with Robert Bicknell
In golf, we have the big four majors. Here in Viet Nam, we also have the big four majors: Christmas, New Year, Tet and National Day. All of which involve time off from work, resulting in expats scrambling for something to do.
For me, Tet has always been a love – hate relationship, but don't get me wrong. It has nothing to do with the holiday itself, but rather one particular food item which ambushed me 20 years ago and still gives me nightmares…
Yes, loyal readers know what it is…the dreaded "banh chung".
In a nutshell, during my first Tet in Viet Nam, I ate an entire banh chung by myself and discovered that "glue" is the operative term in "glutinous rice".
The problem is that banh chung are tasty and fun to eat. They are a serious part of the Lunar New celebration and a cherished part of Vietnamese heritage. But stuffing an entire one down your throat at one sitting isn't the brightest of ideas.
Live and learn.
I've always enjoyed the fireworks displays over the lakes in Ha Noi during Tet, but I don't miss the firecrackers, which the Government thankfully banned in 1994. Those things could blow your hand clean off. They were the "Dirty Harry" of firecrackers and they came in rolls of 100.
Dogs would be staggering around like drunks with their eyes spinning around in opposite directions. Sort of like cartoon characters that got a piano dropped on their head. This is understandable considering dogs have hearing which is 1000 times more sensitive than humans.
I'm sure the smell of gunpowder didn't help matters either.
In the past, Tet was a great time to play golf because almost everyone was away visiting family or returning to their home country for the holiday, but nowadays, more and more foreigners are calling Viet Nam "home".
Which means the golf courses are busy.
As the family unit in Viet Nam becomes more extended as fewer married couples want to live with each other's parents as in the past, Tet becomes more important as the entire family can gather together at least once per year.
But at the same time, those couples who sought freedom by buying their own house in the beginning of their marriage are also looking to celebrate Tet on a beach someplace, so as to combine the holiday with a vacation.
In this case, Da Nang, Nha Trang and Da Lat become attractive places to celebrate the holidays as many of the hotels and golf courses offer special "stay&play" golf packages.
If I could afford it, you'd better believe my daughter and I would be playing in the sand on some nice warm beach instead of freezing up in Ha Noi.
Which leads me to question, "What the hell is going on with the weather this year?"
I just got back from a golf tournament in Da Nang and it didn't feel much different than the weather I just left in Da Lat. I actually had to put on my jacket at night and wear a sweater on the golf course. The sun was obviously on holiday as well, because I didn't see it the entire weekend.
Fortunately, Lifestyle Resort had an excellent gym, so I got a chance to destroy myself once again. I used to work out religiously with Ben Styles over at Star Fitness in HCM City because when you lift with a group it's more fun. His slogan is "Destroyed in Seconds".
And I gotta admit that I've been slacking off here in Da Lat as it's hard to find a good gym which is open during the hours I have available. Doing push-ups every morning just doesn't cut it for me. I need heavy iron to throw around. Come to think of it, finding a gym in general up here is difficult.
As mentioned in a previous column, I questioned the distances I was getting up here in Da Lat. Well, the mystery is over. Yes, it's the altitude because in Da Nang my irons were five yards shorter than what I get in Da Lat.
To all the readers, as well as the staff at Viet Nam News, the golf clubs and the various golf communities in Viet Nam, I wish you health, happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon.
Chuc mung nam moi! — VNS