Opera House Square is a popular Hanoi scene for ringing in the New Year! The Opera House is near Hoan Kiem Lake at the corner of Trang Tien and Ly Thai To Streets, and I cannot imagine a more crowded place – except Times Square in NYC. Although the weather was chilly, the streets were overflowing with people – it was crazy!
Preparation for New Year’s Eve 2012 and Lunar New Year began several weeks ago. As part of the 2012 New Year celebration, beginning December 30th Hanoi is hosting a four-day grand flower festival around Hoan Kiem Lake. The event features “traditional culture and prominent heritages of the country through beautiful flower installation”.
The December 31st midnight festivities took place right next to the Opera House in Opera Square. Built by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911, the Hanoi Opera House is modeled after the Palais Garnier, the older of Paris’s two opera houses. The gorgeous building is one of Hanoi’s most famous architectural landmarks.
“There is nothing more striking in Hanoi than looking down Trang Tien Street and seeing the Hanoi Opera House standing strong at the end. Built by the French in 1911 and renovated in the late 1990s, this is an incredible building. The façade is colonial French with pillars and balconies overlooking the city center. The 900-seat opera house hosts visiting foreign performances as well as Vietnamese symphonies.”
I had dinner at the Hanoi Press Club. It’s in Opera Square and has a cozy little restaurant. The meal was delicious, including the crêpe suzette for desert! I chatted with several Japanese and French tourists. After dinner everyone headed toward the center of the square where most of the action was happening and the crowd was gathering. There was a stage set up with a large flashing countdown marque and live performers. The Vietnamese are not overly expressive but everyone was enjoying themselves.
After midnight I took a motorcycle back to the hotel – it was a wild ride with merrymakers, chaos, and traffic jams everywhere. What an amazing New Year’s Eve – definitely one of the more exotic celebrations I’ve experienced.