The History of Public Transport in Vietnam

The History of Public Transport in Vietnam

Until the end of 19th century, mandarins were carried in hammocks, officials rode in palanquins, horses were only used by postmen, and most common people were only able to travel by foot. I have read an article of Do Hung who traces the history of public transport in Vietnam?

Saigon-Colon was the first urban area to take shape, in 1862, with the arrival of French colonists. More than twenty years later, in 1884, it was Hanoi’s turn when both gravel and asphalt roads with a proper drainage system replaced old footpaths. Urban transport was born then, too. Those early years saw the appearance of caliches (coaches driven by two horses) which belonged to colonial civil and military officials. Others used a coachmen came from the French colonies in Africa.

In 1885, there was only one of each of these types in Hanoi; a macabre  belonging to Bishop Purifier who built Hanoi’s St Joseph’s Cathedral, and a rattan caliches owned by Lieutenant Colonel Henri Riviera. Things were different in Saigon, however, where there were 84 Melbas in 1868 and 449 of them by 1900. The Malabar was known by Saigonese as “the glass coach” (it had two large windows) and by the more popular name, “matchbox coach” due to its rectangular shape. Later on, a smaller but simpler coach appeared called the gig (or buggy) which could transport ten passengers and cargo on the roof at the same time, rapidly becoming the main means of transport in the city and between southern provinces.

After the Second World War, carts mushroomed in Saigon with thousands of them parking in the crowded market areas of Cau Muoi, Binh Tien and Cholon. Cart trading and repairing became a good business. Typical was Gay Freres’ establishment. He set up in 1879 at 34b and 36 Ls Grandiere road (now Ly Tu Trong Street).

The first so-called public transportation, a tramway pulled by three mules, was introduced to Hanoi in 1885. Not until 1912 did Hanoi get a real tramway running on rails and powered by electricity. The old tramway was powered by steam for years before this, and was in existence far longer than in the southern city. It ran right throughout the war. To make up for its slow speed, the tramway could carry bulky goods and costs little, which was suitable for small traders who accounted for a rather large proportion of the city’s population at that time. The clang sound of the tramway disappeared in 1985, leaving only nostalgia for the past for many city dwellers.

The rickshaw made its appearance in the late 19th century. Two were imported from Japan by Hanoi’s Mayor, Bonal, but the number had only increased to six by the time 395 of them were operating in Saigon. The average income of a coachman was one piaster per day, which was equal to the salary of a skilled worker. The rickshaw soon spread to almost all urban areas and was commonly used until the end of Second World War in 1945.

No one know who invented the country’s unique vehicle, in Saigon in the 1830s, it was called cyclo-push, a bicycle accompanied by a person carrying goods or passengers. Though simply designed, it could transport astonishing loads of goods and people to distance destinations. The cyclo-push gradually disappeared in urban areas, paving the way for the birth of the present pedicab, the cyclo.

After taking some time to establish itself in Hanoi, it quickly becomes widespread in the country’s cities. The cyclo had the advantage of being able to transport heavy and cumber some items and was very energy efficient. Between the 1950s and 1980s, it was the main means of transportation in Hanoi and Saigon.” Everyday, I would take my goods to market by cyclo, “says Mrs. Hoa, a 60 year old trader at An Dong market. According to Mr. Chu who has lived in Tran Quoc Thao Street, District 3, HCM City for about 70 years, cyclos were used to make leisurely trips around the city during Tet holiday.

It’s interesting that the cyclo design varies with locations. While Saigon’s cyclo is narrower and higher, the Hanoi version is lower and wider and carries two people comfortably. Hue’s version is a combination of the two, narrow and low, whereas the vehicle in Haiphong is longer and curvy, resembling a boat.

The invasion of power-driven vehicles started by 1930 with the introduction of the first car in Saigon. Rapid urbanization and the development of modern vehicles put the cyclo under threat. Today it is being banned from more and more streets, especially during rush hour. Its slowness and cumbersome shape obstructs traffic in city streets which are narrow and have high population density. Gradually. motorbikes and busses are replacing the cyclo.

Less in demand by commuters, cyclos have now become tourist attractions and a means of transport to a wedding. The sight of five cyclos following one another, each carrying an old and a young woman and a big red wooden box on their way to the bride’s house for the betrothal ceremony can still be seen during the wedding season. But the most important function of cyclos in Hanoi is as vehicles for tourists around the capital’s old quarter. Cyclo groups can be found outside many famous hotels and travel agents in the downtown area.

This unique three-wheel vehicle has had its day, and is now just a reminder of the rudimentary transport of the city’s past. It is indeed a living museum, still in working order and vivid on display.

  • Добавить ВКонтакте заметку об этой странице
  • Мой Мир
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LiveJournal
  • MySpace
  • FriendFeed
  • В закладки Google
  • Google Buzz
  • Яндекс.Закладки
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Digg
  • БобрДобр
  • MisterWong.RU
  • МоёМесто.ru
  • Сто закладок
Комментирование на данный момент запрещено, но Вы можете оставить ссылку на Ваш сайт.

Комментарии закрыты.