Friday, 5 November 2010

A Week in Saigon - Motorcycle Madness

A mere fortnight ago we were still on holiday in Vietnam...  However these two weeks have been so busy that I've been in danger of forgetting to blog about the trip.  It's a task I've almost been putting off as I hardly know where to start.  Vietnam was amazing, an assault on the senses.  Saigon was such a contrast to Brunei - and I say that in a totally non-judgmental way.  I love Brunei, but you do get used to the laid-back pace of life... whereas Saigon is crazy, 24 hours a day! 

The first thing that strikes you about Vietnam, even before the aeroplane has landed, is just how many motorbikes and scooters there are on the roads.  As we descended towards the airport the roads below us seemed to be swarming with them, like thousands of tiny ants.

We spent the entire taxi-ride from the airport to the hotel gasping in horror, shrieking in terror and laughing at the sheer number of motorbikes on the road, and the unbelievable way that they drive.

This was a fairly typical scene outside our hotel.

We soon realised that all the tales about crossing the road in Saigon were true...  the traffic won't stop for you, so you just have to wait for some kind of gap, then start walking slowly and steadily across the road.  Don't run, don't stop, just hold your nerve and keep walking.  Incredibly, it worked!  The motorbikes would just veer around you.  To be fair, the traffic isn't usually moving that fast (the roads are too busy) so the riders have plenty of time to see where you're going and steer around you.

What took us by surprise was that the bikes weren't just confined to the roads...  no, if traffic was heavy there seemed to be no problem at all with just riding down the pavement.  As a pedestrian you had to keep your wits about you at all times!

As the week went on we just began to laugh at just how versatile the motorbike could be.  Think you need an estate car, or perhaps a van?  No problem, you can get pretty much whatever you want on the back of a bike!

There were hundreds more sights just like this, but I didn't always have my camera at the ready.

One day I sat on a bench at the corner of the street at end-of-school time, knowing that I'd be able to catch some classic entire-family-on-motorbike shots, and sure enough...

Carrying your young son on a bike and chatting on your mobile 'phone!

Many of the bikes are pretty beaten-up and battered, but there are some incredible retro-styled scooters around, and one of the highlights of my week was seeing this crowd of yellow Vespas riding across town.  My first thought was that they must be bridesmaids on their way to a wedding (and how cool would that have been?!!) but it turned out that they were employed by Dulux paints, and were on their way to an expo event in the city centre.

We caught up with them later that day.  If I could have fitted a yellow Vespa in my luggage I most probably would have done!

1 comment:

nic@nipitinthebud said...

what a terrific snapshot of your trip.
Having visited China a few years ago the heavily laden motor bikes come as no surprise. I saw cycles piled up with fish crates, a dozen water cooler bottles, ladders and buckets - and these were old fashioned pedal powered bicycles! The traffic was hairy being inside a taxi - can't imagine what it would have been like to be on a bike!