|Students choose gifts for their Valentines in Ho Chi Minh City|
Students and celebrities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City enjoy Valentineâs Day with gifts, trips, flowers and cards.
A well-coiffured young woman finesses her way through the crowd at a street-side shop where Valentineâs Day cards are practically flying off the shelves. She quickly snatches a card with a detachable heart.
âIâve been looking for the right card for two days,â says Hanoi University student Nguyen Thu Ha after paying over VND100,000 (US$6) for the card. âI want to give my boyfriend a unique and meaningful gift for Valentineâs Day.â
Ha is one of many young people in Vietnam putting their hearts into Valentine’s Day.
A relatively recent western import, the international day of romance here looks similar to celebrations around the world as couples exchange roses, bouquets, boxes of Belgian chocolates and even drippy Hallmark greeting cards.
âYoung people now have much wider access to information, particularly from the Internet,â says 45-year-old Hoang Lan Phuong, a teacher at a Hanoi secondary school. âThey understand more about western culture and theyâve been changed by it.â
Phuongâs daughter Le Thuy Van says: âIn my parentsâ generation, people didnât know about Valentineâs Day. They missed out.â
The 20-year-old is baking a chocolate cake for her boyfriend on the special day.
âI really hope heâll like it!â she says excitedly.
St. Valentineâs Day Mass-accrue
But if young lovers who express their feelings in the right way win big on Valentineâs Day, flower shops and other merchants also come out on top.
Most shops are packed full of young people splurging for the holiday.
âValentineâs Day is the most significant day for a couple,â says young shopper Nguyen Ngoc Ha. âThe most important thing to do is get an interesting gift, no matter how much money you have to pay,â she says, adding that she had just spent $20 on a heart-shaped box of Belgian chocolates.
Every Valentineâs Day, vendors cash in on this willingness to spend by doubling and tripling their normal prices.
âWholesale prices for roses tripled several days before Valentineâs Day, so weâve also increased our prices,â says Nguyen Lan Anh, owner of the Hong Lan Anh flower shop in Hanoi. âThe price hikes hit buyers and sellers at every shop, not just ours, so weâre still crowded.â
“Weâre doing very well,” says Le Quang Anh, owner of a Ho Chi Minh City souvenir shop chock full of Valentine’s Day stock. He says young people, mostly students, are paying $3 or more per card, equivalent to the average daily salary in Vietnam.
Though the global economic recession and high prices might have cast a small cloud over the holiday for some, eager celebrators without cash are finding ways around spending big bucks to show their love.
âPurchasing power is weaker than last yearâs,â says Tam, owner of a card shop on Nguyen Du Street in HCMC. âSales are down 50 percent and expensive and imported cards are only available at upscale bookstores.â
John Adams, an American English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, said his Vietnamese wife wouldnât let him buy her anything for Valentineâs Day.
âSheâs worked up about the financial crisis and got angry that I spent so much on flowers last year,â he said.
âShe says everythingâs too expensive around Valentineâs Day, so she doesnât want me to buy anything.â
And as John is working tonight and has a wedding to attend tomorrow, he says a romantic dinner is out of the question. âIâll just have to write a love letter,â he says.
Van, an architecture student, says a handmade card was the best way to express oneâs love anyway.
âInstead of buying something, Iâm giving my girlfriend a big handmade card containing photos telling the story of our relationship. Itâs like a movie in slow motion about our love,â he says.
âE-cards are another good idea, and cheap,â he says.
While some of the countryâs top celebrities say theyâre looking for a private day or romantic night outside the glare of the spotlight, some jetsetters are eager to celebrate in big ways.
The winner of Vietnamâs Best Female Model 2008, Vu Thu Phuong, says she often receives enough Valentineâs Day roses to fill her whole house â“ but sheâs got something bigger in mind this year.
âI have huge Valentineâs plans this year, but theyâre a secret. Maybe Iâll celebrate abroad, with a surprising and satisfying gift for my sweetheart, who knows?â says Phuong.
Pop star My Le is celebrating her Valentineâs Day with a live concert, “My Le in Symphony.â
Singer Thu Minh is spending her Valentineâs Day with her boyfriend in America.
Model, singer and songwriter Nathan Lee says he enjoys Valentineâs Day, though he canât spend it with his girlfriend this year as sheâs working in America.
âIâm really busy right now, but I still go out with my friends. Though I canât go out with my lover, to us, everyday is Valentineâs Day. So we have no worries.â
Vietnamâs Best Male Model 2008 Binh Minh is enjoying an old-fashioned and simple loverâs day with his wife Anh Tho.
âIâm taking her to a quiet and romantic restaurant to enjoy some time alone. Then weâll go see Chuyen tinh xa xu (Passport to Love),â says Minh.
Additionally, several of the southern metropolisâ most popular restaurants, such as Spanish tapas bar Pacharan on Lam Son Square and Pizza Hut in downtown HCMC, have drawn up special Valentineâs Day menus.
Cinemas and theaters around town are also promoting special Valentineâs Day deals today.
Reported by Bao Anh – Kim