It can be said that I arrived in Vietnam at the wrong time, but lately I have been thinking that I am fortunate to have arrived at that “wrong time”. I arrived in Hanoi on the 2nd of February, 3 days before the Chinese New Year; Tet, short for Tết Nguyên Đán (節元旦), which is a Sino-Vietnamese phase for “Feast of the first morning day”. Yes, I arrived in Vietnam right before Tet, an important time of the year when people would go back to their hometown to gather with their friends and families. This tradition is very similar to Eid in Indonesia. This atmosphere would go on to continue for about a week, so my friend who was living in Hanoi told me that I will have trouble looking for places to eat and buy daily needs because most of them will be closed. In short, I felt that I arrived at an abnormal time when the world was revolving around its own rituals, and I wasn’t part of it.
As I was in this lonely state, I received information that upon new year’s, 4 to 5 of February, there will be a firework festival at at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Square, in commemoration of the Chinese New Year. I was ecstatic to hear the news. I would be able to record the sound of fireworks and also the people who gathered around to celebrate the special occasion.
Long story short, on the night of 4th February, I arrived at Hoan Kiem Lake at around 10.30 pm. The roads around the Lake were closed for vehicles and were only opened for pedestrians. When I arrived there, the situation was already hectic. The area was full of people ranging from small children and their parents, teenagers, young adults, and senior citizens. I even had trouble setting my tripod and microphone and had to guard it with my hands in case someone bumps into it. Walking through the crowd was also a problem; I had to look for the slightest gap to be able to step forward. I then decided to not use a tripod and instead hold the microphone and recorder in my hands in order to be more flexible.
As midnight draws closer, the atmosphere became livelier. At last, the moment everyone has been waiting for has arrived. At 12 o’clock sharp, the sound of the first firework was heard, followed by a barrage of other fireworks. The sound of firework filled the air. The sky above the Lake was filled with colours. Everyone was cheering, especially when fireworks made special formations. Firework show, just like a symphony, is designed to have a certain form and rhythm. We could feel the dynamics of the show from start to finish.
The sound of fireworks reminded me of an interesting fact. If we read the history of fireworks that used gunpowder as the explosive, it originated from China, in the era of Sung Dynasty from 960-1279, before spreading through the globe. Later on, gunpowder was used as a means of war around the world. Fascinating how I was immersed that night recording the sounds of firework celebrating Chinese New Year by the edge of the Hoan Kiem Lake, Central Vietnam. Other than the sound of explosions, fireworks produce crackling noise that is unique to fireworks.