Everyone had been asking ‘what are your plans for Christmas?’ and we’d like to tell you we we’re off somewhere exciting but the honest answer is ‘nothing!’ Christmas isn’t really a ‘thing’ over here, so we were lucky it fell on a weekend otherwise we’d have been teaching lessons as normal. We did however, have a week of teaching our students how we celebrate Christmas back home, which involved some Christmas Bingo, lots of colouring in and Lawrence dressing up as Santa.
There are some half-hearted attempts at Christmas decorations around the city, particularly in the more touristy areas, coffee shops or shopping centres. But Hanoi doesn’t feel festive in the same way it would at home, particularly due to the mild weather we’ve been having. We had been warned before we arrived in Hanoi that it does get chilly in the winter months and were advised by our language centre to bring jackets with us. We scoffed at this, choosing only to pack our lightweight waterproof jackets and minimal warm clothing in the way of jumpers. We were shocked when, in mid November, we were scurrying to the shops to purchase long sleeve tops and Lawrence’s thermal leggings. November seemed to be a bit of an anomaly thankfully. We were worried it was just going to get colder from there on out and we’d be shivering into December, but it seems cold fronts are only temporary and we’ve enjoyed some glorious sunshine this month.
But the mornings can still get nippy. Often, when we wake up for school the temperature can drop to 15 degrees but then jumps to 25 by midday. It sounds balmy, but 15 degrees here feels a lot colder than 15 in the UK! Particularly when you’re blasting down the streets on a moped. What we did find amusing was that the schools close when temperatures drop below 10 degrees (unfortunately we have not woken to a call informing us of a ‘snow day’ yet). To be fair, the buildings are very open to the elements and some of the kids don’t have particularly warm clothing to wrap up in.
But enough about the winter weather, and back to CHRISTMAS! We treated ourselves to another Omamori massage on Christmas Eve (which was as wonderful as we had remembered) and enjoyed cocktails at Skyline, a rooftop bar in the centre of the Old Quarter.
We had been trying to get into the Christmas spirit, watching festive films and listening to some Christmas tunes. But we actually found the lack of acknowledgement surrounding the day made us miss home less. We decided not to opt for the traditional Christmas meal, which you can find in some Western restaurants, as we knew it wouldn’t compare to the home cooking we’re used to. Instead we tried out Pizza 4P’s. Don’t laugh at pizza on Christmas day until you go four months of Asian food in Vietnam, no cheese, and only a hob to cook on. We shared a cheese platter for starters and had two meaty pizzas for mains, smothered in Pizza 4P’s homemade mozzarella cheese and baked in a wood oven at the back of the restaurant, washed down with a carafe of red wine and two strong IPA beers. It was safe to say we had the cheese sweats and major food babies. We were eventually defeated by our colossal pizzas and ended up taking the remaining slices home in a doggie bag to be devoured for breakfast the next day.
We can’t really complain about our Christmas this year as we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, in spite of the lack of Yorkshire puddings and mince pies. But it’s nice to know that next year we will most likely be devouring a home-cooked Christmas dinner and spending time with everyone back home!