Well said. I was beginning to think it was just me. I’ve bemoaned this a few times and on occasions been shouted down. My take on it is that it’s the lunar calendar, China, to date, doesn’t own the moon.
See also this greeting from Dave who arguably gets it most wrong:
“I want to send my very best wishes to everyone celebrating the Chinese New Year – in Britain, in China and all around the world.”
I can’t help but think this is a hangover from less cosmopolitan times when anyone with South East Asian features was generically regarded as Chinese in the UK. A couple of years ago at the British Council, London sent round best wishes for the Chinese New Year which ended up on Vietnamese desks.
In China it’s the New Year, everywhere else it’s the Lunar New Year. In Vietnam it’s Tet. No?
Working with colleagues from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the UK this week, I’ve stuck to saying Happy New Year of the Snake.
I was rather charmed by this little scene outside the back gates of the Hanoi Intercontinental Hotel this evening.
If I hadn’t been reminded of the Kitchen Gods earlier I might have passed by without giving it a thought.
But it appears the hotel’s chefs were taking a quick break to burn their offerings, sending the Kitchen Gods skywards with reports of their activities for the Jade Emperor ahead of the lunar new year.
I was writing recently of plans to gentrify the Old Quarter. I argued that for better or worse there are still large parts of Hanoi that are “real’. In trying to appease tourists you’d lose the very things that make Hanoi special.
This wasn’t a show for customers – though sadly I bet one day it will be.
As mentioned earlier, we spent Tet in Luang Prabang one of those places that I initially liked then struggled with the longer I was there.
We started the holiday with an ongoing joke that everything was “so much better than Hanoi” – the backpacker near cliche of comparing everything in Vietnam negatively to Laos. But as the holiday went on, one more than one occasion we sat and ate (with bitten tongues, which is tricky) while listening to someone holding forth on why Laos was so amazing and Vietnam (and usually Hanoi) was, at best, different.
On one occasion a person who hadn’t liked Vietnam went on to elaborate about how amazing Vang Vien had been. ”People were so drunk they were jumping in, forgetting they couldn’t swim,” they said gleefully.
Looking around the Orio smoothie stands and the Nutella Crepe ladies and the bucket bars, Luang Prabang is making those backpackers feel at home. Meanwhile I think Hanoi is falling off the backpacker map pretty quickly.
What Hanoi doesn’t do is exist solely for tourists. Yes it has many issues that desperately need sorting but it’s fairly unapologetic in how you find it. For some that is going to be wonderful, for others terrifying, for others it makes it not worth bothering with.
Even as a foreigner you can be invisible in Hanoi but not everyone wants to go unnoticed.
Luang Prabang was gorgeous, the surrounds perhaps the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, but it’s worth noting that its most populated street had no river views – just eating, shopping and drinking. That was the draw.
There’s no point in comparing the places too closely because it’s hardly like for like. But I will say that a week in Luang Prabang was lovely but too long.
Meanwhile I’ve spent five years and counting in Hanoi and I’m just getting started.
* Rest of the pics are here.