Tell me what you ride, I tell you who you are

As in most countries, what you drive often gives people a hint about what kind of person you are.  Many of us look fondly at our first rides, whether it was borrowing our parent’s car for the night or working long summer hours to pay for that first used car that we inevitably sold. The unluckiest of us took those cars and demolished them. One thing is that first car is a special one. It gives you that first taste of independence. Vietnam also has it’s own 2 wheeled rides and we will try to give you a non-exhaustive list of the different rides in Vietnam.  Shakespeare once wrote that the cowl doesn’t make the monk. Shakespeare might have been right in 16th century England but in modern HCMC, he couldn’t be so wrong.

The whole idea behind this post was all from Charly Leporc when he shared with me his friend’s article about the same topic. I told myself: “why not showing my own criticism on this issue”.  So here are mine:

They ride a SHi or a Vespa

To many Saigonese, a bike’s appearance unveils its price tag. But hang on! You should know that there are 2 schools of thought when riding these bikes. One faction drives along in a SHi or a Vespa made in Vietnam (with maximum price of 7000USD), while the other will spend at least 8500USD to import their ride from Italy. The difference is slight to the uninitiated but the discerning Saigonese will know the difference. SHi are also higher than other bikes. Therefore, its driver and his partner can enjoy looking down on others, inflating their ego yet slimming their wallet. Note that SHi owner will always park pay a bit extra to park their bike in where it can be seen. The two schools definitely have their own values, but all have the same stylish manner and similar accessories. Indeed, those bike owners all wear wide sunglasses, trendy clothes and most distinctivelya 1.10-meters tall leggy girl riding pillion like a praying mantis ready to devour her prey.

DreamThey ride a Wave or a Dream

You are an ideal family man. The Dream is strong, economical and a friendly-fixer ride that has been the mainstay of Vietnamese daily life for generations. However, you lose style points for the basket up front. Although it is extremely useful to store your raincoat and other goods, you’ll end up looking like you borrowed your father’s ride. However, the Xeôm will answer you with unruffled equanimity as they don’t bother with such trivial issues.

They ride a Nouvo, Air-blade and Attila

The Nouvo and Air-blade are a well-matched pair and created a turning point in Saigon’s 2 wheeled landscape.Suitable to the new bourgeoisie,it’s the same size of a Wave or a Future but does away with the basket up front and has a nifty container underneath the seat. It is reasonable both in price and usage and is an automatic ride, which is convenient when stuck in Saigon traffic jam. Besides, this is a model that you will also often see “pimped” out with neon lights or truck klaxon horns.

They ride a Vespa (vintage)

This type of bike is most alluring to the Saigonese artist. Hundreds of garages inVietnam restore those old bikes. While it’s not too expensive to buy an old-school Vespa, restoring and maintaining it to its former glory will cost a pretty penny. Certainly, one looks cool riding this classic bike butbeware, it’s hard to start and the backseat can be less comfortable. Therefore, consider having a back up ‘Dream’ if you want to own a vintage Vespa.

They ride a 67

In early the 1960s, the Japanese built Honda 67 was used throughout the south of Vietnam. After the conclusion of the American war, northerners finally got this classic and reliable ride. The Honda 67 is a very low bike with a very small motor and almost no chassis. It certainly has a nice vintage look but don’t expect to go faster than an electric bike with this. The main advantage of this bike is that it is easy to fix wherever you break down. You see quite a bit of foreigners riding these bikes.

Local insights:

The A1 license allows you to drive a bike up to 175cc. Foreigners living in Vietnam can have their national driving license translated to Vietnamese and will be granted a Vietnamese license without passing any exam. In case you want to ride a “real” bike, a genuine A2 is required. The down side to this is that it cost over 1000USD. A cheaper route to the A2 is to get an invitation from a bike club. Obviously, the authorities want to control the number of people owning a more powerful ride than police have. Police bikes in Vietnam have 400cc engines.

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