I recently spent ten days on a scooter road trip around the Mekong Delta with Dave and Stuart, similar to the one we did in Northern Thailand last year.
Our time in the Delta was filled with rice paddies, river ferries, bad roads and, well, people carrying strange things on the back of their bikes.
It began just outside of Saigon. As I was happily snapping photos of the changing scenery from the back of Dave’s bike, we found ourselves riding behind a guy carrying a door on the back of a scooter. Yes, an actual door. I’d heard of and seen photos online of the ridiculously enormous things that are carried around on bikes in Southeast Asia but up until Vietnam I hadn’t actually witnessed it for myself.
Over the next ten days, I set myself the challenge of trying to get a photo of every overloaded bike we passed and had a lot of fun sorting through them for this post. These are some of my favourites:
The photo that started it all: carrying a door on the back of a scooter.
Ten minutes later, we passed something equally as large and even more surprising, I assume this is some kind of ladder and I especially love the fact that the driver is also driving while holding something and has his leg up in the air!
And then we passed this guy, with a scooter piled high with vegetables. I have no idea how he managed to keep everything balanced while riding!
This was one of my favourites! I can’t imagine this was particularly comfortable to hold on the pot-holed roads…
Leaving Mỹ Tho the following morning, I was delighted to see that the crazy carrying madness continuing on from the previous day. I loved seeing this guy carrying huge balls of hay on either side of a stick.
And then a whole assortment of items precariously balanced on this bike!
We arrived in Bến Tre and were greeted by another one of my favourites: Santa Claus outfits for children being sold on the back of a bicycle!
On the drive to Trà Vinh, I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculous amount of bananas being carried on the back of this bike.
And the crazy number of vegetables crammed onto this lady’s scooter.
I have no idea what’s in this sack, spotted on our drive to Sóc Trăng, but I can’t help but feel it’s a little off-balance…
Of course, the items carried on scooters aren’t just limited to objects. On the ride to Bạc Liêu we spotted a sleeping baby being carried on the back!
We left Cà Mau for Rạch Giá and soon came across this guy. I love the vibrant pink feather dusters and really long broomsticks along the side!
As we neared Rạch Giá, I managed to snap a quick photo of this guy who was carrying a selection of precariously-balanced skateboards for kids.
After being told it would take around four hours to get from Cần Thơ to Saigon, we weren’t expecting our final day to take almost 12 hours! There were still plenty of things to keep me amused though, including this smelly scooter stacked high with durian!
Also seen on the drive was this scooter, carrying hundreds of broomsticks.
We arrived safely back in Saigon after 10 days of Mekong Madness. I was glad to see there was still plenty of crazy items carried on scooters in Saigon, though here it was common to see people riding bikes stacked high with electronics.
And finally, showing that the bizarre items carried are not limited to just bikes, I present this: a water buffalo being transported along a river, spotted on our ride from Rạch Giá to Cần Thơ.
As we were very slowly bumping our way down yet another terrible road, it was often the crazy things on scooters that kept me amused and helped me to forget the pain shooting up and down my spine. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Saigon in a couple of months and though I won’t be embarking on any road trips, I can’t wait to spend my days attempting not to get run over by ridiculous items gliding past on two wheels.
Which photo is your favourite?
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I would’ve stayed far away from the scooter carrying durian.
Ha! Yeah, fortunately we quickly overtook him so I didn’t have to smell it for too long!
My three favorites from my time there:
1) A crate of live pigs
2) A full size old-style lamp post (probably 6m long trailing off the back)
3) A full size refrigerator (full-sized for Vietnam,anyway – fortunately not an American-sized monolith)
All amazing. I’d love to see a lamp post though… that’s ridiculous and sounds hilarious!
I started making a list, once, of all the crazy things I’ve seen on motorbikes here. (Cos you can’t take photos when you’re on the front of a bike.)
The list included a kitchen sink, four toilets and a guy with an old-fashioned BIG television ON TOP OF A FRIDGE on the back of his bike!!!
What’s this about you returning???
Yeah, I think Dave’s grateful I’m on the back taking photos of all the things we see!
Ah, I’m so excited to return! I think we’ll be heading back in May for 6 weeks or so. I’m going to bathe in pho!
Get yourself a GoPro camera and a helmet or chest mount. Film and get photos from the footage or just take pics. Great little unit for a person like yourself. I love mine!
My boyfriend actually purchased a GoPro last week with the intention of using it on future scooter trips! :-)
And my wife is concerned about me driving a scooter in Thailand with her on the back! Awesome pics. Thanks for sharing.
