Motorbikes the usual mode of transportation in Vietnam
By Don Johnson
Santa Paula News
Published: February 15, 2013
Immediately after arriving at the Intercontinental Hotel, in the middle of Saigon, we were amazed by the motorbike traffic. Motorbikes were everywhere, the street, parked on the sidewalk, just everywhere. Not many bicycles were seen.
With so many motorbikes, it was obvious that if you wanted to cross the street, be careful. It didnt take long to understand the system. If you wanted to cross the street you stepped onto the street and began to walk at a steady pace; you didnt stop or run. With the steady pace, the hundreds of motorbikes coming at you would, somehow, miss you. Not once did Debbie or I feel we would be run over.
Well I take that back somewhat; the motorbikes you had to watch out for were the ones that did not want to wait in traffic and decided to use the sidewalk. We had many occasions where motorbikes snuck up behind us and beeped their horns. We began to look over our shoulder when walking.
We wondered, why so many motorbikes? The answer came when we were told that China and North Korea had flooded the market with cheap motorbikes. If you had a Yamaha or Honda, it was like having a Mercedes car.
People from Saigon and the surrounding areas would ride their motorbikes into the city and park them in front of stores, for a fee of course. The fee included a security guard all day to watch the motorbikes. Thousand of motorbikes were parked in front of stores on the sidewalk daily.
As you will see in the pictures, motorbikes are used for everything. The main use is to transport the family, with as many as four to five people on the motorbike. You will see in the pictures Mom, Dad, and a couple of kids all sitting on the motorbike.
People carry everything on the motorbikes; if they could not carry it, they attached a trailer. We were amazed at how motorbikes were used and how many you would see, especially during rush hour in the mornings and evenings.
We also wondered why so many people on the motorbikes, and even those who walked, were wearing masks. The answer to that question surprised us. Mask are worn for a lot of reasons, the main one is Asians are very sensitive to the sun, they try to avoid overexposure, especially the women. You will notice in the pictures many riders not only wore masks, but had long sleeve shirts or jackets. Remember, the temperature was 90 degrees and 80 per cent humidity.
And yes, you did see cars in downtown Saigon, but not many. The one car you would see was the taxis that zipped around with their fares.