Places - January 30, 2019 | 10:55 pm PT

A Hanoi flower market that blooms just for Tet 

As Tet approaches, Hang Luoc Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter undergoes a transformation that attracts people in the thousands.

Hang Luoc is actually known as one of the oldest flower markets in Hanoi that opens once a year for the country’s biggest and most important holiday, Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival.

A week before the New Year, people flock to the market for fresh flowers, ornamental plants and a slew of other Tet decorations.

Vietnamese people have a long tradition of offering fresh flowers to deities and their ancestors during the holiday to pray for luck and peace.

Peach blossoms are an indispensable house decoration for Tet in northern Vietnam. Depending on their size, number of buds and the stage of bloom, a branch can cost between VND50,000 and VND100,000 ($2.15 to $4.31 ).

The market, which stretches from Gam Cau (Under the Bridge) Street to Cha Ca Street in the Old Quarter, is packed with shoppers most of the time.

Peach blossoms sold at the market mainly come from the Nhat Tan Village, famous for its flower gardens for a long time, and some outlying districts.

Nguyen Quy, a local resident, said the Hang Luoc flower market is a not-to-be missed cultural activity for Hanoians in the lead up to Tet, where they came to look for the most eye-catching bouquets.

This year, the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Pig, will fall on February 5.

Hoa, a peach blossom trader, waters the flowers to keep them fresh.

"I started the business more than a week ago but the market really gets going only from the 20th day of the last lunar month," Hoa said.

Besides peach blossoms, yellow Mai flowers and kumquat trees, paper and silk flowers have become eye-catching sights.

Meanwhile, one of the new items on Hang Ma Street, famous for selling toys, paper goods and in particular votive paper offerings, are banh chung and banh tet (sticky rice cakes) made of paper that locals buy for home decoration during Tet.

Girls in red ao dai (traditional Vietnamese long dress) have their photos taken at a stall selling Tet decorative items on Hang Ma Street.

Story and photos by Kieu Duong