Scooter in Saigon: If this doesn’t put fear into your heart then nothing will.
This week I rented a Yamaha Nuevo scooter. The cost for this is about 1,200,000 dong per month (about USD$70) and includes a regular monthly service and emergency repairs/call outs. I love the freedom of riding a bike although I don’t have more than 5 days riding experience over the course of about 20 years. I did however want to be able to get around Saigon and experience it the way the locals do. I also wanted the freedom of my own wheels and as renting or buying a car is not an option here for expats the only way I was going to do this was by renting a motorbike.
Everyone gets around Saigon in a scooter. There are more scooters in Saigon than cars and you frequently see scooter jams. This would be ok except for a few things. The first is people ride the scooter predominantly on the right hand side of the road but are not averse to driving on the left i.e. coming right at you. The second is that no one uses indicators (or if they do it doesn’t necessarily imply that they will be turning in the same direction as the flashing indicator). The third things is that traffic lights are seen as an option – if you wish to stop feel free but you don’t have to. Last, but by no means least, no-one and I mean no-one, waits for anyone. So if you need to turn across three lanes of traffic (as there are between my school and my apartment) you need to be prepared to run the gauntlet of oncoming traffic. Remember the old computer game Frogger? Well that’s my morning commute.
I love riding in Saigon. It is exhilarating as only a motorbike can be. The wind in your hair as you rush down the road brings a visceral rush of freedom. The insane traffic that causes your every nerve fibre to be switched on and every sense to be working at its highest level makes for a scary rush. I love riding in Saigon.