New Year – Viet or Chinese Style

3 Feb
Happy year of the Cat - 2011

Happy year of the Cat - 2011

Don’t get in a fight now – it doesn’t really matter. Some call it Chinese New Year, some call it Vietnamese ‘Tet’.  Fact is that 3 February is new year on ‘this side’ of the globe. The Vietnamese celebrate the year of the cat, which for strange reasons, in the Chinese world it is the year of the rabbit. (something got lost in translation?) – pics below.

However, both of the new years involve lots of kitchy decorations, sporting either rabbits or kitties for 2011. Red envelopes are present everywhere, in the New Year trees (who said only christians decorated pagan trees ;-), in your pocket (if all goes well) and you should make sure red envelopes make it to the pockets of your relatives and friends. In a tourist city, like Siem Reap, where life never stops to vibrate, all of a sudden shops close (tough luck for the tourists) and bus prices double.

Why not have a pig for the year of the rabbit?

Why not have a pig for the year of the rabbit?

As I was staying in the Golden Banana guest house, owned by a Chinese-Khmer guy, of course New Year had to be celebrated. Lanterns were put up everywhere and an entire roasted pig was shuttled in for the occasion (on the back of a motorbike!!), loads of fruits and other goodies. They first were offered to the spirits (near the spirit house) and drenched in incense (and so were the guests) to bring upon a prosperous new year. And as if a deafening wedding next door a couple of days ago wasn’t enough yet, of course, the staff would have a party – involving not only lots of drink – but also the necessary decibels of cheers and music.

As for me, I went to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year (longing) in a French-Vietnamese restaurant in the more quiet part of Siem Reap, across the river. As it was French owned (as many places: white money mixed with a local connection), the restaurant was open on new year’s eve. It was like walking into a different world: refreshing air-co (but not freezing, as locals would do), soft relaxing classical music (instead of the Khmer ching chang evergreens), tables with real napkins (instead of the napkin box on the table), knives and forks (because Asian food is mostly eaten with chop sticks and spoon), and wine (overpriced, but still).

I took the chef’s special: sticky rice with Vietnamese sausage – and somewhere in Berlin someone special had exactly the same dish – what a coincidence. Do you think that might be an omen?

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