Looking For The Best Cultural Tet Activities? Here's What A Travel Influencer Would Do | Vietcetera
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Jan 14, 2023

Looking For The Best Cultural Tet Activities? Here's What A Travel Influencer Would Do

“What The Pho’s” Van Vu shares how she celebrates the most important event in Vietnam and her list of the best activities and places to go during the holiday.
Looking For The Best Cultural Tet Activities? Here's What A Travel Influencer Would Do

To travel influencer Van Vu (What The Pho), nothing beats spending Tet with family doing it the traditional way. | Source: Van Vu / Instagram

Tet is the rest of the world’s Christmas and New Year celebrations combined — except it’s longer, and the festivities vary depending on which part of the country you are in.

With the world’s tech advancements and its influence on modern Vietnamese, one can easily send money with a few taps instead of giving out li xi. Or, instead of traveling to your hometown, a video call with your relatives is a good option. However, to travel influencer Van Vu (What The Pho), nothing beats spending Tet with family doing it the traditional way.

“We usually worship the Kitchen Gods on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, then prepare for the traditional Lunar New Year,” Van said. According to her, a week before Tet, they purchase new clothes, food, candies, and sunflower seeds. And, of course, buying peach blossom or yellow apricot trees to decorate their house is part of the shopping list.

Van and her relatives also ensure there are red envelopes or li xi for the kids. “My family is pretty traditional, so we would cook all traditional food for Lunar New Year, such as square sticky rice cake (banh chung), boiled chicken (ga luoc), fried rolls (nem), bamboo shoot soup (canh mang), etc. We also practice the customs for the first day of the new year, such as not sweeping the floor, cutting nails, or breaking things. I love the no sweeping part because I don’t need to do house chores.”

Originally from Hanoi, Van is spending the week-long holiday with her family in the capital and her mother’s hometown Nghe An. After seven years of living in the US to study and work, she moved back to Vietnam in 2020 with one goal in mind: “The world will be a better place if we understand each other’s culture.”

In the same year, she launched her YouTube channel, where she talks about Vietnamese culture and shares her travel adventures. But unlike most travel vlogs, Van’s “What The Pho” channel educates and provides a deeper understanding of Vietnamese culture beyond war and pho.

While traveling around the country is often suggested as a no-no, especially for foreigners, during Tet, Van said it’s an excellent opportunity for foreigners to meet locals and immerse themselves in the culture.

Unlike the years before, Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities in the country are no longer considered ghost towns throughout the holidays. For those thinking about hopping on a train or plane, expats or not, on Tet, here are Van’s top 5 places to travel for a holiday.

Coffee shops in the Old Quarter

In one of her vlogs, Van was quoted saying, when in Hanoi, “you do not only enjoy the sweetness of present moments, but you get to appreciate the bitterness of history.” And that’s precisely what the Old Quarter coffee tastes like.

“You'll feel at peace there. You can enjoy a hot cup of egg coffee, see the roads, and feel the cold air,” Van said. When in the area, Van recommends to not only dine and drink but also take time to talk with vendors and even strangers.

Why is Tet the best time to visit Coffee Shops in the Old Quarter? “It brings you good vibes, and you can learn about Vietnamese culture.”

Huong Pagoda Festival

Thien Tru Pagoda in Hanoi | Source: Shutterstock

Huong Pagoda Festival is a Buddhist festival held annually and lasts three months, from the 6th day of the Lunar New Year to the 6th day of the third lunar month in the year. But, the official days of the festival are only from the 15th to the 20th day of the second lunar month. It’s a must-experience for locals and expats to learn more about the Vietnamese religion. This festival is about praying for oneself and one’s family.

But besides that, Van suggests taking advantage of the sightseeing trips and participating in the locals’ games. And don’t miss out on the food.

Why is Tet the best time to experience Huong Pagoda Festival? “It’s a festival where many people gather to pray and give thanks as well as to have fun and bond over traditional games and activities.”

Quang An flower market

Quang An flower market in Hanoi | Source: Shutterstock

Tet won’t be complete without flowers. And by flowers, we don’t mean vases and bouquets; we mean massive pots and garden-size amounts. Quang An flower market in Hanoi’s Tay Ho district is what foreign visitors often call a “beautiful balance of beauty and craze,” and when you visit the flower market during Tet, it still is a balance of the two but on a higher level.

Vietnamese households always have flowers that bloom on Tet because it symbolizes wealth and passionate love among people. To Van, buying flowers for yourself boosts her mood.

Why is Tet the best time to visit Quang An flower market? “During Tet, many flowers blossom in the spring, which is important for our culture and the celebration.”

Go up north to Moc Chau, Sapa, or Ha Giang

While the priority is spending time at home for the week-long holiday, it won’t hurt to go on an adventure and embrace a different vibe for a couple of days. While in the spirit of the celebration, volunteering or staying at the local’s house is something Van would do while up north.

Why is Tet the best time to go up north? “You’ll feel grateful and meaningful to start a new year.”

Ong Do street in Ho Chi Minh City

Source: Vietcetera

New Year is about attracting luck and positivity. In Vietnam, one way to do that is to get yourself a custom calligraphy artwork that you could hang at home. And if you’re in HCMC, Ong Do street is where you could find tons of options.

People might want some particular characters in which their wishes and dreams for the new year are written, such as Phuc (Happiness), Loc (Wealth), Tho (to be long-lived), Duc (Virtue), Tri (Knowledge), or Tai (Talent).

Why is Tet the best time to visit Ong Do street in Ho Chi Minh City? “It’s the best time to get a calligraphy for luck.”