Admit it! Vietnam is the most beautiful country in the world where all the fun begins but never ends! As you stroll down the crowded streets in Saigon at night or just simply visit the peaceful villages in the rural areas, you immediately become amazed by the different things that are completely unique to this quaint country. Now, the real question that I want to ask is: how did you get yourself from place to place in Vietnam? Whether you are a native or a traveling foreigner, what is your favorite mean of transportation in Vietnam? If you were to ask me the same question, I can name at least 8 different ways that can move you around in Vietnam other than using your own two legs.
Xe Dap – Bicycle
Let me start with the bicycles since it is the first transportation vehicle that I learned how to ride when I was growing up in Vietnam. This is the easiest and probably the only vehicle that you would be able to operate in Vietnam if it is your first time visiting the country. Seeing beautiful girls in white “ao dai” riding their bicycles had never failed to get me excited. Sadly, the students nowadays are beginning to abandon the use of bicycles in major cities such as Hanoi or Saigon.
Xe Máy – Motorcycle/Mopeds
The use of mopeds has become the dominant method of transportation in every city of Vietnam. Due to its much faster speed and small size, motorcycle has rapidly become the main transportation vehicle for every Vietnamese family. However, because of its fast speed, I have fallen off this crazy thing more times than I can count. Surprisingly, I’m still alive to write an article about it!
Xe Ôm – “Hugging” Motorbike Service
If you are afraid to fall off motorcycles (like me) or too chicken to learn how to use it, you can try “Xe Ôm”. The litteral English translation of “Xe Ôm” is Hugging Car. This method of transportation is simple: you sit behind the driver and tightly hug/hold-on to him (for dear life!) so that you won’t fall off the motorcycle when he does those scary maneuvers to get through the crowded traffic. By the way, Vietnam has other services with the word “Ôm” in it besides “Xe Ôm”. Since they are not related to the purpose of this transportation article, I’ll let you explore them by yourself when you go back there… or I can just write a brand new article about them next time!
This is my most favorite mean of transportation in Vietnam. You sit on a little cart as the driver paddles behind you. Nothing beats the feeling of sitting on a cyclo and strolling along the lakeside on a summer night. You don’t have to worry about traffic. You don’t have to worry about running out of gas. And you don’t have to worry about hugging a smelly driver. Due to new traffic regulations, these symbolic vehicles have been forbidden in many streets in Saigon and Hanoi. I really don’t understand the real reason behind it, but I am still quite angry at the fact.
If “Xích Lô” has the driver paddling in the back, then “Xe Lôi” has the driver paddling in the front. This version of cyclo was modified from the classic Chinese pulling cart. Instead of having the coolie running and pulling the cart, the Vietnamese attached a bicycle to the front of the cart. This type of transportation is more common in the Southern Vietnam than in the North or Central.
Xe Lam – Three Wheel Motorbike
What do you get when you combine “Xe May” and “Xe Loi”? You get one funny looking “Xe Lam”! It looks like a mini-motorcycle/truck with three wheels: passangers will be cramped in the back cart. I was lucky enough to sit in this vehicle once in my life time. It was a very interesting experience, but I need to warn you that it is probably the loudest piece of metal on the street.
This bus is at the bottom of my list. I never had a good experience with it because it simply cannot be improved when you have to share the same transportation service with a couple hundred people. The drivers and their assistants are mostly thuggish who try to rip every penny out of your pocket if you don’t know how to bargain. To make it worse, they usually overload their buses with tons of people, and there is no way you could get a breath of fresh air in this crowded bus. Definitely not recommended for someone with claustrophobia! To conclude, “Xe Khach” is the last thing that I would want to deal with when I need to go anywhere. It is simply not enjoyable!
Okay. So when all things fail, we go back to the basics. Although you do not see Xe Bò operating in the cities (I wonder why!), they are still very common in the countryside of Vietnam. Whether it is 1 cow, 2 cows, or 3 cows pulling your cart, you will still be traveling at the same speed. That’s how consistent and reliable it is. So, Xe Bò is our only reliable transportation when technology has failed us…
To be honest, when I wrote “8 different ways” of transportation at the beginning of this article, I didn’t realize that I have miscounted and there are actually only 7 ways that I was trying to write about. “Xe Bò” was the only thing that could come up with to make up the 8th. So I apologize for being a goofy mathematician and making you read some extra lines. Now, tell me, what is your favorite mean of transportation in Vietnam including taxi, train, airplane, boats, and… “Xe Bò” ?