The best thing about Lunar New Year holiday is the act of gathering together to make all kinds of traditional food.
The Vietnamese ‘bánh chưng’ is a traditional savoury rice cake with mung bean and seasoned pork belly stuffed in glutinous rice, wrapped inside large 'dong’ leaves (the leaves turn the rice a beautiful green colour), and boiled in a large pot for 11 hours. Its history goes back nearly 4000 years, when a prince presented the square rice cake to the Hung king as a symbol for the earth (back in the days, the earth was square, and the sky was round). The rice cake is made of everyday ingredients of farming life: rice, mung bean, and pork. It is appreciation for the local farming culture at its finest. Every new year, all Vietnamese families have a pair of bánh chưng on their family altar.
I’m a flop at tying the strings, but wrapping the rice cakes was fun. I made five!! (Yes the pair on top is mine.) It was very effort-extensive and time-consuming work, but it’s the process that makes it feel like home.
Hanoi temple tour with grandma on the fourth day of the new year. My parents wandered into this old temple when they came upon a charming old scholar. Being typical Asian parents and overly concerned about my love life, they had 缘 written for me (it’s an old Hanoi tradition to visit a calligraphy scholar and have a word written for the new year as good luck). At least the concept of “duyên” is something I’m most inclined to believe - you’re meant to connect with certain people or places at certain points in your life, but it’s up to you whether to follow it.
The view from our villa in Maldives. Every morning I basically rolled out of bed and down into the water. Look at those fish! There was so much fish in front of our villa. Swimming alongside swarms of fish doing their morning rounds was unreal.