Ho Thi Ky flower market

Traffic around Ho Thi Ky flower market on Le Hong Phong Street in District 10 is indescribable with people roaming around the market to check out the hundreds of varieties of fresh flowers there.

Vietnamese have a long tradition of offering fresh flowers to deities and ancestors during the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet) to pray for luck and peace.

Customers choose flowers at a shop inside Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10. Photo by VnExpress/Bao An. 

Customers choose flowers at a shop inside Ho Thi Ky market in District 10. Photo by VnExpress/Bao An. 

The city’s largest flower market is open round the clock but is busiest between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. when dozens of trucks carrying tons of fresh flowers come from Da Lat for delivery.

Le Hoa Anh, 52, a vendor who has been there for more than 20 years, says one week before Tet is the peak business time for the market, with traders hurriedly preparing for the buying spree.

“We even stay up all night or use a hammock to take a nap during these peak days.

“In addition to fresh flowers, I am also selling artificial yellow mai and peach blossom flowers made from silk and other fabrics. “It is a new trend.” 

Ho Thi Ky is the citys largest flower market and is awash with vivid colors during Tet. Photo acquired by VnExpress. 

Ho Thi Ky is the city’s largest flower market and is awash with vivid colors during Tet. Photo acquired by VnExpress. 

Traffic congestion is inevitable with shop owners occupying the sidewalks and buyers on motorbikes choosing flowers.

Dive into the Saigon market where the colors stay vibrant overnight

Dive into the Saigon market where the colors stay vibrant overnight

Dam Sen flower market

For Saigonese, Dam Sen flower market, one of the city’s largest wholesale markets, on Nguyen Van Phu Street in District 11 near the Dam Sen Cultural Park is also a place to admire Tet colors.

Hundreds of vendors inside the market work non-stop to meet the demand. Around 100 tons of fresh flowers are delivered by trucks from Da Lat at midnight daily.

Dam Sen is large with around 60 stalls inside but with dozens of others taking advantage of the sidewalks outside during the occasion.

Dam Sen flower market in District 11 is also popular with Saigonese during Tet buying spree. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Dam Sen flower market in District 11 is popular with Saigonese during Tet buying spree. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Lily, marigold, daisy, and tulip are the best-selling flowers this year. The peak business period for the market is between the 25th and 29th of the lunar month before Tet.

Nguyen Thu Hong, a primary school teacher and a part-time flower vendor during Tet, says: “I have no time to eat lunch and my husband and two children come to the market to help with my business as the number of customers has increased.”

September 23 Park

September 23 Park near the famous backpacker area in the downtown area has turned into a busy Tet flower selling point.

The park is dyed with the vivid yellow of chrysanthemums, which are arranged neatly along the sidewalk. Traders sleep in hammocks under the neon lights every night to take care of their flower stalls.

Pots of yellow mai, whose blossoms are an indispensable part of Tet in southern Vietnam just like peach blossoms are in the north, and kumquat trees are also sold at prices ranging from VND300,000 to VND600,000 ($13-26).

A trader sprays water onto pots of flowers at September 23 Park in downtown HCMC. Photo acquired by VnExpress. 

A trader sprays water onto pots of flowers at September 23 Park in downtown HCMC. Photo acquired by VnExpress. 

Customers also shop here for Tet home decorations such as baskets and vases made from bamboo and ceramics, calligraphy paintings and artificial apricot and peach blossom flowers.

The market is scheduled to close this Friday, also Lunar New Year’s Eve, when families gather for parties and reunions.

Tran Loi, 46, who has been selling flowers for more than 25 years during the Tet season, says the business has been in decline in recent years since people are cutting down on festival expenses.

La Thi Hong Hoa of District 2 says all her family members are involved in selling flowers and ornamental trees before the New Year.

“I hope the weather will be favorable since there are only a few days to go for the biggest national holiday.”

Thiec market in Chinatown

In the lead-up to Tet, both sides of Thiec market in Saigon’s District 5, also known as Chinatown, are filled with the bright red and yellow of parallel sentences, hand scrolls, lucky money envelopes, lanterns, artificial yellow mai and peach blossom trees and other decorative items.

A man inspects Tet decorations at Thiec Market in District 11. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Quy

A man inspects Tet decorations at Thiec market in District 11. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Quy

Since many Chinese and Vietnamese credit their business success and happiness in life to divine blessings, families maintain the custom of hanging hand scrolls, lanterns and calligraphy paintings in red, a symbol of luck and prosperity, in their homes.

One item that is ubiquitous in this market is fried cake (jian dui), said to be an indispensable part of Lunar New Year for Chinese.

This fried cake is a must during Tet by the Chinese community in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh. 

This fried cake is a must during Tet of the Chinese community in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh. 

According to the older members of the ethnic Chinese community in District 5, the recipe for this cake has remained unchanged for more than a century since the first Chinese arrived in Saigon to settle down.

It is made from a combination of rice and wheat flours, stuffed with a mixture of roasted peanuts, rice flakes and malt, covered with sesame seeds, and deep fried. The cooks then sculpt petals using the dough and edible red dye to adorn the cake before frying it again.

The Chinese cake that stands a century in Vietnam for Lunar New Year

The Chinese cake that stands a century in Vietnam for Lunar New Year

The ethnic Chinese believe this cake brings them luck and prosperity in the year to come.

Betel and areca market

Le Quang Sung Street in District 6 near the iconic Binh Tay Market sells betel leaves and areca nuts, which are placed on family altars during Tet.

Traffic in the area has become a nightmare as people shop Tet items.

The market, where most vendors are aged above 60, has existed for more than half a century though regular business has declined along with the decline in the habit of chewing betel.

A elderly woman decorates packages of betel and areca on a sidewalk of Le Quang Sung Street in District 6. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

A elderly woman decorates packages of betel and areca on a sidewalk of Le Quang Sung Street in District 6. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

The custom of offering betel and areca is said to date back to the reign of the Hung Kings. It is associated with a legend of betel and areca about a wife’s fidelity to her husband and love between two siblings, and the custom is thus a symbol of love, brotherhood, family, and happiness.

Betel and areca has become a cultural symbol of Vietnamese people for generations. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

Betel and areca has become a cultural symbol of Vietnamese people for generations. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

This is the only market in Saigon to sell betel leaves and areca nuts. Tet is the only busy time at the market.