Friday, December 13, 2013
Of Motorbikes and Mania
They are everywhere, and they carry everyone and everything, except of course the very wealthy, who ride in Mercedes and Lexus convertibles. Motorbikes, the vast majority of them in the 100-200 cubic centimeter displacement range, vroom vroom and put-put down streets and alleyways, up rural roads, and around corners of every kind in virtually every city, town and hamlet in Southeast Asia. In Ho Chi Minh City alone, with a population of some 8 million, there are probably 5 million motorbikes on the road. They usually range in price from $300-$400 used to $1,500 new, and therefore are affordable to many who could not afford to purchase an automobile. Cost of operating them is negligible; parking is never a problem. And with a bit of innovation and imagination, just about everything you can do with a car or small truck you can do with a moto. Of course, motorbikes are not the only alternative form of transportation. Just about anything with a motor will do. For example, in rural areas what appear to be large rototiller-type machines are often connected to a trailer and driven down the road, the driver man-handling the vehicle by shifting handles. They don't drive well, but they work. They appear to have been converted from rice-field work horses, perhaps a USAID donation from long ago?