Vespas in Vietnam

Here is a report about Scootering in Vietnam, enjoy:

Classic Vespas rev up trends in HCM City

VietNamNet Bridge – Once the epitome of ‘50s Roman jazz-age cool, the Vespa experienced something of a fall from grace between the 1970s-1990s. No longer considered hip, most were reduced to the scrap heap or left long forgotten in storage bins or family garages.

Lowriders: Vespa aficionados hit the road in HCM City. Refurbished old motorbikes are the latest fashion statement for the nation’s urban youth.
Fast forward to the present day and the humble little scooter is undergoing a global revival. In Vietnam where the Vespa never truly died off, because people couldn’t afford to replace them, retro scooters from the 50’s-70’s are more popular than ever.

Vietnam’s streets are jam-packed full of your run of the mill models, the Honda’s Dylan, @, SH, Suzuki’s Hayate and Yamaha’s Nouvo that all clamour for attention in some of the world’s most bizarre urban waves of traffic. But it is the chic old models that have been custom painted and fitted that are turning heads in HCM City.

However, it’s not all easy trails with the old Italians and French, they are up to 50 years old and require some pampering from time to time. They are generally less convenient than the newer models and are prone to problems such as difficult start-ups, frequent breakdowns and stalled engines. Enthusiasts say its all part of the charm and the little acts of maintenance love they dote upon them make the relationship that much more special.

Nguyen Quoc Ky, general director of HCM City-based Viettravel, one of the country’s largest and most successful tourism companies, rides his US$4,000 Mobylette to his office on Pasteur Road every day.

Ky owns a collection of French-made motorbikes, including six Mobylettes and four Velosolexes and said although there is very little commercial value in being a collector there is a great deal of cultural value in restoring something from the past that would of otherwise be trashed.

From HCM City where the craze took root, the fad has sprouted more communities of enthusiasts in other provinces and cities such as Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Dong Nai.

The famous Vietnamese pop singer, Tran Thu Ha, is also a fan. "I ride a Vespa because it reminds me of my family," said Ha, whose collection includes four Vespas that are all used by the members of her immediate family.

Ha conceded that the new Vespas have a good engine and are convenient but just don’t pack the same style punch as the older models. "Riding on an old motorbike makes me feel like I’m in the 50’s. I can also decorate and choose the colour myself, it can be completely customised."

Fascinated by old bikes since he was a child, Tran Quang Vinh, a Vietnamese-French has devoted most of his time to what has moved from a hobby and into a passion. By his estimation, the 47-year-old, has to date restored close to 50 motorbikes.

Vinh’s cafe, Xe Co Quan (Old Bike Cafe) in Hanoi acts as a hub where collectors from all walks of life meet to drink coffee, discuss, argue, trade, buy and sell everything related to retro motorbikes.

"I like riding on antique motorbikes because their slow ride and easy design relax and soothe me," said Vinh who intends to open a museum in Cau Dien on the outskirts of the capital where his huge collection will be showcased.

Retro motorbikes are also making their mark on motorbike tour operators. After successfully passing over the Truong Son Mountain Range on a Vespa, Nguyen Duc Hieu, director of the Hong Bang Tourism Company, decided to include the plucky little continentals on his tours.

The idea proved to be so successful that he rolled out new tours specifically designed with the Vespa in mind, Climbing with the Vespa, Honeymoon in Da Lat-Lang Biang, Trans-Viet and Passing Through the Truong Son Mountain Range.

Like everything, there is a downside to the craze - increased price. Several years ago, an old Vespa or Mobylette usually fetched between VND2-5mil ($125-312), but with the old rule of supply and demand in full effect average prices have skyrocketed to VND10mil ($625) for a Mobylette and between VND12-15mil ($750-940) for a Vespa. For bikes that have been repaired or restored prices range from anywhere between $2,000 to $6,000 .

With decades of restoration work under their belts, Vietnam’s scooter restorers have gained a reputation as some of the best in the business. The interest has sparked a new cottage industry in the country as buyers, dealers and collectors from abroad flock to the country’s shores in search of a good deal and a rare find.

"The bikes are definitely a hot item amongst foreigners and overseas Vietnamese", said Mai Van Quang, a restorer from HCM City, adding that South Koreans are his biggest buyers.

Inundated with requests for export, Cuong repair shop in HCM City is proof that Vietnamese restoration pieces have become the flavour of the month on the international market.

With all this attention and prices for the little pocket rockets doubling by the year, Vietnamese collectors and buyers will need to get in quick to keep a decades long staple of the country’s urban scene or risk losing them to collectors from abroad perhaps for ever.

(Source: Viet Nam News)