Cycling In Saigon | Harley And HOGs In Vietnam
By Art Hall, Photography by Art Hall
I suggest you go to YouTube and look at some Saigon traffic (this link is excellent: youtube.com/watch?v=azxQx1tX-0o). You have to see it to believe it or even understand it. Words are difficult to find that can describe the madness of movement. As long as we are talking about traffic, let me explain something not so obvious to go along with the video. Horns honk/beep constantly and seem to serve some purpose of announcing your presence but does not seem to have much to do with your right to any space on the street. Most streets are two lines wide and one way. The right lane (and sidewalk) is for the 5 million motorbikes and the left lane is for cagers which at the onset seems reasonable-until it comes time for a car to make a right turn through the unending herd of scooters; all without traffic lights for assistance. On the highway it is a similar situation that at the onset seems reasonable keeping the underpowered 50cc motorbikes in the slow lane until you have a big bike and by law are supposed to stay in the herd of scooters at 30 mph. The guys seem to take their chances and spend most of the time in the left lane with cars going at "normal" highway speeds of up to 60 mph.
My vision for this article was to place several motorcycles about town in front of various monuments or landmarks for photo-op pictures. As you may guess that vision was somewhat clouded by the reality of traffic and logistics, as well as too many bikes showing up initially. Apparently we would not be allowed to amass in numbers and stop at most locations due to traffic or parking but the guys did their best and we did accomplish a bit as you can see from the photos. Due to the newness and scarcity of Harley-Davidsons in Vietnam, they certainly attract more than their share of attention and generate more traffic problems than already exist creating a circus atmosphere. Saigon is a rather picturesque city and, resulting from the French occupation, they have quite a lot of architecturally photogenic buildings, parks, and monuments as well as many large, wide tree-lined streets.
At the end of this day, the group had their usual after-meeting "party" at a selected location. They extended their hospitality to invite me to the affair held this day at a private convention center used mostly for weddings and business meetings, aptly named the White Palace due to its grandeur. Given the expense of owning and operating a Harley in Vietnam, I am sure you would expect the guys to be financially above the average wage earner and they are in fact mostly successful, well-connected businessmen. I seriously doubt that a cycle-gear clad bunch of Harley riders would normally be allowed entrance to this facility but one of the guys in the group knew the owner and that got us in to a private hall for a multi-course meal served by an efficient staff that could have been as large as our group. The food was first class, and the servers were on the spot removing plates, replacing silverware, and constantly attending to every need. We should have been in black tie formalwear rather than black leather casual wear. Impressive indeed.
By Art Hall
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