it seems Vietnam formed an alliance with Russia in the 40s. From my research, the Russian Navy began using Cam Ranh port in 1979, making it Russia’s biggest Naval base outside its territory.
One of the most random nights for us regarding Russians was for sure the Lunar new year evening. After a stop in at the pub to watch a game of footie (as one does when you’re on holiday with avid football lovers from England) we got to see a stunning display of fireworks, which is a huge thing for locals let me say as fireworks are banned so they only get to see it on special occasions making it a truly special event for everyone, we head off through the crowds to a club that upon entering oozed all things Russian and left us on many moments of the evening with looks of pure surprise and really….
ZIMA club showed off some Russian exotic dancers, to Russian in your head banging music (live band at times too), along with a game of Russian roulette but with vodka shots (it’s so clever), and even a game of JENGA offered! Yes JENGA!
It was a kind of night that made you wanna speak in a thick Russian accent suddenly exclaiming that you’re “Erita like a Margherita”! (Totally said to us.)
The next morning had us renting bikes (me as a passenger, I couldn’t do it! I’m too clumsy!) and taking drives around Nha Trang, even stopping at the Po Nagar Cham temple. It is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, who also belongs with Hindu goddesses Bhagavati and Mahishasuramardini. The Vietnamese call her Thiên Y Thánh Mâu.
The best thing about renting a bike is driving to nowhere and being able to see more of the land and interact with the locals who again may I add – are always kind. One of our stops had us drinking refreshing fresh cut coconuts at a place just off the highway and making the tiny restaurant owners grandchild make us smile.
The evening drive back to the hotel was a beautiful drive around a clear windy downwards road which sets anyone’s free heart to light. Dinner was at a local restaurant that gave us our pleasures worth of crab (one of my favs!)
Speaking of food, we set our eyes on a seafood buffet which was eat your heart out amazing. Best thing about barbecue buffets in Asia is being able to cook them yourself. Everything was tried, we are actually huge lovers of frog legs now and the array of fruit as dessert is always welcomed. What is hardly understood but welcomed are locals randomly coming up to take a photo with you, whether accepted or not by you doesn’t matter but it does make one feel like a celebrity just for being a foreigner! Some of the best laughing moments in all the randomness that is in fact Asia!
The beach was visited every day and evening. The Sailing Club must be mentioned. This chilled stunning setup on the beach would be my favourite spot from our time there. The food is a little pricey but understandable given the venue. There are beds for you to relax on and if you wanna dance a club on the beach sand! We made friends with a bunch of backpackers from Norway and their tour group on our last night which was great for me as I ended up hanging out with them at my next destination. Friends from all corners of the world!