Ha! You’ll be much safer driving with her on the back than 4000 bananas!
The picture of the person carrying a million bananas on the back of (in fact, all over) their scooter is amazing! I actually laughed out loud!
That’s one of my favourites! I couldn’t believe how many were piled on there!
They don’t care about bruising them , maybe they think it adds some flavour?
i think this is one of the most amusing things I’ve read in a while! That buffalo in the boat made me chuckle!
I saw 4 camels shoved in the back of a pickup truck last week in Morocco…rather bizarre!
Ahh I miss seeing camels roaming around in Morocco!
This is one great collection! I love this subject. I have to share with you one of my pics. Please feel free to delete this comment :)
We arrived into Luang Prabang last night and the game is just beginning. Top spot so far was the lady so surrounded in binbags that it looked like noone was riding.
Loved your durian photo. We’d have made him pull over to swap bikes, happily.
Hahaha! Isn’t it so much fun spotting the crazy things whizzing past? One of my favourite things about Southeast Asia!
One of my favourite photo essays of all time, what a star photographer you are.
Hahaha, thank you so much, George!
Lauren, you are a GENIUS.
I think my favourite here has to be the water buffalo. But if we’re limiting it to things on bikes…the feather dusters. Just because I imagine them being used as costume accessories by a budget-conscious Vietnamese drag queen.
Also, I’d have totally pushed over the scooter with the durian. I can’t stand the stuff.
Thanks, Tom! It was so much fun taking photos of everything — you’d have laughed so hard at the ridiculousness!
Hahahahaha this is AMAZING xx
Isn’t it?! :)
Great photos. You didn’t get the classic of squeezing a whole family of 5 on a bike ;-) Happy travels, Becks :o)
I know! I saw so many but was never quick enough to snap a photo of it!
I must admit, these “stuff on bikes” posts never cease to amuse me.
WTF is up with the tiny Santa outfits??
I know! Aren’t they so bizarre? They were all over this one town but I never saw anybody wearing them… maybe they’re for decoration?!
Here in Quang Ngai they dress their little kids in the Santa suits, which made me laugh, they are probably Buddhists.
So cute! :-)
Priceless, so funny specially the Poor looking buffalo :) hope to ride with you and Dave one time.
The buffalo was hilarious! :) Hope to ride with you guys too!
Haha, classic! My favourite has to be the bonus photo of the water buffalo! I can barely manage taking a handbag on the tube, let alone half my belongings on a scooter. Impressive!
I know, right?! It astonishes me just how much stuff they can fit on there… and not topple over too! How do they even balance it on there in the first place?!
I loved the boat and the ox hitching a ride! Classic SE Asia moment. I have a quick question: did you need an international driver’s license to rent a scooter in Vietnam? My husband and I live in Taiwan and own two scooters. We don’t have international or local licenses and no one cares. Is the same true for Vietnam? We plan on scooting from Saigon to Hanoi over summer and were wondering if our lack of licenses would be an issue. Thanks!
Dave’s post goes into this in a lot of detail http://whatsdavedoing.com/riding-mekong-delta-road-less-travelled/
But basically if you don’t have a local license (and to get one of these you need to sit a test in Vietnamese) then you have to leave your passport behind at the rental shop… and you need your passport to check into every hotel in Vietnam. Fortunately, Dave has two passports but we still had some hassle along the way as he didn’t have a visa in the passport we were giving to hotels. Also, if a cop pulls you over and you don’t have a local license then they impound the bike and the rental shop you bought it from has to collect it. I can’t imagine anywhere would let you rent a bike up to Hanoi… we had enough trouble getting it to the Mekong Delta!
I’d probably recommend buying the scooters to be honest… I heard rumours that they were going to pass laws in Vietnam that meant you wouldn’t be able to ride scooters that you didn’t own anymore…
The main problem I see with getting your licence changed to VN, ( here in the Province’s anyway ), is the 2 or 3 week wait to pick up your new licence.
If you carry a letter from the previous bike owner, it isn’t usually a problem, I’ve been here 2 1/2 years , done about 15,000kms and never been pulled up, ( been close though, towing my bike trailer, didn’t know where I live must be the only place in VN where bike trailers are banned, although you still see heaps of them being used everyday ).
Great information, Chris! Considering the amount of scooters in Vietnam, I found it surprising at how tough it was for us to rent one and take it out of Saigon!
Thanks for the info! Perhaps we’ll bicycle instead.
