Christmas in Saigon is amazing, but not for the reasons you’d expect. Honestly, I thought the holidays there would be a non-event — a nice escape from the endless Christmas carols and Santa suits back home. Tropical climate, 85% Buddhist, no worries, right?
Or not. Vietnam does Christmas, and they do it huge. But the details are deeply different. Take, for example, the massive throngs of motorbikes that consume the night streets. It’s hard to convey just how surreal the scene is — a never ending, ever moving sea of bikers stretching as far as the eye can see. All celebrating, in all directions. Stunning.
And, while it appears to be a holiday tradition here, this year was different again. Because, in a country where the second leading cause of death is motorcycle accident, they just added a law that requires helmets. Glimmering domes for miles, each with their own style. I’ve never seen that level of compliance to any new law in the states. Wonder what that says.
Just when we thought we’d seen it all, a group of kids showed up on bicycles, too young for the motored sort. The click-clack of those human-powered bikes provided a lovely organic counterpart to the endless rumble of their motorized brethren. Then they were gone — swept up into the energy of the night. Beautiful stuff.
Surprisingly, New Year’s was tame by comparison. But, then, the real New Year is Tet, isn’t it. I can’t imagine. And I can’t wait to see it.