February 2010
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Protec Helmet and Neomask

Returned back to Saigon late last night and found out that my month old helmet had been snatched from my friend Son’s motorbike.   The helmet was wrapped around one of the metal hooks on the front of the bike which was parked in a garage…but the thief just yanked the helmet off…hooks and all.  My friend’s helmet was untouched.

Since I didn’t want to risk getting a ticket for not having a helmet… today I had my Xe Om guy take me back to same helmet store near my Aunt’s house and bought the exact same helmet…down to the color and pattern.  Last time, my Aunt #7 had purchased the helmet for me…she got a bit of a discount and paid only 200,000 Dong for it.  Apparently, since I am not a local the discount doesn’t apply to me and I had to pay the full 240,000 Dong or about $13.  Cheap, cheap cheap.

You can’t even buy a half decent bicycle helmet in The States for less than $30….and my motorbike helmet in VN is considered an expensive helmet.  Most of the helmets you see in VN are sold curbside for 35,000-60,000 Dong ($2-$3).   They don’t offer much protection…and are mostly worn to avoid traffic tickets and used as cheap fashion statements.  My Xe Om driver kept trying to convince me to buy one of those helmets instead of my “fancy” one….since the other kind would be less likely to be stolen.  But I insisted on getting a helmet that offered a modicum of protection.

According to some statistics…even with the majority of helmets in VN being of the cheap variety….deaths associated with motorbike accidents have decreased by more than half since the helmet law took effect in late 2007.  Ironically, most children riding around on motorbikes in Vietnam still don’t wear helmets because the helmet law only financially penalizes adults.  You will often see a family of 4 or even 5 on a motorbike, with only the parents wearing helmets.

Shredder and his anti-pollution mask

When I purchased my first helmet I also bought a couple of  Neomask anti-pollution masks as recommended by Kevin Miller on his blog Saigon Nezumi.  The masks have replaceable filters and are actually pretty cool looking .  I bought a couple of blue ones to match the color of the stripes on my Protec Helmet.  The masks kinda made me look like the character Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Unfortunately my ninja fantasies were dashed when I came home to try out my new masks.  I have always had  very sensitive nasal passages…and it doesn’t take much airway obstruction to make me feel like a 90 year old man trying to do Tae Bo.  I tried the masks inside my air conditioned room and even then I could barely breath….I can’t imagine having to wear it stuck in Saigon traffic in 90+ degree weather….I would probably go into cardiac arrest soon after putting it on.  My mom wasn’t too happy to hear I wasn’t wearing anything to protect me from the pollution…but I told her that I would rather take my chances breathing in all the fumes and dust then passing out  and crashing because I can’t breath and then getting run over by a bus.

What my head looks like with my helmet on

Before arriving in VN I had imagined myself riding around in VN looking kinda cool cruising the streets of Saigon on a motorbike, with my shades on….and a cool ninja-like face mask.  It did not turn out that way.  First of all…although I do appreciate being able to use my late uncle’s old bike…it is anything but cool.  Is there any such thing as a cool looking moped anyways?   Secondly, my oversized helmet may offer me much better protection than the standard helmet on VN streets…but it also makes me look like the character Toad from Mario Bros.  Last and most disappointing of all was my inability to put up with the face mask.  All in all….I must make a completely ridiculous looking sight riding around town.  Oh well…maybe I’ll just give my masks to my nephews to use on Halloween when I come back home.

Need a couple of days of R&R and I will put up a post about my trip to Gia Rai.

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12 comments to Helmet-napped!

  • It does take awhile to get used to the mask but you do get used to it. I wear it religiously now. Wear it for a couple days and then go without it for one trip. You will notice a big difference.

    There is too much stuff flying around the air including metal particles. Better be safer than sorry 🙂

    • odgnut

      Breaking News!! American man inexplicably loses consciousness while riding in rush hour traffic in Saigon and promptly gets run over by 50 motorbikes, 3 taxis, a bus, 2 bicycles and a cyclo….Cong An interrogates one Kevin Miller for his possible role in this terrible tragedy….

  • Craig N

    A Yamaha Novou, Honda Attila, hell, find an old Minsk! They are plenty cool looking to me.

    • odgnut

      no, no, and maybe. The Minsk actually looks like one of those classic old motorcycles….the others are still kinda girly. Problem with driving a Minsk is finding replacement parts and a good mechanic to fix it….which from what I read…you’re going to need to do a lot.

  • Caryn

    I think we should get a pic of you in said getup instead of these fantastic allusions … C’mon, your readers deserve it.

  • Benny


    I think you still subscribe to U.S. citizenship which makes you subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Let me grab a court order demanding a picture of blog author in a helmet. Just kidding, dude. I wholeheartedly agree with Caryn. Your readers and blog followers deserve at least one revealing pic (and not a close up of your eye with a stye).

    We’re waiting …..

    • odgnut

      tell you what Benny….when you get to VN…give me a ring and we’ll take a picture together cheek to cheek. I’ll even buy you an identical helmet.

  • Benny

    I’ll take that deal any day.

    One thing – I ain’t riding on anyone’s bike. Without impugning anyone’s superior driving skills, I’ve done it b4, and don’t care to repeat the experience.

  • How did I miss this 🙂 Nope, you get used to the mask. Try it for a week and then take it off. You notice a difference. I still miss 3-4 years ago where I only wore the mask when I was sick. There is so much cement dust out there now.

    • odgnut

      I’ll try wearing it for bit tomorrow and see how it goes. After returning from my trip to Gia Rai….my nostrils were completely black. Can’t be good news for my lungs.

  • Just loosen the metal piece by the nose, that will help. I do not tighten it at all.

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