Traveling is not just about the destinations, it is also about how you get there. This statement, somewhat “cliché”, becomes surprisingly accurate for those who have traveled to Vietnam. Besides enjoying Vietnam’s sensational natural and man-made attractions, travelers are truly fascinated with the unique means of transportation in the country. Whether cruising on roads or floating on water, whether in the bustling cities or in the peaceful countryside, these local Vietnamese transportations are the great addition to any trip to this lovely Southeast Asian country.
Motorcycles/Scooters (Xe Máy)
The chaotic scene of thousands of motorcycles and scooters scrambling the city streets is one of the symbolic images of the Vietnam. As many areas in Vietnam consist of tightly arranged narrow streets, such small and flexible transportations are ideal. With the country’s increasing population, however, over the years, the number of motorcycles and scooters become almost overwhelming and frequently cause traffic jams during rush hours. Not only crowded, they are also quite driven wildly. It is common to see these scooters snaking through car lanes, running red lights and even getting on the sidewalks. All in all, it is chaotic! But set the inconvenience and craziness aside, travelers would find things that are “very Vietnam” by observing these motorcycles and scooters. It is impressive to look at what these little vehicles can carry, because... well, it is absolutely anything! From potted plants to live animals, from groups of four to sleeping toddlers, from bags to boxes, it seems like there is no limit whatsoever! Hiring a motorbike to explore the streets of Hanoi/Saigon or to journey through the countryside is highly recommended for those who are interested in adventurous travel (braveness required).
Crowded street full of motorcycles and scooters in Vietnam (Photo: Internet)
Cyclo (Xích Lô)
A cyclo is a three-wheel bicycle taxi that runs by human power. One or two passengers sit on a double seat that is supported by the two front wheels and the driver sits behind on the back wheel. It was brought to Vietnam during the French colonial period and once was the most common hired vehicles on the streets of Hanoi and Saigon. Nowadays, it is appreciated as a cultural touristic activity. Slowly riding on a cyclo through the narrow streets of Hanoi Old Quarter, the palaces of Hue or the central Saigon, tourists are brought a few decades back into the country’s past with some great memories. Along the modern and noisy cars and motorcycles, those humble cyclos are the wonderful reminder of Vietnam’s streets in the old days – slow, quiet but very lovely.
Cyclo in Hanoi (Photo: Kenh14)
Junk Boats (Thuyền Buồm)
Ha Long bay, as pretty as it is, has been made even more spectacular with the many beautiful ships and boats floating on it. Within them, junk boats are the most popular and they have long been the ultimate kind of transportation when talking about this beautiful bay. They are originated in China and have been brought to quite a few Asian countries. In Vietnam, junk boats (or junks) operate mostly in the north and are extremely popular in Ha Long bay. Traditionally, their hull is made of wood and painted brown while the sail is usually white. Traveling at slow speed, junks allow guests to enjoy the magical beauty of Ha Long and it can even stop for a romantic overnight stay. Recently, local authority mandates all junks to be painted white and as a result, it faced some mild protests. Locals and visitors, after all, have already fallen in love with the symbolic image of lovely brown junks, floating in the magazine-cover-sunset of Ha Long bay – something that they never want to lose.
Traditional brown junks in Halong Bay (Photo: Huong Hai)
Woven Bamboo Basket Boats (Thuyền Thúng)
Looking down from above, ones would find floating on many sensational Vietnam’s beaches, especially the busy ones, are dozens of little moving brown dots. These are the round bamboo basket boats, making their ways up and down the coast, purely powered by human energy and skills. The handcrafting production of these boats is quite interesting: strands of bamboo are woven together and perfectly formed into a round shape before being coated with tar or varnish to become waterproof. With their flexibility, originally, the boats are used for fishing and trading. Basket boats’ limited capacity (7 people maximum), however, allows them to only transport in small numbers and small goods. Lately, basket boats are also hired for recreational purposes – squid fishing at night, water taxiing, or simply having a try at rowing it. It takes a bit of skill and patience to move the boat in the right direction and not have it spinning around. Bamboo basket boats – simple and humble – require efforts in both producing and operating them. Being a best friend of many seaside families for generations, these boats are also tell some interesting stories about the beautiful life by the long coastline of Vietnam.
Basket boats in Da Nang (Photo: Internet)
Animal Powered Transportation
Sometimes, “old-school” ways are the best ways! When moving gets a bit too tough, Vietnamese people turn to their four-legged friends for some help. The hard-working buffaloes and ox’s have been helping Vietnamese people with farming and pulling their carts since the very beginning. Horses’ strength and endurance have gone with people on long, tiring journeys of Vietnam’s Central Highland and Northeast regions. Elephants, though not so popular, also play an important role in transporting people and goods on mountainous and highland areas, especially for the minority hill tribe people. Besides actual purpose as a means of transportation, these also provide visitors with truly unique experiences. Countryside themed travel tours in Vietnam usually include sightseeing on ox or buffalo carts. Riding horses on the romantic roads of Da Lat or the foggy hills of Sapa is always lovely for couples. Elephant rides, unsurprisingly, are full of excitements for anyone.
Elephant ride in Buon Me Thuot (Photo: Internet)
Interested in visiting Vietnam and try one of these unique forms of moving? Take a look at our Vietnam tours at https://www.vietnamstay.com/tours/vietnam-vacations.