New Year in Ho Chi Minh City
New Year in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) as it’s officially known, is a blast and we’ve joined the city’s celebrations twice. We loved it so much we went back a few years later. For our first New Year’s Eve in Ho Chi Minh City we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew that the lunar New Year, Tet, is widely celebrated towards the end of January, but would the Western New Year be a non-event? We weren’t disappointed; Vietnam most definitely sees in the Gregorian New Year and they do it big time. We loved every minute of Saigon’s sparkling celebrations.
As soon as we arrived in the city on 30th December the first thing we noticed, well we couldn’t avoid it, was Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’ belting out from every shop, restaurant and hotel – in fact anywhere with a sound system. Vietnam has apparently adopted this song as their New Year theme tune and by the end of the first day if we couldn’t hear it playing we found ourselves humming it!
New Year at The Rex Hotel, HCMC
For our first New Years in Saigon we stayed at The Rex Hotel which is very central and has a fabulous rooftop bar. As dusk fell that first evening we looked down on the city, enthralled, as it gradually lit up in a show of multi-coloured luminosity. As well as the usual brightly lit neon billboard signs the tower blocks, hotels and shops were all lit in swathes of sparkling decorations. Pink petalled flowers were strung across streets, blue and silver stars and swags adorned another and a giant, gold dragon twisted and turned its fiery way down Le Loi Street. All this added to by the buzz of a million motor scooters with their lights creating a moving spectacle all of their own.
As with many of the larger hotels it was compulsory, when booking a room, to buy into their New Year celebrations which meant dinner would be in The Rex Hotel on New Year’s Eve. But given its superb location and the view from the rooftop terrace we didn’t miss out on any of the atmosphere in the streets below – in fact, we had a fabulous view of everything and we went down to the street a couple of times through the evening to get up close to the celebrations.
The dinner was excellent with lots of authentic Vietnamese food, barbecued steak, lobster and chicken with a vast choice of salads, pastas – even frogs legs. My favourite dish was the little clams in a coconut, chilli and peanut sauce – heaven. The wine waiters were very attentive and glasses topped up without a wait. The entertainment was excellent with a live band and dancing.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
For our first Saigon New Year we stayed at the Hotel Rex which was great and we really enjoyed breakfasting on the terrace and the general ambience of the hotel. For our second New Year’s Eve in Ho Chi Minh City we stayed at The Caravelle Hotel but celebrated New Year at Hotel Rex Saigon where we bought into their dinner and party on the terrace. This is my preferred way to do it because I feel the rooms at the Caravelle are better than at the Rex. They’re bigger and lighter and more modern. The Rex rooms can vary a lot in size and some rooms are quite dark. Also, the Caravelle has a fabulous rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon, which is a fabulous place to start an evening out. Cocktails in Saigon Saigon before heading out for dinner make for a very special evening. I think the Caravelle Hotel is the best hotel to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Check rates and availability for the Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
Check rates and availability for The Caravelle Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
After dinner, we wanted to go and join the ever-growing crowd in the steamy city outside. The roads had closed to traffic and in the place of scooters were now thousands of people of all ages and nationalities milling around waiting for midnight. Small children with helium balloons, groups of teenagers, families and tourists all smiling and gently jostling for the best view. Live music rang out from a space-ship like stage further down the street and vibrant green globes of the earth with large digital counters ticked down the minutes and seconds – a sense of anticipation filled the air. Ten seconds to go and we all joined in the countdown ending in a deafening cheer at midnight as the crowd exploded along with the fireworks and Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’ rang out at mega decibels. New Year Saigon style – absolutely brilliant!
If you ever get the chance to celebrate Saigon style it’ll be a New Year to remember and on this the day of the Lunar New Year I wish you all a very happy, healthy year and as the Vietnamese would say “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!”
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Suzanne Jones is creator, writer and photographer at The Travelbunny. When she’s not indulging her wanderlust you’ll most likely find her enjoying coastal walks in her home county of East Sussex, UK.
Suzanne co-writes Sussex Bloggers which showcases the best of East & West Sussex.