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Tuesday, 06 February 2007

Moto, Madame? - Page 5

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.

On the Wagon, Sampan, and Cyclo

I decide it is time to wean myself from the moto and sample Viet Nam’s numerous other forms of transportation. On a day trip to the Yen River, I try the sampan, a small boat manned by a sinewy fifty-something-year-old woman. After three of us board the boat, it sinks so low that the rim is inches away from the water. But unlike the middle-aged woman who navigates in the oppressive humidity, all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride, although guiltily, given that the woman rowing has about twenty years on me.


Back in the capital, I decide to try out the cycle rickshaw, or cyclo. For the full effect, I take one to the Hotel Sofitel, where Graham Greene stayed as he wrote The Quiet American. Like the sampan sculler, the white-haired driver somehow doesn’t break a sweat as he pedals with subdued strength. The leisurely pace, raised seat, and side panels make me feel more secure than the exposed moto. But like the sampan, it is hard to reconcile the pleasure of the relaxed, low-key ride with the feelings of guilt. If I didn’t feel like such an oppressor, the cyclo, too, might prove addictive.streets

A New Addiction

And so, like any dedicated addict, I am weak. Moto, Madame? A man calls from the sidewalk. And I succumb.


Back in the States, I’m sure I’ve shaken my obsession. I hop into my car and join the flowing freeway traffic. There are no families crowded onto mopeds. Instead, people cushion themselves from each other and the road in enormous utility vehicles. But days later in San Francisco, I spot a Vespa darting through the traffic, free and unencumbered, and I feel a curious but familiar rush.

©Jennifer Anthony

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

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