Street-Level Saigon


Our guide said that in Saigon there are 2.2 million vehicles, and 7.5 million scooters. I haven’t fact-checked him, but I have no reason to doubt his numbers. Until the moment was upon me I had forgotten that our tour of Saigon was supposed to include a ride in a tri-shaw, or cyclo as they’re called here. Take a careful look. See how it’s just a flimsy frame, allowing a passenger to perch precariously in front of someone who’s pedaling? See how said passenger is sitting well below the level of the other traffic? What you can’t see is how the cyclo I had to endure was pedaled by a guy who looked about 70, and weighed about half of what I do. Or less.

I admit to being petrified. Saigon traffic is already in the “shut your eyes and hope for the best” category, and to be right in the middle of it with nothing between you and the scooter that’s only a couple of inches away, well, it’s a sobering experience.

I know that this shot makes it look like traffic is politely waiting for us to cross in front, but no, not at all. These scooters and bikes were rushing directly at me and all I could do was hope that my skinny old guy could out-pedal them.

Fortunately these guys were on the other side of the road, on a portion of road that actually had another side, as opposed to a complete free for all.

To distract myself from what appeared to be my impending demise I just pointed my camera away from me and clicked semi-randomly. There were lots of shops lining the streets


although it wasn’t always obvious what they were selling.

We saw brightly colored funeral vehicles, in which families accompany the coffin to the cemetery.

We got a ground-floor look at typical apartments,

and saw how their essential services are delivered, which gives a whole new meaning to bundling utilities.

We saw scooters used as delivery vehicles,

and the Saigon version of Uber, called Grab, which delivers people via scooter. And we saw them all up very close and personal, because no, I wasn’t using any sort of zoom or telephoto lens, this is how close to my fragile self all of this traffic actually was.

Finally freed from this torture, the first thing I saw was this little altar, complete with open flame, in front of a truck. I joked that it was an altar to all the cyclo passengers killed by the truck, but upon reflection, I’m not so sure that was a joke. What other explanation could there be?





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3 Comments on “Street-Level Saigon”

  1. Eliza Ayres Says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

  2. barbara jacquin Says:

    my rickshaw ride was in Hanoi and it was very exciting! Nose to nose with all those scooters cards and whatever else happen to be on the road. But somehow it all melded together as my nice driver had predicted it would ? are you going to handle? I like it better than Saigon.

  3. barbara jacquin Says:

    I meant cars and Hanoi.

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