by May Ajero
I broke a promise twice last week.
I have always been firm that I will never be seen riding a motorbike ever. But one fine Thursday in Hanoi, I finally had the courage to try Xe Om to get back to my hotel fast.
Xe om, which literally means motorbike-hug, is very popular in Viet Nam. Motorbike taxis are also quite popular in Thailand and in the Philippines (rural areas).
Anyway, it was one of the most nerve-wrecking and thrilling road experience I've ever had. But trying it allowed me to understand why my friend Karen (a Filipina exchange professional under the Fredskorpset program) swears by it. Its both fast and cheap. It's the best way to avoid taxis with cheating meters. I hate to admit it but a motorbike ride is fun especially the part where the bike glides smoothly in traffic and you have small wafts of air brushing your face.
Here are some tips so you can better enjoy the xe om experience.
1. Negotiate beforehand the amount to pay and show the correct address (hotel card) to the xe om driver. Very often, they dont speak good English and you on the other hand might mispronounce the street names.
2. Be generous. While the average is 15,000VND to 20,000VND per trip, offer 30,000VND. I read that Xe Om drivers are actually out-of-job and could always use the extra dollar.
3. Avoid having too much to carry with your hands. You'll find it difficult to "hug" the driver if you do.
4. Pray hard the entire trip but pray harder as you approach an intersection. This is the most prone areas for collisions of motorbikes. In both trips, our bike almost collided with other bikes. (The intersection is also where I would stop breathing for a few seconds)
While I was lucky that my two Xe Om trips were generally good, I now have a new promise.. there shall be no third time.