Whether you are a fulltime traveller or just a casual tourist, an irreplaceable part to prepare for each new trip is to find out the type of transportation you can use in a new place. How Vietnam transportations in the past resembling to the ones that in current? This blog post will give you a few back stories of a few vehicles used to run on our street, as well as those that are ruling the street now.
The cyclos – One of the signature Vietnam transportations
Have you ever wondered how the cyclos you see on the street now, taking tourists around Vietnamese streets, joined our transportation system? Before cyclo, the first form of transportation in Vietnam in the old time is rickshaw. A popular mean of transportation for the elite, rickshaw is said to originate in Japan at around 1970s. Compares to walking or horse-riding from before, the invention of rickshaw was a transportation evolution. Since its appearance, there were more jobs for the poor. Rickshaw could be found everywhere from urban to suburban areas.
From 1934, “xích lô” or cyclo appeared in Saigon via Cambodia. Cyclo was invented by a French name P. Coupeaid combining the mechanical movement of a bicycle and a rickshaw. Cyclo’s three wheels create a stable stand on the ground when moving, and the two front-wheel carry the weight of the rider while leave room for easy direction-shifting. The ease of movement and flexibility allowed cyclo to quickly take over carts on Saigon streets in early 20th century. Driving cyclo was the mean to earn extra income for many families, the way driving “xe om” is now.
Driving cyclo has many benefits: it does not cause noise pollution, does not cause traffic jam because it is not bulky enough, and by running via human power, it is environmentally friendly as well. However, since 2008, cyclos have been banned from the roads, pushing cyclo-drivers towards a few tourism companies.
According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Transportation, Vietnam is among the countries with the most rivers and river systems in the world. It is unavoidable that the amount of water vehicles we use are equivalent to the demand. One of the distinctive water vehicle that you can find in Vietnam is the coracles, mostly along the coast in the central parts as well as some parts of northern and southern Vietnam.
Although not a Vietnamese specialty, coracles are widely used here for both transporting and economical function. It is cheap to produce and easy to make for daily purposes like to be used as tenders, for handling fishing nets, to gather vegetables and spray fumigants in flood-field agriculture, or even as an emergency evacuation for flood-prone area. Undoubtedly, economy growth usually brings along new vehicles like modern boats with motor engine. But as the country continues promoting the fishing industry and for the most part of our population, our citizens are still relatively poor, an inexpensive and versatile vehicle like coracle will hold an important position in many Vietnamese life. And similar to cyclo, tourism is taking in coracle to preserve and serve inbound travellers.
The Vietnamese “tuk-tuk”
Did you know that the “tuk-tuk” usually found in Thailand, India, Singapore and Cambodia now used to run on Vietnamese streets as well? After the end of Vietnam War in 1975, motor rickshaw or “tuk-tuk” as you know now, used to be the most effective and economical way to transport both people and goods. “Xe lam” – the most popular version of motor rickshaw in Vietnam was a three-wheeler with a small cabin at the front for driver. The space behind was saved for passengers and goods.
Many Vietnamese people still remember the time when “xe lam” was both their daily school bus and public bus to places. The rapid urbanization and growth of personal vehicles indirectly led to the death of motor rickshaw. The ban of the Government in 2008 for three-wheelers shifted the use of motor rickshaw towards trucks. Nowadays, you may be able to take a glimpse of this vehicle in some rural areas where policemen take the Governmental rules less serious. They are mostly quite rusty and low quality though.
Among the land vehicles in Vietnam, the one that remains the longest and develops the most is probably the motorbikes. You can find them almost everywhere in Asian developing countries. It is such a common mean of transportation here that for travellers from the more developed parts of the world, taking a photo of the schools of motorbikes waiting in front of a line for green light is almost in their must-do list.
The first type of motorbike appeared in Southern Vietnam was the 49.99cc engine Mobylette during the 1950s of French colonial time. Brought to use here by the French, since its first introduction, many brands of motorbikes from all around the world: the Italian scooters Vespa and Lambretta, German motorbikes Goebel, Sachs and Puch, then later, Japanese big four giants of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki slowly took on Vietnamese streets. Providing its rider with more speed, more pulling power and more individuality, motorbikes have since been the king of Vietnamese street ever since. Motorbikes used to worth a whole fortune and a symbol of status in Vietnam until their exponential growth took a toll on our slow developed infrastructure.
The Government is also starting to introduce electrical buses to counter the pollution. Despite all the dust, closed streets and confused traffics, it is expected that after 2025, the face of Vietnamese street will change drastically with the finish of metro line. A collaboration between Vietnam Government and constructors from Japan, China, Spain and Korea, the future of Vietnamese traffic scene thanks to this Metro is promising.
As for the moment, have you heard of the new amphibious bus line that has just been opened earlier this month? The introduction of this new exciting mean of transportation is our Government’s answer for Saigon’s old drainage system as well as overloaded road infrastructure, which causes the historical floods these recent monsoon seasons. Don’t forget to try this amphibious buses and tell us how you feel.
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Hi. I'm Huyền (Hanah) I'm young Vietnamese teenager, Saigon lover, Food addict. It is my aim and commitment to have your time in Vietnam memorable and overjoyed by providing you…Learn more