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Tet a chance for expats to shrug off lockdown blues

By Viet Anh   January 30, 2022 | 04:02 pm PT
Many expats are choosing to go out of cities to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year, glad for the ‘recharge’ opportunity after the social distancing experiences of 2021.

The holiday to mark the Year of the Tiger in Vietnam runs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6, 2022, giving everyone a nine-day break.

Jamie Osnes Edwards, an American living in Hanoi, said her family planned to visit the Phu Quoc Island for their Lunar New Year vacation.

Edwards said it was not that she was not anxious about Covid at a time when the number of new cases was high in many places in Vietnam. She decided to go ahead with the travel plan because her family could really use the break and enjoy warm and fresh air outside the city after the long social distancing of last summer.

In 2021, Hanoi had applied strict lockdowns for several months to contain Covid-19 transmission as the Delta variant wreaked havoc.

Therefore, it was "a hard year of missing family in the U.S." Edwards has not met them in almost four years and her kids have not been able to attend school for a long time as well.

In mid Jan, Edwards decided to book a flight when airlines lifted Covid test requirement for unvaccinated kids flying within the country.

In fact, Edwards said, this would be the first time her family has not stayed in Hanoi for Tet. In 2021, as they'd done over the last 10 years, they remained in the capital city to enjoy the peace of quiet Tet. In addition, they wanted to take the holiday before her oldest child would return to school on Feb 8.

"It has been one year since we last flew as a family, so the kids are all very excited."

On the current pandemic situation in Vietnam, Edwards said she has tried to arrange the plan in the safest way as she can, when four kids have not been vaccinated. She, her husband and the eldest son are fully vaccinated.

Her family will fly to and return on weekdays, not on weekends, to avoid crowds, she said.

"We will wear masks most of the time and not gather around other people as much as possible to be safe."

Jamie Osnes Edwards and her family are in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa province in March 2021, before strict lockdown. Photo courtesy of  Edwards

Jamie Osnes Edwards and her family in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa Province, March 2021, before the fourth Covid-19 wave struck the country. Photo courtesy of Jamie Osnes Edwards

Safe and cautious

Jerry Wang, a Chinese living in Hanoi, said he would go to Da Nang and Hue for the Lunar New Year holiday. He was confident about traveling because he was fully vaccinated and most infections now were very mild compared to those getting infected last year.

Wang said he wished to go back to China and see his family but he canceled that plan because he would have to quarantine in a hotel for three weeks. Also, there are few flights between Vietnam and China at present.

"Not going home to spend Tet with family is the biggest difference for me this year."

Wang said he would wear a mask almost all the time, be careful in public spaces, sleep early and maintain good hygiene to keep his immune system strong.

South African Bianca Jayde said she would spend the holiday with her best friend in Hoi An and Phu Quoc, enjoying the beautiful displays of the Lunar New Year decorations and "recharge and relax" after the stress of last year.

"I feel secure traveling this year as the majority of the population in Vietnam is vaccinated and have received their booster shots."

It seems that people in the country have confidence to celebrate Tet with their friends and families. Also, people were taking necessary precautions to limit the virus transmission, she felt.

Comparing the present situation to Tet last year, Jayde recalled that it was a time of uncertainty as it was the beginning of another Covid wave. She had spent most of her break inside her apartment.

Meanwhile, HCMC resident Linda Miller (name changed) from the U.S. said she and her husband would go to Phu Quoc to enjoy fresh air on the beach.

The couple did not want to return to their home countries and take the risk of getting infected, so they chose a domestic trip "to make some sort of city escape."

Miller said she felt secure about traveling because most people in Vietnam were vaccinated and the number of new cases in her departure and destination locations was low. Both HCMC and Kien Giang Province, home to Phu Quoc, have been classified as at low Covid risk for weeks.

Also, the couple had got their third vaccine doses.

During Tet last year, Miller stayed home because she did not feel comfortable traveling. To reduce the risk of being infected, the couple will use a private car, not a flight, to stay away from crowded places without adequate spacing.

"And we’ll bring lots of masks and hand sanitizer."

Not much worried

Frenchman Ilyes Tyler said he would continue to travel during Tet with his friends as he was not very worried about Covid at a time when people were learning to live with the virus.

The difference this year from his trip in 2021, Tyler said, is that he will have fewer destination choices. He has managed to organize a road trip covering Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan and Da Nang. He said he would take all precautions including wearing masks and avoiding crowded places, which are key measures to have a safe holiday now.

Ilyes Tyler is in Da Lat, Lam Dong province in December 2021. Photo courtesy of Ilyes Tyler

Ilyes Tyler in Da Lat, Lam Dong province in December 2021. Photo courtesy of Ilyes Tyler

In a rare case, Sang Rok Kwon, a South Korean, said he was not going out of HCMC and will spending Tet at home as he’d done last year. Fully vaccinated, he wanted to return home and see his family after two years of separation, but he remained concerned about pandemic developments.

Kwon said he had to be more cautious than others because he was responsible for his company and could not afford to get infected.

Tyler said he expected that he and other people would be less bothered by the pandemic and would look to travel abroad freely like before.

Other foreigners living in Vietnam also said they hoped it would become easy to travel between Vietnam and their home countries, which was the case at present.

Jayde said people have more things to look forward to this Lunar New Year as they return to work, kids go back to school and borders open up to welcome tourists.

"I hope 2022 brings everyone peace of mind and less stress. This Tet holiday gives a lot more hope and optimism for an auspicious year ahead."

 
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