Vietnam has been introduced to Halloween and as with most things, the Vietnamese have put their own unique spin on this unofficial holiday. The celebrations sometimes start the night before October 31st but Halloween is quickly becoming a fun, spirited people-watching event with every year. As East meets West, you will see witches, ghosts, the walking dead and goblins riding their motorbikes all over the bigger cities of Saigon and Hanoi. You may even find a haunted house filled with devilish scary things and see that many businesses are decorated with pumpkins and skeletons.
More family friendly events are available away from the “walking street” bars and clubs that feature festive decorations, bright lights and cute childrens’ costumes. Tourists that visit Vietnam in late October are surprised by the popularity of Halloween as many hotels and malls have trick-or-treating and concerts for the kids. If you have scheduled a trip to Southeast Asia over Halloween, be sure to pack a scary mask or simple costume so you can join in the spooky and fun festivities. Don’t worry if you have nothing to wear because stores to buy Halloween decorations and costumes are popping up in the larger cities. Most locals don’t wear full costumes and prefer to don only a mask or have their faces painted by one of the many available artists out on the street. Whether you join in on the parade or sit back to marvel at the people going by, this celebration is an event not to be missed.
I’ve learned an exciting way to get around Saigon and other cities in Vietnam that is cheap and in my opinion, daring and exhilarating-it’s a ride service called Grab Bike. It’s almost what it sounds like, a motorcycle “cab” business that is run through an app from your mobile phone, you enter a pickup and drop off point, it tells you what the charge will be and you can even link it to a credit card for payment but I stick with cash. You are sent a picture of your driver and his license plate number because the service is used by literally hundreds of people at any hour of the day or night and they provide you with a helmet, it’s definitely illegal and stupid to ride a motorcycle without one on these very busy streets.
Of course, cars or limousines are available for more money but you would be surprised how much these drivers can carry on their bikes, don’t be alarmed when someone rides by with a refrigerator on the back. The driver will call you for better directions if he can’t find you, I say “he” because I have only ridden with male drivers, but minor issues arise if you don’t speak the language. I’m pleased that these men don’t mind stopping to ask for directions and keep checking the maps on their phone to make sure they are going in the right direction, American men could learn something here!
I say it’s daring because there are literally thousands of motorbikes on the streets at one time, weaving between each other, honking their horns, dodging around cars, mysteriously reading each other’s body language and I have seen only 2 accidents! One way or another, you need to get comfortable with riding on the back of a Vespa, scooter or motorcycle, it’s the Vietnamese way and I like it! I’ve been here for about 2 months and my mother just figured out that I was on a bike AT NIGHT-oh the horror! Another suggestion I have is not to get drunk using this service, yes, it’s easier to have one more since you don’t have to drive but you don’t want to take the chance of falling off! Look Mom, I’m wearing a helmet!