I Won't Ride a Motorcycle in this City

By Christina Kim - October 13, 2015


Should I get a Motorcycle?

NO, You're Going to Die.

It's like I have suddenly developed a sudden clairvoyance ability the moment that question sprung from his mouth as he asked about the possibility of getting a mode of transportation which could bring us around the city; easily, and conveniently.

Except, this is not any city; it's Ho Chi Minh City.

The traffic here is not exactly something I would paint of a normal scenario in a city.

Bangkok's traffic probably pales in comparison, although it could rival that of Manila and India, as I have heard.
Well, that is until the recent spotlight on China's insane 50-lane traffic jam took the world by storm on the news just a few days ago.
That is a different story altogether.

There is just something about the traffic in Vietnam; or particularly in Ho Chi Minh City itself, that just robs my heart of its normal pumping ability.


I don't really have cardiovascular disease (thank God for that), but I wondered a few times as my heart literally, almost stopped as I watched the motorcycles and the cars weave through each other from possibly ten different directions; brushing each other by a distance that is only slightly more dense than a strand of hair.

There does not seem to be an existence of any traffic rules for it appears as though almost everyone could move towards the direction they want, whenever they want or wherever that is.

They go everywhere; even on the pavement, in both ways.
Are we still talking about rules?

Sure, traffic lights exist and they do stop when it turns red; though there are still the few daredevils who would just zoom past the red lights stylishly.

Pedestrian traffic lights are installed too; though in only certain locations (not at every corner) and believe me when I say, they don't really work well to your advantage either.

You may think that the green indicates that you could just cross the road immediately and the cars stop obediently to let you pass, and you are just safe to cross the road.


You could end up getting hit by motorcycles making turns, simply because it is green on the other side of the junction for turning into this part of the road; where the pedestrian crossing is just located.
Yes, baffling isn't it?

Then, why do we need the pedestrian traffic lights to tell us it's safe to cross (isn't that what's the green light is for?) and put ourselves at risk of being run down by a motorcycle, or a bicycle or even a car?

So you could still die, if you were to cross the road, even if the light is Green, for you to legitimately cross.
Don't, just cross as though the traffic lights don't exist.

Follow the swerve, weaving in and out style as you are surrounded by the moving motorcycles.

DON'T STOP, or RUN, just cross in a normal fashion.
I was told that the motorcyclists would avoid you, at all costs, swerving their motorcycles around you. If you were to stop, or run, it would be hard for them to anticipate and that could land you in a collision with the vehicle.
You don't want that.
You could die.

Then there's that whole thing about the motorcycle scene in the city.



They seemed like a whole herd of zebras running wild, as though being chased by their predators; presumably a herd of lions or cheetahs.

You could also think of the Night at the Museum; where all hell breaks loose.

Yeah, that sort of picture; that kind of amok scene which seems to be unfolding before my eyes each time I stand at the side of the road, waiting to just cross the road, or even when I was in the cab.

They terrify me.

I don't already have a very good impression of motorcycles in general; no offense to the motorcyclists out there or anyone who really loves motorcycles.

This is a personal thing.

I don't believe in motorcycles and I just don't feel safe on motorcycles.
It feels so vulnerable, so exposed and without protection.
It is the way my mother would disapprove, telling me that we are the ones covering the steel of the vehicle, rather than the other way round.
I blame it on her, that my image of motorcycles have been distorted until today; though technically, she is not fully to blame, because being a mother, she is always right, to some extent.
Mortality rates caused by motorcycle accidents do rank higher compared to other vehicles.

So my mother was right after all.
I am glad I listened to her.
Because of her, I have only been on a motorcycle twice; or three times.
Yes, that's the total number of times I have been on a motorcycle.
Not more than that, and I hope I won't have to relive that, but I doubt, for if I am going to be traveling more, I think I may have a chance encounter with the motorcycle, again.
And Again.

I wouldn't mind a cute little pink Vespa though, or even a Harley.
They look cool.

The other issue would be the helmet, but let's not go there.

I was initially told that the rates of accidents in Ho Chi Minh City were quite surprisingly low, despite the madness in which they seem to be driving in.


I was like, "You mean They Don't Run Over or Into each other, despite being so dangerously close each time??"

(Image credits Here)
(Image credits Here)

I was in disbelief, I mean, how is that even possible?

Well, then that was debunked, by one of the local tour guides I met on a day trip, who told us that the accident rates were quite high as well.

That sounds more plausible.

As though on cue, following that statement, I witnessed two accidents on the road.
Well, based on the number, it did seem pretty low compared to the times I was scared to death by the appearance of these motorcycles.
I still win.

The tour guide himself, being a local Vietnamese, lamented on the traffic, and he said that it is especially horrendous in this part of the country (referring to Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon), stating that the people in this region drive as though the laws do not exist.

So, there are rules, and the laws and then there's the rebellion against the traffic.

The haphazard way in which the motorists here drive in is something which I could never understand, but I have learnt to manage and anticipate them with my visits.

It is just like some sort of dance or just move along with the flow.


Trust me, it just keeps getting better each time.

I am already sashaying my way in and out of the traffic, keeping the motorists at bay, though I do still get shocks once in a while, but the frequency is getting lower.

Just make sure you have insurance covering your life.

As to that question of whether he should get a motorcycle, it's still a NO.
(I'm impressed with some of the foreigners who were riding their motorcycles so well in Vietnam, Bravo, thumbs up for these risk takers and doing so well).

Cab for me, anytime.
Or I will just Walk.

To choose between suffocating from the pollution or being knocked down and then run over, it is not that hard, isn't it?

I'm not against anyone who rides a motorcycle in this country, because frankly speaking, with heavy traffic like this, it is a rather more convenient way to get around and I marvel the way these motorists maneuver themselves in and out between the cars and other motorcycles beside them.

It is not easy and it takes years of experience and practice.
You will even need their local driving license to be able to drive in their country.


There are more than 5 million motorcycles in a population of 10 million, you do the math.
Almost every household owns a motorcycle, and I have even seen an entire family on a motorcycle, more than once.


It is not easy for these people; despite the incremental speed at which their development pace is going, there is still that gap in the economy and social sectors which need to be addressed by the government.
Sometimes, they just don't have a choice.

As the tour guide says, "In Vietnam, it is not about the looks that get you a girlfriend, but it is if you have a motorcycle to get around"

This goes to show how important their motorcycles are to the Vietnamese.

They are trained to ride their motorcycles, day in day out.

We are just not well-versed with their traffic flow and standards which would just be too risky.

It is just not the same for every country in the world.


If there's one thing I have learnt, it's to appreciate the traffic in my own city every day, despite the massive traffic jam every day.
(Remind myself of the 50-lane traffic in China, every single time I'm stuck in the traffic jam)

The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, makes the ones in my city seem like a bunch of bleating sheep, moving peacefully in the meadows, right now.

That's what travel really does to you sometimes, doesn't it?
It makes you learn through experience, and be filled with gratitude for what you have.

The best part is, it gets better each time.

The only motorcycle I will say yes to, is this.

IMG_2578_Fotor Yes, it's made of a recycled can.

Ornamental motorcycle, that's alright.

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal expenses, opinions and preferences and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

This is based on my personal experience and is told in a subjective manner from my perspective based on my visit.

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  1. I would never own/ride a motorcycle in a crowded city like that too. I am not a good enough driver to survive a commute :) It is better for everyone involved!

    1. LOL, Andrea, I'm sure you can't be that bad! :-)
      But it's really a nightmare in this city, just watching would make you break out in cold sweats...