Vietnam’s ubiquitous motorbikes, seen from above

By Pham Thanh Long    December 5, 2018 | 09:34 am GMT+7

A photo collection offers a glimpse into the often chaotic traffic in Hanoi.

A glimpse of Vietnams traffic scene: a photo collection

"Fantastic four" is a collection by photographer Pham Thanh Long. The photo album focuses on the motorbike, the most popular means of transport in Hanoi and across Vietnam. In these photos, the four people were carrying large blue barrels of leftover food.

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Long got the photo idea four years ago, but it took him until late 2018 to actually do it. He said about his work: "The photos look down from an overhead pass, making the vehicles seem very close and lively against the simple background of the road surface."

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On Hanoi’s streets, these rickety old motorbikes are a familiar scene. They date back to several decades ago, but still function reasonably well. These pictures were taken at different spots along the road from the Nga Tu So intersection in Thanh Xuan District to Ha Dong District, about 10 km south west of Hanoi downtown. This is the beginning of Long’s project, and it would expand in future, he said.

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The sleeping children are carried in different styles on motorbikes. These are scenes that Vietnamese see every day, but are portrayed in a unique way through the lens of the artist.

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These pictures show four drivers stuck in traffic jams, all surrounded by cars. Some people even refer to Hanoi traffic as a gap filling game, since drivers drive through any space they find on the street ignoring traffic lanes. This has become a typical image of traffic in Vietnam.

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Some foreigners call crossing a street in Vietnam an extreme sport or a survival game. Many Vietnamese are used to driving across the street often by just waving their hands to signal to oncoming vehicles.

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Capturing Hanoi traffic from above is not a new idea. In the past photographer Loes Heerink shot collections of shoulder pole vendors. Long’s photo album, however, captures the city’s traffic flows and drivers' habits from more angles.

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Some drivers do not wear helmets. It is 10 years since Vietnam made helmets compulsory, and 90 percent comply, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.

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Motorbikes are used to carry all sorts of things irrespective of size. These photos taken last November show motorbikes lugging bicycles. Bicycles too are among the most popular vehicles in Vietnam.

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These photos are titled "lane dividers". The motorbike riders are carrying extra long tubes or iron bars.

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At the end of last year Vietnam had around 51 million motorbikes for a population of 95 million. The Vietnam Association of Motorbike Manufacturers estimates 8,768 new motorbikes hot the streets on average every day.

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Women wearing sunglasses, masks and UV protection clothes are jokingly called "street ninjas".

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In contrast to the four street ninjas are these bald men without helmets or masks. These photos were taken between November and early December 2018.

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Many people ignore safety rules, putting their feet up high, removing their bike mirrors.

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These men carry their wives and bulky goods from outside the city to sell. The scene is common in the morning when traders hurry to markets or trading spots.

 
 
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