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Tuesday, 06 February 2007

Moto, Madame? - Page 4

Written by Jennifer Anthony
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The taxi pulls away from the crowd of cars and pedestrians at Noi Bai International Airport, wiggles and worms its way through the congestion, and zips toward the road that leads to Ha Noi. I roll down the window and the humid July air, tempered by a light rain, shoves its way inside. On the main road, we are joined by a fleet of mopeds, or ‘motos,’ as they are called in Viet Nam. They appear suddenly on all sides of us, unrestricted, it seems, by the concept of lanes.

Off the Wagon

Like many people who overcome a fear only to discover a newfound rush, I become a little addicted to motos. After surviving that maiden voyage, I forego taxis when I can and take motos all over the city: to and around the Hoan Kiem Lake District, to the museums, to the botanical gardens. I run errands by moto, gently rest one hand on the driver’s waist and clutch shopping bags with the other. I relax, feel the rush of wind and the blissful, albeit fleeting, cooler temperatures. After several days, I no longer feel the burn at the back of my throat, which I know can’t be a good thing. I’m beginning to find the ride enjoyable.

 

Enjoyableand intimate:a moto is an up-close-and-personal form of transportation. On each ride, I sit as close as I can to the driver, my fingers resting on the stranger’s hips, in hopes that I won’t be pitched off the back. Despite the proximity, some drivers remain aloof, and we travel in silence. But many are quite chatty; we talk about everything from my country of origin to my marital status.

 

The moto drivers sense my addiction, know that when I stand sweating on the sidewalk, with a beet-red face, glassy-eyed stare, and crumpled map, I would much rather ride to my destination than walk. Moto, madame, they call. Sometimes I muster up the strength to say no. When my heel breaks one afternoon and I lurch down the sidewalk, the moto drivers descend like wolves who have spotted a limping sheep trailing behind the pack.moto

 

I am lucky, but not everyone is. In the twenty days that I am there, three friends are in accidents and acquire what we have termed “moto leg” or what other Southeast Asian travelers refer to as the “Thailand Tattoo” – a burn on the back of the right calf from an exposed exhaust pipe. There are reputedly thousands of moto-related injuries and deaths in Viet Nam each year. Like most addictions, my moto mania can have deleterious effects.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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