When Anita and I traveled in Vietnam, like other visitors to the country, we marveled at the chaotic city driving, an adrenalin-inducing swirl of motorbikes and people in a hurry. There are more than 87 million people in Vietnam, and it can seem that most of them are out on their motorbikes on the streets of Saigon and Hanoi on any given day. Many are women. From them, we learned about motorcycle fashion in Vietnam.
This is a country for invention; most people ride motorcycles here and almost all of the women wear their hair long. In Vietnam, helmets are required by law, but there do not appear to be any manufacturing safety standards. I would guess it is more comfortable to wear one of the helmets designed specifically for long hair, than a standard helmet.
In Saigon, Anita and I noticed many of the people riding motos were wearing face masks; we assumed it was to filter out polluted air, even though the air seemed fine to us. We wondered why the masks worn by women are so large. Some continue down over the neckline onto the shoulders and chest. It seems that the art of the cover-up is key to motorcycle fashion in Vietnam.
We asked a young man traveling on our tour to Halong Bay if he could explain all the cover-ups. He responded that women in Vietnam are serious about protecting their skin from the darkening effects of the sun.
OK, that makes sense, and it explains the Vietnamese fashion innovations we saw. Our companion did not mention anything about cell phoning while driving in heavy traffic, but that is another topic!
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This post is excerpted from Tom’s Travels, a blog I wrote while living and working in Southeast Asia in 2010-2011.