Pity I can’t copy and paste my photo’s of my bike and my dog, who I carrying around with me most of the time, ( used to carry 2 but the cops only allowed me to carry 1 , and he has to go into a big cage on the back of my bike, certainly get some looks. ( great, takes the attention away from me ).
Hahaha, that’s awesome! I’d love to see those photos!
Haha, I so wish I had taken photos of all the crazy stuff I saw being hauled around on bikes in Vietnam! Where there’s a will there’s a way – and in Vietnam they’re always willing to jump on a scooter and carry whatever they need!
I know! I guess if that’s you’re only option… you gotta make it work!
The craziest thing I have ever seen on a scooter is another scooter. I swear and even have photographic evidence. :-)
Wow! Now that’s impressive!
My favorite photo is the one of the water buffalo on the boat. I imagine they’ve been transporting animals that way for centuries, though the water buffalo does look a bit concerned ;-)
I’d love to have one of those brooms. Nice craftsmanship.
The Netherlands has taken bike transport a bit further, with wooden barrows on the front for stowing the kids or the groceries :-)
I loved watching the bikes in Amsterdam — there was always something interested being carried there too.
Ha, this is insane! I am going to be posting about this from my time in Haiti! It is WILD what people transport on these little bikes! I saw one guy who had a refrigerator! Some people can’t even drive with a person. Loved this, thanks!
Awesome! I can’t wait to see them!
Love this! Think my favourite are the banana ones. Weirdest thing I’ve seen was probably about 30 chickens strapped to a bike in Morocco – not so funny!
I saw some interesting things in Morocco too… I loved seeing camels transporting things around there.
Isn’t this the best?! My favorite part about visiting Vietnam. One that I could never get a picture of, it’s rare but so funny, a family of 5 on a scooter! We’ve also seen people transporting ducks and little gold fishies. Hehehehe
Yes! I saw that so many times too but never had my camera on me. I can’t believe they manage to cram so many people onto one scooter. When Dave and I went on a scooter tour to the Southernmost point of Vietnam, we ended up having to both cram onto the back of the bike, which was… cosy.
Haha! I love the pictures! We get a lot of them back home in Indonesia too, I once saw a motorbike carrying a family of 5! Crazy! I guess safety isn’t really our biggest concern :
That’s always one of my favourites to see.
Ha, I love these photos–I think my favorite is the one with the hay–too funny! It’s crazy how they can balance!
I know! I know I’d definitely topple over if I attempted to do any of this!
Something similar happens in Taiwan too, lol but I never do that because it’s a bit dangerous. :-)
Hahaha, we could have explored Sun Moon Lake with me, you and your mum crammed onto a scooter!
No joke aside from the people and food watching bikes cary ridiculous things was my favorite thing about Vietnam. I mean really… it’s crazier in Vietnam than an other place I’ve ever visited.
So Funny! I was in Vietnam last year and could not believe everything people tried to carry.
I remember seeing a box of live piglets on the back of a bike in Hanoi!
Ha, that sounds amazing!
He he, just looking through your old blog posts for Vietnam for ideas and saw this. Last week on Phou Quoc we saw a guy sitting on the back of a moped with an absolutely massive window! His face was turned sideways and you could see it squashed against the other side of the glass. It really tickled me, wish I had a picture of it. Your pictures are brilliant, you have really captured the madness well.
Hahaha, that’s hilarious!
I love it. It is always amazing the things they can manage to carry. I think the worse thing I ever saw was two guys with a mattress that had to be queen sized between them. It was like a sail that had to be unwieldy and holding them back. Thanks for sharing.
Hahaha, that sounds incredible!
Hilariously efficient haha
Love this post! I’ve been living in Vietnam for the past year and people simply don’t stop to impress me with the number of things they can effectively transport on their mopeds.
My all-time favorite by far is transporting another motorbike on a moped while another person was holding it.
I’m in Saigon now and have been keeping my own list. So far I’ve seen scooters carrying:
A tree trunk at least 5 metres tall, standing upright
A tall palm tree
250 gallons of water, approx
A large refrigerator
A fully extended ladder
6 “occupied” chicken crates, stacked up high
A very large, open bag of feathers (the scooter is molting as is speeds along!)
Things I’m waiting to see on the back of a scooter:
A large patio umbrella, open
A dead body
Hahahaha! I love that. I’m currently in India at the moment and I’m definitely seeing similar items on bikes here :-)
These photos are so real ! welcome to our country with millions of motorbikes !