Take a Spin on a Vietnamese 'Xe Om', Operating a motorbike taxi is the only way for many to make their living

Take a Spin on a Vietnamese 'Xe Om'

Operating a motorbike taxi is the only way for many to make their living

Xe om or motorbike taxis, a cheap means of transport, are very popular in Vietnam. "Xe" means motorbike and "om" roughly translates as "hug," because a rider needs to hold on tightly to his driver as he rips through crowded streets to save time in the hope of finding another client for the day. That can be a hair-raising experience, even for the locals.

Anybody can be a "xe om" driver -- all they need is a motorbike and driving capabilities. A xe om driver, most of whom are male, can be students, farmers, part-time teachers or even robbers. There are some sad stories about passengers being robbed by the driver at night and in deserted areas.

It's widely said in Vietnam that when a person cannot get a job, he takes his motorbike out to the street and becomes a xe om. As one of the most dangerous freelance occupations, most people regard it as a low class job. That's why people are often ashamed of saying "I am a xe om driver."

Take a Spin on a Vietnamese 'Xe Om'  Operating

There is an unofficial law among xe om drivers that everyone has their own operating place, at a bus-stop or train station, where no one outside the group can join or offer services to clients.

No license is required for being a xe om driver so this kind of transportation is mushrooming around the country. You can find one on any corner, any street and at any time.

There is no fixed price for a ride. The cost depends on the distance and the goodwill of the driver. The average is about 15.000 Vietnamese dong (1$USD) to cross the city. You have to negotiate down the price, especially if you are a foreigner -- the tendency is to go higher if you're not a local. Don't be surprised if a stranger joyfully waves to you onto their motorbike -- they want you for a customer on their xe om.

"I am unemployed now. It is very difficult for a person without formal education like me to get a good job. Therefore, I must be a xe om. It's the easiest way for me. I need just a motorbike for the job, and I can manage myself," says Nguyen Van Hoang, a xe om driver at Long Bien bus-stop in Hanoi.

Hoang says most of his "colleagues" are poor, and some have to save money for a long time to buy a "Made in China" motorbike, which is often cheaper than other types. There are even female drivers, who, Hoang assesses, risk their lives to earn a small sum of money for their family.

The Police Department for Social Crime Investigation in Ho Chi Minh City reports that about 60 - 70 xe om robberies are recorded each year. In 2005, 3 xe om drivers were killed in 32 robberies.

Other articles by reporter Nguyen Ngoc Trung
Source: http://english.ohmynews.com


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