Do you know what KH Cắt Bê Tông means?

You must have seen them already along the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

These colorful stenciled wall inscriptions, mixing letters and numbers are usually very eye-catching by their apparent repetition and uniformity. Some of you may wonder what these strange letters and numbers mean and what are they here for.

These signs are advertisement for demolition companies that drill, cut and break down concrete and houses. They do not bother to use posters or brochures to advertise their service. Instead they simply create their own stencil with their mobile phone number and stamp it everywhere.

K or KH are abbreviations of Khoản which means drilling in English
C is for Cắt which means cut in English.
B is for Bê tông which means concrete in English (it is derived from the French word “béton”).
So KCBT = “Khoản Cắt Bê tong” which means “Drilling and Cutting Concrete”

Locals usually find those signs degrading and really annoying, as they cover the walls of their neighbourhoods. However for visitors or foreigners, those coloured signs can look like local graffiti or street art, giving some city walls a fetishist or hieroglyphic identity. On top of that, the effects of the natural factors such as rain, sun, heat and wind would bring another artistic touch to the signs, making them partly fading away….

If you are into taking photos, you will definitely be delighted by the KH C BT displayed on the walls of the city.

If you are interested in discovering Vietnamese cities, you can learn more about our tours in HCMC and Hanoi.

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Buddha’s hand

It is this time of the year when we can see everywhere this typical fruit in the streets of Hanoi.

This fruit is called “phật thủ” and literally means “Buddha’s hand“. It is an unusual fruit as it is rarely eaten. Rather it is a traditional temple offering and a New Year’s gift. According to tradition, the Buddha’s hand fruit is a symbol of happiness, longevity and good fortune.

Also called “lemon with fingers,” this oddly-shaped fruit is much appreciated for its sweet floral fragrance and mild zest.

It is as well used for decorative utility in local homes. The number of “fingers” on the fruit is directly proportional  to the family’s luck!

If you want to see and buy some typical fruits like this one, do not miss our interactive daily tour in Hanoi old quarter which will immerse you in the local daily life.

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Mooncakes & Mid Autumn Festivities

If you are in the mood to experiment local celebrations, don’t miss the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival!

Called “Tết Trung Thu” in Vietnamese this festival is coming soon. Held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month it will fall this year on October 4 the same day as the full moon!

Dating back more than 2000 years ago in Southeast Asia it was at the time a post-autumn harvest celebration which was devoted to thanking the gods for the good rice collected.

It was as well a time when the parents made the most of this festival to spend quality time with their children because they were too busy before with the harvest to take care of them.

It is still a very popular festival in Vietnam. People simply gather with their parents siblings and children to eat mooncakes and drink tea spending time with each other. Children remain the main focus. They play together, eat a lot, sing, carry animal-shaped paper lanterns around and watch or even join in dance parades on the streets enjoying the full moon light.

Mooncakes are traditional pastries offered to family and friends during the festival. They can be rectangular but most of the time they are round with the Chinese sign for longevity or the Vietnamese lotus flower on top. Filling is various it could be beans lotus seeds sweet potato green tea taro fish chicken and much more. The only one thing every mooncake has in common is one egg in the center.

You can buy mooncakes in all the major bakery companies in Saigon but also in trendy cafés or upper class hotels with the focus made on the beauty of the packaging. Price of mooncakes can be exorbitant depending on where you buy them so be ready!

To soak up the festive atmosphere, you should go to Lưỡng Như Học street in District 5. There you can admire various kind of colorful lanterns and feel the real excitement of this festival. You are even also likely to see lion dancing in the same area.

If you want to explore more of Cholon in an interactive way do not miss our daily tour.

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The Vietnamese calendar

Do you know how the Vietnamese calendar works ?

In Western countries, we use the Gregorian solar calendar of Roman origin. However in Vietnam, as in China, the Gregorian calendar is only used for official dates. For everyday life, it is the luni-solar calendar that prevails. The day and the year are based on the race of the sun while the month is calculated according to the moon.

The period of twelve lunations (355 days) must from time to time be aligned with the solar year (365 days) by addition of an extra lunation or intercalary month (Thang nhuân), also called 13th month. This 13th month comes back every three years approximately and is added between the third and the fourth lunar month.

The dates of great celebrations thus varies according to the lunar calendar. For example, the date of the Vietnamese New Year is determined by the first day of the new moon that marks the beginning of the year.

Inspired by the Chinese model, the Vietnamese calendar begins in 2637 BC. It is unique and does not match neither the lunar calendar nor the Gregorian (or Western) calendar: for example, the current year is 2017 if we follow the Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to the year 4654 of the Vietnamese calendar.

For the Vietnamese people, time is divided into 60-year cycles, which are themselves subdivided into two other types of cycle. The first cycle has 12 years called the “12 terrestrial branches” (represented by the 12 animals). The other cycle is smaller and has 10 years, called the “10 celestial trunks” associated with yin and yang as well as with the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

Thus, each new year corresponds to a symbolic animal to which one of the 5 elements is associated. The 12 signs (terrestrial branches) are the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Cat, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Goat, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig.

Knowing that there are only 10 trunks, when the cycles associations finish, the first trunk will again be associated to the 11th branch, the second trunk to the 12th branch, then the 3rd trunk to the first branch and so on … After 60 years, the cycle is completed by the last trunk being associated with the last branch. Everything is ready to start another sexagesimal cycle by the first trunk Giáp, associated with the first branch Tí (Giáp Tí) …

If you want to visit and explore Vietnam major touristic cities in a very unusual and interactive way, book our life-size treasure hunts in Hanoi (The Seal of the Emperor), in Ho Chi Minh City (the Strange case of Dr Lam) and in Hoi An (The Malediction of the Jiangshi).

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