‘Most people drive japanese models here

Hoa hoses down a customer's moped. He has now been running his moped workshop for ten years.. Photo: Heiko Weckbrodt

The 31-year-old self-taught Hoa takes care of the Vietnamese's favorite means of transportation

Phan-Thiet, 4. February 2019. The workshop door flaps open, light breaks in. A modern centaur pushes through the gap: the moped is unroadworthy, a lady sits on it. She keeps pushing herself and her crunch saw forward with her feet until she rolls out in the garage. She has kept her usual Vietnamese street armor on: With helmet, goggles, mouth guard and co. She looks like a samurai knight of modern times. Even in scorching heat, she keeps her long-sleeved sweater on: After all, the woman of the world wants to stay white.

Even shortly before the Tet festival still in his workshop

Hoa turns around slowly, lowers the water jet. The 31-year-old already knows what's in store for him. And the customer is already chirping at the young workshop foreman with the speed of a machine gun. He grins politely, grimaces, nods. Even those who don't understand a word of Vietnamese can guess the young lady's suffering: her moped no longer runs. Besides it is dirty. It has almost magically attracted the red earth that is ubiquitous around Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam. Of course, that's just not possible right now: because the Tet Festival is just around the corner: starting tomorrow, the year no longer belongs to the dog, but to the pig. At the highest festival of the year, people dress up nicely, eat more than they can actually afford, and give children colorful envelopes of money that are supposed to bring good luck – to the giver as well as to the child. You don't drive around there on a dirty moped. The point is, however, that nobody in Vietnam really wants to work this close to the New Year: Tailors, key-cutters, mini-markets – they've all long since rolled down their shutters.

'Most people drive japanese models here

A look inside Hoa's moped workshop. But Hoa has a friendly. Patient soul – he will help the young motor knight. For 20.000 Vietnamese dong, he'll make your moped spick and span, he'll look at what's wrong with the electrics, and he'll pay 15 dong for it.000 dong (about half a euro) to patch the tires – together, that adds up to just over a euro. According to European standards you can't get a green branch with such prices. But that's all the customers are willing to pay here in the area around the rectangular mini-reservoir on the outskirts of Phan Thiet. And despite these starvation fees, Hoa and his family are even considered quite wealthy among his friends: they have land of their own on this murky lake. Hoa employs a handful of people – even if most of them are actually cousins who are just helping out. And its workshop is always full of customer vehicles. He estimates that he repairs and cleans more than 40 mopeds every week – but he admits that he has never counted them that precisely. In any case, there is enough money to make ends meet.

The cockfighting arenas are orphaned

If you look around a bit behind the workshop, you can guess that Hoa's family once did quite different business: Abandoned pits with metal locks and strange inlets turn out to be deserted cockfighting arenas. At some point, the government banned these fights, one of the family tells me. Since then, only a few chickens have been gurgling in the yard.

"I love the freedom"

Why he chose his own path as a self-employed moped repairer? Hoa smiles, thinks for a while. "I love freedom," he then replies. And he has always liked to tinker with mopeds. So he had made himself independent with his workshop. No, he didn't need training or a master craftsman's certificate to do this, he says when asked: "How a Honda, Yamaha or Kawasaki looks from the inside, how it works, he acquired all of this according to the motto "learning by doing. "Most people here drive Japanese models that were made in Vietnam," he says. There is robust, rather simple knitted technology in it. Hoa is convinced that he doesn't need constant training.

Cars still rare on Vietnam's roads

He has been running this business for ten years now. Hoa doesn't have to worry about running out of customers. Not in the next few years at least: The moped is by far the most widespread means of transport in the whole country. Bicycles are out of fashion: Only very old ones. The very young are still pedaling. Cars are rarely seen on Vietnam's roads so far. This will undoubtedly change in the future, however, as Vietnam's growing upper class continues to upgrade its cars. Hoa can't imagine switching to repairing cars in the future, though.

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