Reflections and stories on six months of life, culture, food and friendship in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bike Seat Math

If there is one image that sums up my December in Hanoi, this is probably it. For those of you not intimately familiar with the motobike culture of Vietnam, it's a bike seat...with lots of chalk...

It looks an awful lot like a math lesson. In fact it's all about parking. The system goes like this: you pull up to a place, a young parking guy emerges from the chaos of the sidewalk. You hop off, he hands you a numbered tag, chalks up your bike seat, and rolls your bike off to some acceptable corner of the sidewalk. Somehow upon retrieval even the numerical tangle pictured above does not fool the attendants. They know exactly which number is theirs. In this case I think 39 was the most recent addition.

This picture represents the cumulative activities of Hanoi Week 1. If only I had a legend for each number.

My visit was intensely social. I had hardly a moment alone, and most of this socializing happened in cafes, sidewalk eateries, restaurants, tea houses and bars. Each meeting, each meal, each cup of ca phe left its trace on my seat. I actually began to admire the effect and was sorry to see the composition obliterated by a bike wash (incidentally immediately after this photo was snapped).

Thanks to another Viet (this one in Japan) for the moto! Access to wheels makes all the difference in a city like Hanoi.

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