Finally, the travel story I wrote about Saigon has come out. You can read it on INQUIRER.net’s Roadtrip.
HO CHI MINH CITY–It was hard to miss the swarm of motorbikes on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, also popularly known as Saigon. The Vietnamese love motorbikes. Young and old, men and women dressed casually or formally, young couples, friends, neighbors — every person you can imagine was riding motorbikes. It was an amazing sight.
Motorbikes came from all directions. Crossing the street required guts — lots of it. The motorbikes seemed extensions of their feet. They moved around streets like pedestrians in a sidewalk. They followed an invisible line. They never bumped into each other despite the absence of traffic lights. It was, as one foreign journalist described, an “organized chaos.” But I watched them with delight.
On my way from the airport to the Claravelle hotel in Saigon (which happens to be right beside the Opera House), I saw two guys side by side talking (note: not on the same bike) while negotiating the streets of Saigon. I saw another man in his 30s talking with someone on his mobile phone not minding the risk of slamming into approaching motorbikes from the other direction. My eyes followed him. I was afraid he might hit another motorbike. In Saigon, bikes outnumbered cars. There were taxis in the city. But motorbikes were everywhere.
There are some four to six million motorbikes in this city alone, thanks to the cheap imports from China. But this is Saigon, a place featured many times in movies and in books like “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene.