A ride down memory lane on Vietnam’s favorite bikes

Motorbikes and scooters were the transport of choice back in the day, long before the streets became clogged with cars and buses.

Most families in Vietnam own at least one or two motorbikes, making it the fourth largest motorbike market in the world, after China, India and Indonesia.

But motorbikes are not just about transport convenience. They are symbols of an era that are much sought-after by enthusiasts.

So here we are. Let’s take a look back at the two-wheeled icons that ruled Vietnam's streets dozens of years ago.


A Lambretta in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress

The French moped with a 49cc air-cooled two-stroke single engine and pedals, manufactured by Motobecane, was popular in southern Vietnam during the colonial years.

Mobys were a luxury brand and mostly owned by rich families. A woman wearing an ao dai on a Moby is a beautiful lingering memory of Saigon.

Following the French model, Italy’s Vespa and Lambretta also won many hearts and became rivals in the southern metropolis during the 1970s.

Vespa remains a successful high-end model in Vietnam, while Lambretta is more about nostalgia.

Honda Super Cub

The world’s best-selling motorbike is also the biggest legend in Vietnam, where people used to, and many still, say “Honda” when they mean “motorbike.” “Honda or taxi?” – something like that.

The first Japanese Honda showed up in Vietnam in the 1980s, and was worth an ounce of gold, or several thousand dollars.

It was a real asset, and is still kept by some families as a souvenir; something to look back on with pride.

Honda 67

If the Honda Super Cub is the people’s motorbike, the Honda 67 is the more masculine model, although many modern women have proven otherwise.

The super sport model is officially known as the Honda SS50, but most Vietnamese call it the Honda 67, due to its year of production. The model is also dubbed Canh en (Swallow wings) for its T-shaped frame.

The model still appears once in a while in Saigon. Below is one of its best memories – a scene from “San Bat Cuop” (1989), a three-episode TV drama about a group of vigilantes who fought robbers on Saigon streets.


A Simson moped of a collector in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Quang

Simson, a moped produced at a factory in the former German Democratic Republic, was the motorbike icon of northern Vietnam during the subsidy period from the end of the Vietnam War until 1986.

A Simson motorbike at the time cost as much as a luxury car at present, and many northerners who returned home from studying in Eastern Europe back then often had more than just their knowledge to boast about.

Pham Trung

By Pham Trung