Read an earlier posting on uber driver conversations here.

Sang drove me from district 4 to district 2, a total distance of 8.3 km. He drove a Yamaha Exciter 150, and he had a real helmet for me to wear (this is not always the case for motorbike drivers in Saigon. My anecdotal experience is it’s been about 50, 50 for getting a real helmet vs. fake). The conversation is translated from Vietnamese to English to the best of my admittedly limited ability.

Cost: 37,000 VND. 1.5 USD.
Time: 20 minutes. half of it in tough traffic.
Rated: 5/5 for the conversation, timely pickup, smooth ride, sense of direction.

How long have you driven a motorbike for a living, em (little brother)?

Just one month now, anh (older brother).

And you do this full time?

No, anh. I drive most of the day but I’m currently a student. I study in ____ college here in the city.

What year?

Fourth year anh.

Oh congratulations – you’ll graduate this year?

Yes. I’m studying computer programming and IT technology support. So most of the day I’m doing coding or learning coding. Driving this motorbike helps me with money and tuition, and I don’t have to look at the screen so much. It’s a good break.

My brother programs for a living too. He works for google in the U.S.

Oh wow, he should come here and teach us!

Hahaha. Well, I think he’s pretty happy where he is. So how many guests do you drive a day, on average?

I make about 12 – 15 drives a day. I usually make about 230 to 250K at the end of the day (about 10 USD). Uber gets 15% of it.

250K was about how much my lunch would cost later that afternoon.  I ate at Mad House, the expat restaurant in district 2: linguine with shrimp, & a fresh coconut drink, and the bill came out to 265

“And the gas?” I asked Sang.


Oh it’s not too expensive, gas is pretty cheap right now. But it’s true that it takes some of my pay away too. Most of my customers are Vietnamese, people who need to get to work, or coming back from work, or people meeting friends for coffee.Sometimes people see traffic and call an ubermoto because it’ll be faster than a car. But I drive expats and foreigners too. A lot of foreigners recently. Where I’m driving you now, district 2, there’ll be a lot of foreigners.

So after you drop me off, you’ll wait here in district 2 and get someone to drive to your next spot?

Yeah, I’ll just pick up someone and go to the next place. I’ve gotten to be better with driving in the city and knowing where the different places are. But I just check my phone if I get lost.

What’ll you do after you graduate?

I’m not sure, anh. I’m pretty busy studying and doing this for now. I’m not sure if there’ll be a job in IT, but if I can’t find something I’ll just do this more full time and make a living that way for now. What about you, anh, what’ll you do now you’re back in Vietnam for this year?

Oh, I’m not really working this year. I’m just writing and traveling a bit.

Wow, that’s a good life. haha. Very luxurious.

Yeah, it’s pretty nice, hahaha.

We crossed some bridges and began to meander our way into district 2. Thao Dien, to be exact, a heavily expat area that’s boomed recently, with high rises and villas and shops populating a once quiet suburb of Ho Chi Minh. 

I have a classmate who lives here, anh. His family was living here a long time ago before all this construction. He tells me all the time how much it’s changed.

Yeah, true, true. If you had any land here back then you could be really rich by now.

We reach my location, The Factory, a massive art space that was constructed just four months ago. Sang, whose name means “luxurious”, in Vietnamese, wishes me luck.  I give him back the real helmet and got off his bike.

Good luck nhe, anh Tuan!

You too, Sang! Good luck with finishing your year, em.

And tell your brother to come here and teach us how to code!

Haha, ok sure, em.