Saturday, September 25, 2010

Your Car Is Waiting

People who don't have the things many of us take for granted make the things they do have work in ingenious ways.  That is nowhere more true than in the multiple, and often hair-raising, uses Southeast Asians have found for the humble motorbike.  In Thailand there are probably twenty motorbikes for all the other types of motorized transport combined.  They're relatively cheap, they run forever, and they can get you through the most impervious traffic jams.  Amazingly useful.

Here's Porky Pig's worst nightmare, the Two-Stroke Pig Express. The problem is simply stated: You got your pigs over here and your butcher shop over there.  And you got your scooter.  I'm pretty certain the pigs are deceased, if only because I can't imagine them getting them into the carrier while they have any say in the matter.  

Meet the most careful bike pilot in Saigon.  Yes those are eggs.  The eggs, like the pigs -- like everything in Southeast Asia except passengers -- have been secured to the bike using those stretchy things with hooks on each end that I used to keep the trunk of my car closed when I was a starving -- well, mildly hungry -- college student.  I only wish I owned the patent on those things for Thailand.

The Pipe-mobile is seen frequently in Thai and Vietnamese villages these days as indoor plumbing becomes ubiquitous.  Having watched these being loaded, I can tell you that the driver got on the bike first and then the pipes were layered on either side of him, and he'll stay on the bike until they're taken off, because there's no other option.
Moving day.  All the wicker bookcases I bought in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, where my apartments are overflowing with books, were delivered just as you see below.
This could go on forever.  But this is the use to which the motorbike (or "moto," as it's usually called) is most frequently put -- as the family car.  And I've seen them with much bigger families on them.
Only two wheels?  No problem.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. No lack of human ingenuity, eh, Tim? People in Portland do much the same thing, only on bicycles. A while back, an entire household got moved (about two miles, as I recall) by a group of dedicated cyclists using nothing but bikes--some of them pulling bike trailers--and a lot of muscle power. And, yes, keeping a bike (motorized or not) balanced while loading can be a bit of a challenge; I usually tie my bike to a post or a tree when tying items to the luggage rack. The loading process is much easier when everything is upright and stable.

    When I look at your photos of Southeast Asians riding motos, I see not a backward people, but a people who are surfing ahead of the wave of the future. The way I see it, post-petroleum and global climate change are game-changers for everyone, and transitioning from moto to bicycle will be easier than transitioning from car to either moto or bicycle.

    Only two wheels? That's your future calling.

  2. The motos of SE Asia remind me of some of the 4-wheeled vehicles of South Africa. Post apartheid, as more people had some money, 2nd-, 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-hand cars and pick=ups (bakkies, we call them) appeared everywhere. They carry everything. And then some. Not as exciting as the motos, though. Fortunately for the owners, it is only quite recently that the authorities have started paying attention to roadworthiness. If they really cracked down, the roads would be empty.

  3. Great pics Tim. Thanks for sharing. Seeing this I know I'm not making sufficient use of my Volvo to carpool cheerleaders to and fro. I should be able to fit eight more!


  4. These photos don't begin to do justice to the topic. I've seen guys on TWO motorcycles carrying a long pane of glass between them. I've seen teenage boys go down the street, two on one moto, with one standing on the shoulders of the other. If they ever add Moto Sports to the Olympics, SE Asia will have a lock on the gold.