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Field trip: The bicycles of Vietnam

Valerie just got back from Vietnam, where she was on a two-week foodie trip. Over there, in Saigon, Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi, she caught sight of a lot of very cool, workaday bicycles in Vietnam, especially for commerce.

Here are some of her favorite bike pics from Vietnam.

My favorite bike store of all, a bicycle sweet shop making bo bia ngot, seen in Hanoi.
My favorite bike store of all, a bicycle sweet shop making bo bia ngot, seen in Hanoi. Bo bia ngot is a rice crepe wrapped up with sugar cane, coconut, and toasted black sesame.

A complete bicycle soup kitchen, with a fired-up coal-burning stove on back. Seen in Hanoi.
A complete bicycle soup kitchen, with a fired-up coal-burning stove on back. Seen in Hanoi.

Bicycle carrying cargo, seen in Saigon.
Bicycle carrying cargo, seen in Saigon.

Bicycle carrying cargo, seen in Hoi An.
Bicycle carrying cargo, seen in Hoi An.

A complete store on wheels, seen in Hanoi.
A complete store on wheels, seen in Hanoi.

One of the hazards of modernization, engined vehicles now outnumber pedal power in the cities. This is a huge change for Vietnam just in the past decade. Mopeds and motorcycles have squeezed out bicycles to become the dominant form of transportation, with the number of cars quickly rising despite stiff import taxes. There are still plenty of bicycles carrying immense cargo loads, bicycle businesses, and bicycle commuters, as well as pedestrians carrying yoked cargo. All three together were a common scene in the smaller and mid-sized towns. Cyclists come in all ages and styles. Youngsters can’t get a license to ride a moped/motorcycle until 18 but they can get a license to ride certain low-speed mopeds and engined bikes at 16. Anyone can ride a bicycle, of course, young and old alike.

Cyclists wear masks in Vietnam for the pollution and to protect their skin.
Cyclists wear masks in Vietnam for the pollution and to protect their skin.

Gentleman cyclist in front of French-Vietnamese architecture
A gentleman cyclist in front of French-Vietnamese architecture

3 forms of transportation, in Hue, Vietnam
Three forms of transportation in one picture in Hue, Vietnam

Classic cycles and early mopeds at Cà Phê Xe Cổ, a coffee shop with an antiquities collection, in downtown Hanoi:

Classic cycles and early mopeds at Cà Phê Xe Cổ, a coffee shop with an antiquities collection, in downtown Hanoi  Classic cycles and early mopeds at Cà Phê Xe Cổ, a coffee shop with an antiquities collection, in downtown Hanoi

Pictures from the trip:

Pedicab tour gang, Hue Vietnam
Our pedicab tour gang, Hue Vietnam

Cycling through the wicked-hot and steamy Mekong Delta
Cycling through the wicked-hot and steamy Mekong Delta

These are my snapshots of picture-postcards at the tourist shops showing extreme bike cargo:

Cycling with fish traps, Vietnam picture postcard.
Cycling with fish traps, Vietnam picture postcard.

Cycling with pots, Vietnam picture postcard.
Cycling with pots, Vietnam picture postcard.

Mopeds taking farm animals to market. Vietnam picture postcard.
Mopeds taking farm animals to market. Vietnam picture postcard.

Pedicab transporting a mobile soup business, Vietnam picture postcard.
Pedicab transporting a mobile soup business, Vietnam picture postcard.

Pop-up paper cards of cyclists at the tourist shop, Saigon
Pop-up paper cards of cyclists at the tourist shop, Saigon

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