Saigon on Wheels
May 30—August 18 2013
With the turn of a wheel, Saigon had become like Bangkok a decade earlier: filled with the incessant rattling of motorbike traffic. In just two years, the number of motorbike licenses in the city had skyrocketed from 40,000 to nearly 900,000. Saigon’s motorbike craze was on the leading edge of the economic revolution sweeping through Vietnam in the early 1990’s. It rejuvenated what had been a sleepy and backward state-run city into a bustling and colorful free-market where activity had returned to pre-1975 levels. With increased foreign investment, new construction and new jobs, there was an air of hope that fifteen years of economic stagnation was over.
This explosion of energy and excitement is the perfect metaphor for Vietnam. The tension caused by years of economic and social suppression had finally snapped and the recoil produced a new motto, song voi, or “living fast.” Saigon’s streets are a constant circus of swirling movement. Girls in party dresses and guys in their Sunday best pass whole families on a single scooter. Virtually every aspect of daily life is played out in the commotion of the streets.