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Tet is the preeminent annual holiday here. During this time many in HCMC travel to other parts of the country to be with their families and worship their ancestors. Most workers get at least a week off.

Restaurants and shops close. Services are suspended. The city seems almost serene. The main drag in town, Nguyen Hue, becomes a flower-strewn pedestrian mall.

But by week's end all this will seem an illusory memory as the city quickly reverts back to its crowded, chaotic, noisy, dust-filled, indefatigable self.

Nguyen Hue