Temple visits

It’s been awhile since my last post. My apologies! I’ve been rather busy since I last updated, as Tet holiday ended and I started up work again. I also moved! I’ll post pictures as soon as I have everything unpacked and looking nice!

The day after Tet, I visited two temples with my friend’s family. It was a fascinating, but overstimulating day with what seemed like thousands of people, motorbikes, sights, sounds and smells. 

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This picture really doesn’t do give the true feeling of the number of people at the temple. Lots and lots of activity!image

An altar filled with gifts of paper hats and shoes, fruit, sweets and fake money, with maybe some real money mixed in as well. 

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Gives you a better idea of the vast number of people.

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Burning joss paper to send gifts to the gods. Gifts include paper money, shoes, hats, coins and flowers. Read more about this custom here

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On to the next temple! This man is writing down the family’s wishes in the new year in ancient Vietnamese (using Chinese characters). 

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Heading into the temple. So many people!

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Food picture:

Bánh đúc lạc. So far my least favorite. The pancake/patty itself isn’t too bad; it’s made up of rice flour and tapioca (and I read somewhere lime…as in the mineral) and has peanuts inside. The sauce, made of fermented soy bean paste, is what really gets me. Perhaps my tastebuds aren’t sophisticated enough, but it just tastes rotten to me!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Tết 2013

Vietnamese New Year, Tết, is  Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday, and Hanoi is all decked out for the occasion.  image

The one on the left is the symbol of Hanoi. 

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The timing of the holiday is based off of the Lunar Calendar, and as you may know, each year has an animal representing it. This year’s animal is the snake. In the days leading up to Tết, people were busy buying new clothes, trees for the occasion and offerings either to burn or put on the family’s altar. 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to spend Tết with my friend Hien and her family. New Year’s Eve was spent watching comedy/commentary of all that had happened in Vietnam in the past year, stuffing lucky envelopes, “lì xì”with money to give as gifts and preparing the altar tables for various gods and ancestors, as well as one for Buddha. 

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The money in the envelopes should be new, and some colors are more lucky than others. Red is considered a very lucky color. 

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This is the altar for ancestors. The offerings include fruits, paper money, sweets, beer, cola and cigarettes among other things. 

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One important part of the altar is”Mâm Ngũ Quả”, or “five fruits”.  Even numbers are unlucky so it’s important that there is an odd number of fruits; this odd number rule applies to everything placed on the altar. To the left is “bánh chung”, which is made up of rice, mung beans and pork and wrapped in banana leaves. You can read about how it’s made here

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The altar for Buddha. There is no meat or alcohol on this altar. 

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Mâm Ngũ Quả with Buddha’s hand fruit.

At midnight, we passed out the xì lì and shot off some fireworks filled with confetti. image

Khanh with his lucky money. 

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All in all it was a great night, filled with lots of fun and many interesting experiences. If you made it all the way through this very long post, then congratulations! 🙂 I’ll be sharing other great Tết experiences soon, including New Year’s Day, so make sure you check back!

Hoan Kiem Lake

My apartment is approximately a five minute walk from one of Hanoi’s most famous lakes, Hoan Kiem, or The Lake of the Returned Sword. Legend has it that Emperor Le Loi, who was emperor of Vietnam in the mid 1400s, was boating on the lake one day when a turtle emerged from the water, caught hold of Le Loi’s sword and dove back into the lake. The emperor declared that the Golden Turtle had come to redeem his sword, which he had given to the emperor in order to defeat the Chinese. The lake was then given the name it bears today in honor of this event. 

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Today, Hoan Keim Lake is a popular tourist attraction and offers tourists and locals alike a nice place to relax. In the evening, many people come to workout at the lake, either jogging around it or doing push-ups and pull-ups on equipment set up next to the lake. I’ve even noticed a few tourists joining in on the fun! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures. I don’t think I would want someone to take my picture while working out, but I guess they are in public after all. 

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Tháp Rùa-“Turtle Tower”

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These flowers started appearing a few days ago. It seems like more decorations are added every day. The whole city is gearing up for Tet!

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Ooooh, at night. 

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View of the Ngoc Son Temple and Huc Bridge across the water. 

Random food picture(!):

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Probably not what you were expecting, but I saw this at the grocery store. I think it’s hilarious that the “free gift” that comes taped to your box of Froot Loops is a bag of Famous Amos cookies. MMM SUGAR!