Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Chinese New Year, occuring on Monday, the first new moon of the calendar year. All around me people are preparing for the years biggest festival, and I for one, securely esconced in my downtown hotel room, am ready! The last few days, and those to follow, have been, and promise to be, action packed.
Leaving the seaside a couple of days back, I jumped a rather empty minibus for the central highland city of Dalat. But for myself, there was just one other woman with her infant, and as we negotiated the steep and windy road, I had to marvel at the facility with which she held her seat, her baby and the bag she was puking in. Clearly she had traveled this road before, and for good resason. Dalat is a delightful resort town amidst pine-clad hills, with lakes, streams and waterfalls strewn all about, filled with honeymooners from the lowland cities, but most interesting, quite lacking in an English based tourism. This did not deter me from taking a half day mountain bike tour with a local guide, enjoying the quiet of the hills, the temples, and a speechless companion.
The quiet now forgotten as I pace the streets of Saigon, teeming with scooters and scammers and throngs of common folk gearing up for the big week ahead. With a fresh two beer buzz, I explore the extraordinary flower market, a block wide by four long. Chrysanthemum, daisy, sunflower and mum provide the predominant yellow tone of New Years, accented by the scarlet of rose, amaranth, and gladiola. Artful bonsai of pine, laurel, and fig are displayed for sale, as are superb carvings of sandalwood, teak and marble. Incense fills the air, children dance to an unvoiced music, lovers pose among the flowers for photos...as if this scene could be forgotten!
Tomorrow I seek a less urban scene as I tour out to the Mekong Delta to visit the simple riverside villages that provide this nation with fruits and honey and coconut. Later I will travel out to the Cu Chi tunnels to learn something about the American War of the '60's, a subject thus far avoided by me. There I hope to gain some perspective on American-Viet relations, and more to my interest, shoot some really big guns! It seems a completely appropriate way to help celebrate the New Year.