At the beginning of January, Tao Dan park, normally filled with people exercising, walking and practising tai chi, began its annual transformation into one of Saigon’s most popular Tet venues. The usual calm of this green space will, for the holiday period, be replaced by a festival atmosphere as families gather, many of them in their traditional Vietnamese dress, to enjoy the beautiful displays of flowers and live performances.
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The main entrance on Truong Dinh always features a scene of animal sculptures representing the new Lunar Year. In 2018, a family of dogs made of shrubs was placed there; this year you’ll find a collection of glistening golden pigs set against a backdrop of giant flowers made up of hundreds of yellow chrysanthemums.
Image source: Karen Wise
Photo Ops and Family Fun Abound at the Tao Dan Park Flower Festival
The colourful floral creations and magical animal sculptures throughout the park provide an ideal setting for Tet photos. You may have to wait a while to get that perfect shot but it's nowhere near as crowded as the Flower Street Festival on Nguyen Hue. Add to that the impressive collection of bonsai trees, displays of interesting rock sculptures and the ornamental fish tanks all set in the relative cool shade of the park’s majestic trees, and it’s a pleasant way to experience the Lunar New Year in Ho Chi Minh City.
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Rides and activities
At the corner of Tao Dan park closest to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street you’ll find a collection of amusement park rides, merry-go-rounds, inflatables, a ball pit and simple fairground attractions for young children. Adjacent to this is the boat pond where aspiring young sailors can take a turn in one of the brightly decorated crafts. Look out for the family of piglets at the center of a raised flower bed as you make your way there. Disneyland it isn’t but then neither is the entrance fee.
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Dragon dances, calligraphy and food
Pathways winding through the manicured grounds are lined with booths selling local artisanal products such as honey, incense, wind chimes and lucky money trees made of semi-precious stones. There is also an opportunity to see calligraphers at work using their traditional brushes to create works of art and marvel at the carefully choreographed dragon dances. Food stalls offer a variety of freshly cooked Vietnamese street food including the deliciously crispy rice flour pancakes known as banh xeo, noodles, fried rice, grilled sausages, pork and squid, as well as packaged snacks, ice creams, soft drinks and intriguing-looking jelly drinks.
Grab a bite and a drink, find a comfortable spot and join the Lunar New Year celebrations. Tet in Saigon can be a wonderful experience. In the meantime, those fond of their early morning or evening stroll at this popular park in the heart of District 1 will have to look elsewhere.
Dates: The festival is on from 30 January to 10 February.
Entry Fee: Adults VND30,000. Children under 12 free of charge.
A program of events for each day, in Vietnamese only, is posted at the entrance. Tickets for the rides and fairground activities are available at the booths inside the park.
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