Backwards and in heels

The ubiquity of motor scooters in Vietnam means that women often use them to get to work. But office attire isn’t exactly suitable for a lot of scooter seats, and especially for the pillion rider.

We saw this startling scenario fairly often… scooters dodging through traffic, female passengers completely relaxed and engrossed by the phone. Side-saddle.

Footpath? Sidewalk? Parking lot!

I guess it’s a sign of national progress that many people in Vietnam can afford scooters. But the national infrastructure hasn’t caught up, and so there’s approximately no parking lots. Luckily, there are sidewalks.

Pedestrians have to go between, through, and around, frequently stepping into the street. Where they are tooted at by more scooters.


The internet is awash in pictures of overloaded scooters in various places. We were impressed with this guy’s ingenuity and patience as he lashed this scaffolding to his trusty steed.

A few minutes later he came back for some long sections of pipe. He hoisted them on his shoulder and drove away one-handed. What could possibly go wrong?

Gas station

Most of the vehicles are scooters, and nobody has any spare coin, so most gas purchases are for like 1or 2 liters.

I get around

The modal vehicle in Ubud is a motor scooter, and they are driven with a fearless panache. But this 1960s era Holden Special lives just down the road from our villa and brings its own panache to the party.

This old scoot has scooted its last. It will be absorbed back into the jungle in a few years / decades.

Living Vi-car-iously

That, my friends, is a 1958 Mercedes 220S. It’s a nice-looking car, a model I didn’t know, and it happened to be parked up the street last weekend. We would look very fine, I said to Lee, driving down the road in a car like that.

Hmm, I continued, I wonder what something like that goes for. I mean, just for curiosity.

Well, it turns out there was one for sale by auction on TradeMe, and it further turned out the auction was ending in only a few hours.

When I first saw it, the bid was about $23,000. According to the listing, the for sale car is mostly rented out to bridal parties. The seller said it’s not especially original, not a show quality car at all, but clean and eminently drivable.

I spent the next few hours daydreaming. It was a lot of fun. But, as usual in these flights of automotive fancy, common sense prevailed.

I hope the new owner enjoys it in the years to come as much as I (and the 500+ others who followed this auction) did in those few hours.

Hot roddin’

Last weekend we loaded the tandem into the van (I can hear some people yawning already) and headed up to Orewa to check out the Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walking Track.

The ride was lovely, although we got lost in subdivisions a couple of times (welcome to Orewa, where you can check out any time you want…)

But wait, there’s more! We were apparently the only people in New Zealand who didn’t know that Orewa over Anniversary weekend means hot rods. Lotsa lotsa hot rods.

I’m not really a hot rod guy, mostly for political/ snobbery reasons… those are, for the most part, not my people. But OMG the cars are magnificent. The giant engines, clean enough to eat off. You can reach into the metal-flake paint jobs up to your elbow. It’s all good: the ball fringe, the greasy food truck smells, the Betty Boop costumes.

And of course it’s almost all Americana. There were maybe 5 or 10% right hand drive cars… the rest was pure Detroit. There were more Mustangs and Camaros than anything else. We pulled in to the sounds of Johnny Cash, and later saw a very convincing Polynesian Elvis grinding away on the little bandshell stage, mopping his face in the heat.

Part of me does wonder, back to the political/ snobbery discussion, whether there’s a need for some additional work so that the next generation of li’l rodders is more fully empowered and socially tolerant than those that came before. But in the meantime, listen to that engine roar!!


Walking to and from work I see what I would consider exotic cars pretty much every day. Bentleys and Ferraris and Lambos, oh my. And on the weekends it gets even better, as people bring out their pampered beauties to see and be seen.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all like that for everybody…

Plenty of people still rely on duct tape for repairs. Even liability auto insurance is not mandatory here, much less full coverage, since the medical side of things is covered by the state. So, even more people here pay for their own bodywork (which is called ‘panelbeating’ which is a really great word), window replacements, etc.

This spectacularly ugly Ford Escort was first registered in about 1977, based on its license plate. In NZ, since there are no states, there’s only one sequence of plates… two letters followed by up to three numbers started in 1964, with AA plates. The plates flipped from black to white in 1981, somewhere around the letter M. They ran out of numbers in 2000 and started over in 2001 with three letters. Our car registered this year is LNE… so the current numbering will last for quite a few more years.

Stuck on you

Not our white minivan, to be sure, but a sight that makes you think about how differences in the expression of that one little gene for “impulse control” can have a lasting impact on a person’s life.

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