Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hanoi Scooter Rally-2010

2010 is an incredibly audacious year for Hanoi. It marks the 1,000 years anniversary of the city’s founding. So, there has been great buzz and excitement as various groups and organizations plan and promote their respected events.

New roads are being built and old parks are getting renovated with swatches of flowerpots spelling out “1000 Years”.

I’ll snap some pics to show this in the future. Actually, I’d need to do it soon because the big date will be October 10th.  Get it? 10.10.10

Anyway, one of these Hanoian groups staged their event recently and I was fortunate enough to attend. is a website dedicated to all motorbike fans with all kinds of motorbikes, whether they be vintage or new. But it mostly focuses on, as the name says, Italian Vespas.

They called out to scooters from all corners of Vietnam to gather and commemorate Hanoi’s historic year.  So I wasn’t surprised to see scooters from as far south as Saigon here. I was surprised though when they told me that they had driven up the coast on their scooters to be here!

One thing you should know about anything old, and I’m sure many of you understand this already, is that they tend to break down frequently. If your old Vespa, Lambretta, Minsk, Ural or Honda breaks down in one of the big towns, it may take you at the most a couple of hours to get it fixed and it wouldn’t ruin your day completely. On the other hand breaking down some place outside of city center about 20 klicks and you’re out of luck.

Needless to say but the folks from the south-Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Nang and Thanh Hoa, traveled in large groups of at least a dozen bikes with, you guessed it, at least one mechanic.

So when my recently rebuilt and repainted 1966 Vespa Super needed a little fine tuning, there were plenty of capable tool smiths on hand.

This is Quang and Long, new mates of mine that I met at a local shop when I went to get my headlight fixed. In fact it was Quang who alerted me that I had miscalculated the day of the event and hurried me to meet up with them this day. Here they are tinkering with my carburation so the bike wouldn’t stall so easily. “You have to clean the jets regularly because the gas in Vietnam is low in quality.” Said Quang.

Where I had to hurry to was a bia hoi place, literally “air beer”, for lunch. The Saigon group and the folks from just south of the city-the Thanh Hoa club, were having lunch before the first rendezvous.

Here was what I saw upon first entering the scene. It was a feast for the eyes!

There must have been at least 60 bikes of all vintages, models and makes. And just inside, within the raucous and open-air restaurant, were its owners.

Normally I’m very taken a back by this kind of scene-men, mostly, getting drunk and rowdy. Except these folks weren’t getting too inebriated. They had to drive soon after all. They were just happy to see each other. There were cries of “happy to meet you” and “glad you made the long journey” along with the clinking of beer mugs.

Even I joined in for a couple of gulps before heading out onto the first meeting spot then to the event center, an amusement park west of the city.

As you can see from this video, the number of vintage bikes just got bigger and bigger until the lot of us, about 300 got to the grounds of the park. It was quite impressive and if my eyes weren’t crying from the 2-stroke smoke billowing all around me from the motorbikes, they would’ve been crying just for the beauty of the gathering.

Hanoi Scooter Rally- 2010 from Linh Nguyen on Vimeo.

That evening there was a pageantry and pomp pertaining to the old bikes. Local singers and dancers entertained from a stage they had to share with about 15 bikes for auction.  And as the evening turned into night, makeshift beds were strewn throughout the grounds of the amusement park. Apparently the organizers thought these accommodations were fine for everybody, including those who traveled from the other end of the country. 

Nevertheless from what the veterans of the scene were saying this was one of the first and largest gathering in a long while. For me this rally was a great way to get in to the mood for Hanoi’s millennium celebration.