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The Wheel Thing

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"Where there's a wheel, there's a way"


"The Wheel Thing"

The motorcycles of Ho Chi Minh City

Traffic waiting for the light (and the crazy photographer in their way) - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam



In several of the countries we've visited so far, we've noticed a higher proportion of motorcycles than we're used to at home. Given the price of gas, the cost of cars, and the limited space on roads and for parking, it makes a lot of sense.  However, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) blew me away with the sheer volume of motorcycles.  I later read that there are 8 million people in HCMC, and an estimated 3-5 million motorcycles!  They clearly are the dominant means of independent travel, and I was captivated not just by the shear numbers and proportions, but also how they were used.  Below is an attempt to capture the images of life in HCMC on 2 wheels:


(Clicking on an image below will bring up a larger version of it.)



All Dressed Up and Somewhere to Go

I guess when I think about riding a motorcycle, I generally think of riding in jeans or leathers.  While I have occasionally seen people dressed up on their bikes, it has been the exception rather than the norm.  In HCMC, well dressed riders were everywhere - especially on New Years Day.




Funky Helmets and Hats

Most of the riders wore helmets, and even a lot of the kids had them on.  Interestingly, there is a whole market that has sprouted up around helmet add-ons or alternative helmets that were more stylish and incorporated sun brims.  In addition, those traditional Vietnamese hats that you occasionally see in images of Vietnam (or China) are everywhere.  Including on motorcycles (though sometimes they need some help staying on).


Plain helmet with fancy add-on                                                  Traditional hat


More fancy add-ons and one more traditional hat



Funky Cargo

We load all sorts of stuff into our cars and SUV's - but most people never see it.  On a motorcycle, (a) it's public what you're carrying, and (b) sometimes you need to be a bit creative to get it from point a to point b safely.

Flower, Tweety and more flowers.



Lots and lots of flowers                                                               Yep, a television.



Honey, Can I Take the Kids?

The kids seemed right at home on these bikes - whether out for a quick spin or on a long road trip.  Some of my favorites:



                                                                    "Next time, can we get one with a cupholder?"

"Are we there yet?"


Some families loaded both kids on the front, some interspersed them between adults.


Yep, space for 5 on the bike.



Hey look at that crazy guy in the middle of the street with a camera!!

Actually, I think they were pointing to the Dragon Dancing going on behind me at the hotel - but then again, you can't be too sure with some of these eagle eyed kids nowadays.




The Family Road Trip

Well, if your primary mode of transportation is the motorcycle and you want to go to the beach or to visit family for the holidays, you simply pack everyone and everything on and hit the road.  We take it for granted back home since we tend to have larger vehicles, but it works just fine on a motorcycle if you pack it right!



I'm broiling in short sleeves, but it looks like the wind chill must be significant on a motorcycle.  Maybe next time that's how I should travel ;-)


"May as well make use of the time and the luggage to catch up on a few zzzzzz's, eh?  Wake me when we get there."


That's all for now.  Thanks for stopping by.




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Last modified: 06/13/08