My New Favorite Mode of Transportation – Xe Om

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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of how utterly ridiculous the traffic is here in Ho Chi Minh City. Like…I don’t even think I can properly describe how insane it can be sometime. But in due time, you actually get used to it, and in some ways, it’s incredibly beautiful. I’d been slowly building up my traffic tolerance by driving around with Johnny in Phu My Hung where it’s not that crowded. But when it came time to go into D1 or beyond, I’d always hop in a taxi.

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But there’s another form of transportation in Vietnam, and it’s a xe om, or a motorbike taxi. The drivers are pretty much on every corner, everywhere, sometimes screaming at you, “MOTORBIKE, TAXI, MOTORBIKE!” I’d been afraid to take them before, but one day, I just decided to say fuck it and live on the wild side. Let me tell you, it was the BEST decision. While riding around the city, I took out my camera, and snapped away, soaking in as much of the city as I could. All of the photos in this post are from times I took a xe om through Saigon. It’s is now my preferred method of transportation. It’s cheaper, and much, much faster than taking a taxi. I’ve even heard of people hiring their own personal xe om driver!

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There’s no better way to really see the city than on the back of a motorbike. In a taxi, you can’t see all of the tiny nuances that make this city so electric, so vibrant. You don’t see the old women cooking clams in the alleyways, you don’t get to see the hidden vegetable markets, or see the tiny children playing with their friends. The first time I rode a xe om, I clutched onto the back of the motorbike for dear life, but now, I’m much more relaxed. I let myself really see the city, take photos, and interact with the kids who laugh and clap when they see me on the back of a bike. It’s allows me to really and truly connect with the city, and to never take for granted the fact that I’m able to live this sort of life.

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Rules for a Xe Om:

-Always negotiate a price first. It’s usually 50% of what a normal taxi ride would be. From Phu My Hung to D1 in a taxi is roughly 120,000-130,000d (or $6 to 6.50), so I usually ask for 60,000 – 70,000($3-3.50 dollars). If it’s raining or during rush hour, expect to pay a little bit more. If they don’t accept your offer, just laugh walk away to the next guy.
– Make sure they have a helmet for you to wear.
– If you have belongings, make sure you keep them in between you and the driver, wrapped around your body and hold on to them for dear life. Bag thieves are real and they will snatch your shit. I’ve also had drivers who have held my bags for me around their necks, or clipped them safely to their bikes. Better yet, if you’re planning on riding a xe om, wear a backpack.
– If the driver feels shady, just walk away. Trust your intuition. I’ve never had this issue, but you can never be sure.
– Hang on and HAVE FUN!!!!

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