A bicycle holds a significant meaning in Vietnam, serving purposes beyond mere recreation or fitness. It symbolizes a rite of passage and a mode of transport that many cannot imagine living without. Observing a young girl struggling to ride an oversized bicycle in an alleyway reminded me of the challenges I faced while learning to ride in my youth. However, the circumstances here in Vietnam are much different, with children risking their safety as they navigate the chaotic traffic.
For many, a bicycle is not just a means of transportation, but a source of livelihood. From custom-made bicycle food stalls to vendors transporting goods on their bikes, it is evident that a bicycle is essential for work and income. The importance of bicycles is recognized by various charities that donate bikes to schoolchildren and disadvantaged individuals.
While motorbikes may dominate the streets of Vietnam, venturing outside the main urban areas reveals the prevalence of bicycles. These versatile and cost-effective vehicles can carry almost anything and require no license. Surprisingly, construction workers still transport their tools on bikes in Hoi An, and cycling as a sport and for road trips has gained popularity in recent years.
Riding a bicycle provides a unique perspective on the world, as it allows one to observe their surroundings at a leisurely pace. Unlike cars or motorbikes, a bike ride encourages engagement with the environment and a sense of connection. It is an experience that the Vietnamese people embrace, making the most of what they have, whether it be an old clunker or a flashy Zoomer.
Ultimately, the bicycle represents resilience and adaptability in Vietnam. It is a reminder that regardless of the circumstances, people here find a way to move forward and appreciate life’s simple joys. So, let us pedal through life, appreciating the journey and the opportunities it brings.