In truth, I’ve always been one of those people who doesn’t like New Year’s Eve.
You know the people I mean, the ones who sigh at the thought of going anywhere and tentatively suggest that they might stay at home. It’s not that I don’t like going out, it’s just that there is always so much hype surrounding New Year’s Eve and it so rarely delivers. I’ve always thought it’s just an opportunity to go out, wait hours for a drink, make small talk with people you never see (probably for good reason) and pay extortionate prices on everything from entry fees to taxis. I am a self-proclaimed New Year’s Eve hater. Or at least I used to be.
This all changed during mine and Tim’s South East Asia trip. Prior to New Year, we had been staying in Ho Chi Minh City; formerly known as Saigon. This was our first stop in Vietnam and when we arrived I felt swamped by the place. The echoes of Saigon’s French colonial history whisper through the streets, in direct contrast with the chic modern architecture just blocks behind. The city is a dizzying blend of Vietnam’s past meeting its future, and here you can see this dynamic evolution playing out in real time.
The idea of New Year in Ho Chi Minh City made me feel excited, and for once I was looking forward to it. Tim and I decided to spend the big night out on the backpacker strip near our hostel. We ventured out around half nine and were lucky enough to get seats in a local bar facing out onto the road. We spent the former part of the evening drinking and watching the street performers. Our table was constantly frequented by a whole manner of guests, from fire jugglers to street vendors trying to sell us silly hats.
As time ticked away the strip became busier; with people lighting fireworks in the middle of the road. Somewhat bizarrely, this was allowed to happen and even encouraged by the bar staff despite the crazy traffic. It was very surreal watching taxis trying to avoid the multicoloured sparks spitting in all directions. At one point, having obviously had enough of the festivities, a policeman stomped on a live firework in the middle of the road. Embers soared in all directions, forcing pub goers to dive under tables. Despite what he intended, this did nothing to dampen spirits and the party was back in full swing almost immediately.
As the time approached, swarms of people spilled out onto the streets to join in the countdown. When midnight officially hit, the crowd broke out into a thunderous rendition of Happy New Year by ABBA as they swapped dance partners in the street. Silly string and confetti flew through the sky floating down on to the waltzing groups of people hugging below.
Saigon’s energy pulsed throughout the city that night and swept everyone into the flurry of celebrations. Regardless of where I will spend New Year’s Eve in the future, I will always remember the night Ho Chi Minh City threw the wildest party I’ve ever seen.
Where is your favourite place to spend New Year’s Eve?
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