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Cycle Culture ( II )

October 25, 2006

(Follows from “Heading for Ho Chi Minh City” ( I )

A tone which sets impressions straight away is the tide of motorcycles, although we would call them scooters and the branding type might insist on Vespa (though we saw Yamaha doing extremely well). We were sucked out of the airport at peak hour — or is it like this all the time? – into a tidal wave of cycle riders. From our cab we watched them surge, ebb and flow around us, joining us in a close fraternity when all caught at the lights together, fleeing when released, and weaving and wending with and through us when we all had a bit of speed up. The vast majority do not ride with any helmet or other protection. So the compact gathering at each set of lights creates opportunity to talk to each other in a way the cacoon of a sedan does not. Some admire the others bike. Others are clearly chatting about clothes. The rider demographic is as diverse as the community. Grandparents through to newborn infants were spotted on our ride into town. Perhaps most startling were the two young chaps riding with four slabs of plate glass, held upright by the pillion. Each plate was about one metre wide and they were about 2.5 metres tall. Images of accidents flashed through our minds but so too the thought of the weight of the glass. That motorbike must have been doing it hard. We should not forget the humble push bike in all this. Younger folk, and especially girls seemed to prefer these. The old bicycles, and such were most of them, sit their rider high off the ground, and these short statured people have to fully extend themselves to reach the pedals. The effect is a slight bobbing and high knee action being performed by a rider forced to maintain a very erect posture. Add to that picture the girls who are wearing traditional garb and you have a rather quaint and very proper cyclist

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