For the holiday season, HCM City has shrugged off its economic blues in style, glittering like the Oriental Pearl that it was once known as. Thien Ly reports.
|White Christmas:Sa Pa's rare snowfall attracted many visitors. — VNS Photo Hoang Anh
It's snowing in Sa Pa. Thousands of people are flocking to the northern mountainous town to see what is a rare sight in the country, not to mention the Southeast Asian region as a whole.
A friend of mine sighed, reading the news. She said she missed the "white Christmas" she used to enjoy when stayed in the US, when the entire city was covered in several inches of snow, snowmen of various sizes stood in front of many homes decorated with colourful lights, and children and adults threw snowballs at each other.
Whether it snows in Sa Pa or not, most places in Viet Nam can never have a white Christmas, but the atmosphere in big cities does not lack in festive intensity or cheer or glitter.
In fact, Christmas atmosphere seems to arrived in HCM City earlier this year.
|Deck the halls:Christmas decorations attract customers of all ages.
In the very first days of December, the weather has turned a bit chilly and famous trade centres, hotels, shops, restaurants and the street have very creatively and colourfully decorated.
Some decorations have converted big buildings into gift packages with lighting as well as other props including satin-looking bands.
Many trees standing on pavements have been adorned, while artfully done up artificial trees erected in major shopping centres.
Residents are flocking in the thousands to downtown HCM City, where streets like Le Loi, Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue, Ham Nghi, Dong Du, Le Thanh Ton and Ly Tu Trong are sparkling.
|Merry little Christmas:Hanging out with friends with the Christmas mood evident.
Truong Tuan Vy, a 24-year-old restaurant worker on Bui Vien Street, said that like other shops on the street, his restaurant is also decorated to welcome Christmas and New Year. But this year they have used pine trees, lights and other decorative paraphernalia that had been used last year so as to save costs, he said.
Apart from commercial establishments, residents have ornamented their homes to greet the festive season. As usual, they visit shops on Hai Thuong Lan Ong in District 5 that specialise in selling decorations.
Small streets and alleys in Catholic hamlets like Pham Van Hai in Tan Binh District, Pham The Hien in District 8 and Residential Quarter 3 in District 3 are also wearing a festive look.
In the front yard of many houses at these Catholic hamlets, the families have gathered materials to prepare the nativity scene with stone caves, snow and figurines of infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the three wise men.
|All of the lights:Before the New Year, HCM City dazzles with its brightly lit streets.
At around 6pm in Residential Quarter 3, it seems that the day is just beginning. Children are in vacation mode, adults are allowing them to run about freely while they themselves walk about or gather in groups under thousands of Christmas lights. From nearby cafes and restaurants, the sounds of Christmas melodies fill the air.
According to the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which is assigned to decorate the streets on festivals, this year the design of street lights have been done by four companies. Each street will be designed with a different theme and a different colour. Dong Khoi Street will be decorated with yellow light, the colour of apricot flowers, under the topic "The Southern Land", and Le Loi Street will be decorated on the theme, "Industrialization - Modernization of the Country", with the pink colour.
At the request of the City People's Committee, light decorations on these roads will be maintained from December 22 through January 5.
Truong Son - Nguyen Van Troi and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia streets will be the road of diplomacy and integration, so they will feature Saint Giong riding a horse, with a bamboo tree on his hands, presenting the tradition of fighting invaders.
Pham Ngoc Thach Street and Ho Con Rua (Turtle Lake) will focus on "Youth and Ambition", while Ton Duc Thang Street will light up "Viet Nam's Sea and Islands". Nguyen Hue and Le Duan streets will, respectively, celebrate "Thousands of Flowers Offered to President Ho" and "Peace - Independence - Unity".
Tri Viet, one of the four street light designers, said only LED lamps will be used to ensure safety. "HCM City street lights this year will be entirely comparable to Singapore," a Tri Viet representative said. — VNS
"My family and I moved to Pham Van Hai Street nearly a year ago. I feel a very special Christmas atmosphere here. From early December, many families, including mine, have been decorating their houses and the places around. We always feel the cheerful, cosy and very holy atmosphere of Christmas here," said Nguyen Ngoc Tram.
It is Christmas time on Pham The Hien Street, home to several churches. Nativity scenes, Christmas trees and brightlylit lanterns are everywhere.
Phan Hong Mai, a Protestant in Ward 7, said, "In recent years, as the Christmas comes, families here donated materials to decorate the area, so it is a shared celebration."
Tran Thu Thanh in Hung Hoa Alley in the District's Ward 6 is assisting her husband in making a nativity scene in a corner of their yard.
"I find that if we know how to make the most of everything it does not cost much to decorate the cave. My family always does this for Christmas. We hope everyone has a merry Christmas," Thanh said.
The chilly weather in HCM City has been filled with the brightness of coloured lights, the thrill of gifts-bearing Santa Clauses, and the warmth spread of human beings grateful for the love of God. — VNS