VietStuff

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The best way to travel around Saigon

Travelling by Bus



A typical tai-tai will have her husband's driver ferry her around town. However, our daily commute to the city began on the humble public bus service. These cost 2,000 VND a ride into town (about S$0.20) but recently increased by 50% (3,000 VND). However, perks included aircondition sure to keep you "cool", a conductor who'll help you up the moving bus and down, the still moving bus so that motorbikes don't cut you down whilst you alight, and the bus driver's personal television set playing favourite Korean soaps in full Vietnamese monologue. Otherwise entertainment was a simple news broadcast or the top 10 Vietnam hits played in the background. More often though, the chit-chat of friendly commuters transformed strangers to long time friends on the eventful bus journeys. Old ladies and small children always had seats - the conductor would make sure you gave up your seat for them. On the bigger buses, vendors would board the bus and begin their sales pitch then lay out their wares (usually nice long-sleeved men's shirt) on the head of each seat for passengers to consider a possible purchase.




Travelling by Bike
Recently we have upgraded to our very own two-wheeler - the Yamaha Nouvo! Hey, its the same brand as the one Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rode on when they surreptitiously visited Ho Chi Minh City. Ok so we don't exactly look like that handsome couple but, hey, we still got a striking electric blue that you surely cannot miss! Zippety-do-da - we're finally free to roam about town! For a pillion-rider's viewpoint of a ride on Ben's bike, check this video

A good sense of balance is required when riding the bike especially through flooded streets, traffic (which moves organically without rules), and multiple loads. Check out this group of party goers - count them - four on a single bike along with a big bag of balloons and a stool for an extra seat on the bike(?)

In Vietnam, the red light means you can continue going as long as you don't see a policeman at the junction. The green light means, continue going but make sure you look left and right incase those beating the red light happen to cross your path and there are no orange lights! Every street is a two-way street including the pavement and those which are labeled "One Way"

A biker must be appropriately dressed when travelling about town. Firstly, to prevent the dust and grime of Saigon's street from affecting one's breathing passage - remember to put a on a mask. There are many varieties to choose from - the kids have cartoon versions, babies have a netting and adults can choose from all styles including the all encompassing veiled look that covers your hair too! Women make sure their arms are covered with either a jacket or long gloves. Dark glasses keep the sun and dust out but googles do the same for the night. Finally a cap or hat to make sure the look is complete.

Incase you've forgotten something - no worries. Stalls along the street offer everything from caps to side mirrors.