Feb 13 2012
Although Saigon has many forms of transportation, like motorbikes and taxis, one of the most unique ways to travel the city’s streets is by cyclo. You sit in the front, kind of like royalty, and you are peddled to your destination. I would almost say that your trip to Saigon wouldn’t be complete without taking at least a quick ride in a cyclo.
Unfortunately, as the speed of HCMC’s streets increases, cyclos fall more and more out of favour; I’ve heard rumours that restrictions, such as not being able to enter District 1, may be placed on them. Even though I’ve occasionally cursed my luck while being stuck behind one in traffic I would be sad to see them go. Luckily, the cyclo has other fans, fans so big that they have created an event to celebrate this beloved mode of transportation: the Saigon Cyclo Challenge.
The Saigon Cyclo Challenge, held annually for the past ten years, is the only cyclo race in the world, so technically it’s a world championship. Ten teams, complete with sponsors, will compete on March 10 for the prize of fastest cyclo team in the world by racing around the Crescent in heats.
One team member sprints with the cyclo from the starting line to a turn around point, where another team member takes over and races back. Cyclos may seem to have the same mechanics as regular bicycles but looks can be deceiving. They are actually quite awkward to steer and easy to tip over, making for some exciting racing. Big crowds gather to cheer for their favourite teams and the atmosphere gets pretty exciting.
Besides the racing there are also other festivities, such as booths set up around the racetrack, and you get a chance to scope out some of the prettiest cyclos in the city. Seriously, they paint and polish these bad boys up! To top it all off, the race benefits a great cause, the Saigon Children’s Charity, which was founded in 1992 to help disadvantaged Vietnamese children get an education and a better start in life. So come see a great show for a good cause; plus, this may be just one step toward ensuring that cyclo culture is passed on.
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