Motorbike Madness

According to our guide, Saigon is home to 5.6 million motorbikes and 7 million people. Even if that number is exaggerated, motorbikes are clearly the primary form of transportation in Vietnam. The country is supposed to have as many as 20 million motorbikes total. By comparison, America had 6.6 million registered motorcycles in 2006 .  Keep in mind, America has 4 times the population and most motorcycles are used for leisure.

That many motorbikes make every alley a road, every road a 10 lane highway and crossing the street an act of faith mixed with a game of Frogger.

A single motorcycle is used to transport a family of 5, to move hundreds of pounds of rice, to deliver glass windows, as a taxi, a restaurant, a place to take a quick cat nap or cuddle on a date.


We took an excellent motorbike tour with Unseen Saigon through some of the less touristy districts of the city. It included driving through markets barely wide enough to walk through, and watching TV while waiting for our motorbike ferry to arrive.

We also discovered on the tour that under certain conditions motorbikes eliminate the need for stoplights. For example, we approached an on ramp to a highway at about 30 miles per hour. At about the same time, I watched two other motorbikes speed toward the same intersection from our left at the same speed. Doing some subconscious geometry, I deemed this a collision course likely to be fatal and tightened my grip. My driver, apparently working from a more advance math book, slightly increased our speed. The first motorbike crossed the intersection ahead of us with about 5 feet to spare. The second crossed just behind us with about the same, um, breathing room.

7 Responses to “Motorbike Madness”
  1. Susan says:

    Loved this post. Who knew a motorbike was so versatile. So many memorable images here (snooze, minivan, etc.) Both the glass photo and the mathematical assessment of chicken at the intersection were particularly memorable: just a slight miscalculation having horrible consequences. I can’t imagine how many times your heart must have been in your throat on this trip. We are so protected here. Cuts down on the thrills but enhances longevity. Glad you guys are loving Vietnam. Sounds wonderful. -S

  2. nick holmes says:

    Smasshing (sic) photo of two men on a motorbike with sheets of glass.

    We play ‘how many people can you get on a motorbike’ when travelling. Our max to date is 5 people…
    and a goat .
    Happy spotting

    • Joshua Peck says:

      Wow. A goat is impressive. We saw a couple riding a motorbike with a dog standing on the scooter floor, but no livestock just yet.

  3. Delacey says:

    One of my favorites motorbike moments was in Cambodia, where I saw guy with a rod stretched across the back and about a dozen live chickens hanging from their feet on each side of the bike.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] locals in whatever country we’re in, trying to capture something we want to remember or share, like five people on a motorcycle. But every now and then we find people taking pictures of us. Most are too shy to ask us to take a […]

  2. […] motorbike madness in Vietnam. That’s why we were unprepared for what we found in Guilin, China. Electric […]

Leave A Comment

Read previous post:
Tran the Pigeon Trainer

In the center of one of the biggest roundabouts in Saigon, Vietnam is an equestrian statue of Tran Nguyen Hai....