Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Man Strollers and the rolling death machine

There is a means of transportation in Vietnam that I am loathe to take. It is called a cyclo and it is nothing more than a large baby stroller for adults. It is powered by a wiry, smelly, alcohol powered Vietnamese man pedalling furiously on the custom designed bicycle that powers the man stroller. It is a metallic box on two wheels with padded seats and a rooftop for protection from the constant thunder and lightning showers that plaque Hanoi. They are loaded down with swinging bells to attract the attention of the shell shocked backpackers, elderly tourists and the army of banana pancakers roaming the Old Quarter of Vietnam.( Banana Pancakers are called so due to thier all-consuming desire to eat only local fare and live in the nastyest, cheapest guesthouses available. They seem to exist mostly on a diet of banana themed foods, the king of which being the banana pancake) Karen guilted me in to experiencing this obnoxious display of man-powered indignity and I will never do it again. As if I don't stand out enough on the streets of Hanoi as a hairy, six-foot tall, mountainous Western sweat machine. I have to add to my carnival like oddity showcase by riding around town like some kind of petty prince, with some Vietnamese man panting and sweating behind me as he struggles to keep the carriage moving forward with the obsticle of my considerable girth slowing him down. Yes, never again.
The other vehicle I need to mention is the rolling death machine. I have been seeing these more and more as we enter the hottest season Vietnam has to offer. They are modified wheelbarrows with a bicycle style man-engine powering it. Much the same design as the man-stroller, it is used mostly to transport pointed metal rods from place to place. It looks like some kind of medeival torture device as it comes rolling toward you while you are riding your motabike,(I still can not refer to these Honda Waves as motorcycles)down the narrow Hanoian streets. I have seen heartstoppingly close encounters with overzealous motorbike riders coming within mere inches of the deadly spikes before careening out of the way at the last possible micro-second. I will make sure I take pictures of both of these things, once again, just to prove that I am not making this up.
Bye for now,

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