Around 20:00 in the evening on February 7, we found ourselves waiting for our luggage in Hanoi Airport to the tunes of ABBA’s Happy New Year. Even though we didn’t have to wait very long, that song slightly started getting on my nerves, but nothing to do about that, because we reached Vietnam just in time for Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration. It’s the biggest holiday of the year and apparently, that song has almost become some kind of Tet anthem.
During Tet, the big cities in Vietnam are almost empty, as people are heading back to their hometowns in the countryside, but when driving from the airport, we could see that there were still enough people left in Hanoi to at least fill up the larger streets with noisy motorbikes. The taxi driver told us that people were probably heading for the lake, where a big fireworks display would take place at midnight.
We checked in at Lotus Boutique Hotel, which was our home for the night. The rooms were basic but nice and clean, and we only paid $20 per room. A lot of restaurants were closed because of Tet, so we asked the receptionist for suggestions. He pointed us towards a cozy street with lots of small street-side eateries, and even a more fancy-looking restaurant with a rooftop terrace, which was where we chose to go.
The name of the restaurant was Lau Pho, and “Lau” is the Vietnamese hotpot dish, which was also what most of the other diners were having, along with lots of alcohol. We just wanted something light, and the waiter showed us the English menu. However, because it was New Year’s Eve, there was a special menu for the night, and it was only in Vietnamese. The staff didn’t speak much English, but they were able to help us distinguish between chicken, pork and beef dishes and steer us clear of the chicken feet, which I was just about to order.
It was a nice meal, but I’m still not very sure about what we had. The beef was some kind of cold cuts in a tasty marinade, and the slices of smoked duck were tender and very delicious. What we thought were small chicken nuggets turned out to be battered chicken cartilage. I’ve tried chicken cartilage at an earlier occasion in Tokyo, and I just can’t eat it, but my dad, who usually doesn’t like any food not Made in Denmark, found it really tasty.
We didn’t go to the lake to see the fireworks, but just around the corner from our hotel, there was a gap between two buildings, through which, there was an excellent view of the action. Red, green and yellow colors exploded in the sky and people were cheering, ooh-ing and aah-ing. I think it went on for about 15 minutes, and afterwards, we wished each other and the people nearby a Happy New Year, before we walked back to the hotel to get some sleep.