Although Saigon appears to be in festive mood, South Vietnam's Tet, the Lunar New Year festival which begins on Saturday, will be one of the most miserable, with soldiers confined to barracks, roads cut, and food prices rising.
Flower market scenes (5 shots)
Lucky Chinese characters for New Year (4 shots)
People buying (2 shots)
New Year foods (5 shots)
New Year balloons (5 shots)
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Background: Although Saigon appears to be in festive mood, South Vietnam's Tet, the Lunar New Year festival which begins on Saturday, will be one of the most miserable, with soldiers confined to barracks, roads cut, and food prices rising.
Saigon's Nguyen Hue Street is packed with flower stalls selling the traditional chrysanthemums, sun flowers, and gold-flowered mai trees. In the market, vendors stand protectively over mountains of multi-coloured sugared fruit-sweets made of melons, coconuts, and mangoes. But business is only half what is was last year. Few have the heart or the cash to buy.
Tet started off well on ceasefire day, last Sunday, when the Canadian International Control Commission delegation arrived in Saigon from Hanoi with 20 North Vietnamese officials and branches of Tet cherry blossom for President Nguyen Van Thieu.
Since then there have been more than 2,000 casualties on both sides. And the country's hard-working women, who have been looking forward to this three-day break for the whole year, will have to do without their husbands, sons, and brothers.
In a normal year everything closes for Tet for three days but this year Government offices have been ordered to remain open.