Motorbikes in South East Asia – Where 2 wheels are better than 4!

Motorbikes in South East Asia

If you have traveled in South East Asia you may have noticed that the motorbike can be used for such much more than from just getting from A to B. They are people movers, delivery trucks and livestock transportation. The use of motorbikes in South East Asia is the perfect example of how people make do with whatever they have – and it makes for some weird and wonderful sights to the uninitiated! Motorbikes South East Asia

Motorbikes South East Asia

Motorbikes South East Asia

Whilst traveling through Asia we used to love just watching the traffic – desperately hoping to spot something ridiculous on a bike and feeling a sense of childlike joy at what seem to be the various feats of acrobatic genius!  It was often an easy conversation starter and meeting people along the way it was great to swap stories – which often became the stuff of legends. I was once told the most ridiculous thing a couple had seen on the back of a motorbike was a coffin. A coffin! The mind boggles, but I admit that the weirder and wackier the story the better – I just wish I had seen them all myself!  And that is how we got here today – I asked a few fellow bloggers to share their best shots of motorbikes being used in the most ingenious way, in the hope that you get the same sense of wonder as I do, and you’ll scroll through this post with a silly grin on your face! Here’s hoping anyway! Motorbikes  South East Asia

*Just a quick heads up – this is not a post that will warrant praise for the photography – but when you are trying to capture these amazing sights whilst in or on a moving vehicle yourself, I think we can afford people a little leeway!*

Herein follows some of my favorite shots with my own witty (or I like to think so anyway..) commentary about what is going on. Feel free to insert your own captions as you scroll through.. and share them in the comments with me for a bit of a giggle!

Who knew that flower shops were mobile?

Motorbikes South East Asia

Or that a motorbike was the perfect way to transport the latest harvest..
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Ria @ Life In Big Tent

Are you ready for the latest beer delivery?! It’s a good job kegs are left to stand a while after delivery.. I anticipate these three had a very bumpy ride!
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Sarah & Kris @ Jetsetting Fools


Did anyone need a basket? The bloke on this bike has a few to spare…

.. I know you can barely see the bike, but I promise you it is there!

Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Ria @ Life In Big Tent


I think this one is the “Swiss Army Knife” of bikes..

Motorbikes South East Asia


Although not a motorbike – the ability to balance carrying what must be a few kilo’s of Oranges is whilst riding around is a skill to be recognized!

Motorbikes South East Asia


I am entirely unsure what he is transporting.. but whatever it is, he has a lot of it! motorbike south east Asia
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Sarah & Kris @ Jetsetting Fools


There must be a lot of people in need of blankets – and the look of concentration on this drivers face says he either takes his job very seriously… or something is about to fall!

Motorbikes South East Asia


Water spinach anyone? The is a restaurant somewhere that is in desperate need of supplies! at least that is what I think it is..

Motorbikes South East Asia


♫ ♬ You’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle made for 2 ♫ ♬ or was that 3… motorbikes south east Asia

Motorbikes South East Asia


… or 4?! motorbikes south east asia
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Ria @ Life In Big Tent


In Asia you don’t need to go to the grocery store.. the store comes to you! motorbikes south east Asia
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo Courtesy of Ria @ Life In Big Tent


and finally, Now I mentioned livestock right? Well these were chickens.. and there was not a happy end to their journey.. motorbikes south east asia

.. just around the corner from this shot was a woman who had recently cut the head off a chook and was washing the blood down the drain before starting to pluck it… vegetarians, I am sorry for sharing..

Motorbikes South East Asia

..and this one I did not see myself, but with the absence of large animal transporter trucks, the bike is really the only option in South East Asia.. and cleaner when you look at it practically!
Motorbikes South East Asia

Photo courtesy of Andra @ Our World to Wander

So there you have it – I hope I have shown you have 2 wheels are certainly better than 4 in South East Asia and maybe even piqued your interest to visit South East Asia to see these marvels for yourself!

And if you liked this post – or just think it would brighten someone’s day, please pin & share – I would really appreciate it 🙂

motorbikes south east asia

Motorbike South East Asia  Motorbike South East Asia


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80 thoughts on “Motorbikes in South East Asia – Where 2 wheels are better than 4!

  1. Adonis Villanueva says:

    Madness haha! It always cracks me up to see a whole family ride a motorbike! I don’t know how they do it or how there aren’t not more accidents happening because of it. Oh the creative ways to transport things 🙂

    • Vicki says:

      I know right! The first few times I saw families on bikes I gasped thinking that it just wasn’t safe for the littlies! But it really is the norm – i’m just happy that for the multiple family shot 3 out of 4 were wearing helmets!

  2. travelling chingrita says:

    SE Asia and the motor bikes, I’ve seen a family on a two wheeler and stunned. Gotta say they must some awesome core strength to keep it all balanced!

  3. Erika Bisbocci says:

    This is incredible! You can’t even see the actual motorbike in some of these pictures because they are carrying so much stuff! When I was in Indonesia last month, I saw a guy carrying a bunch of huge bird cages. I wish I’d taken a picture!

  4. Amy says:

    Seeing what they can manage to transport on 2 wheels never ceases to amaze me!! I always dreamed of renting a moped on our travels, but after spending 5 minutes watching them, I knew I’d better stick to 4 wheels or my two feet! Great post!

    • Vicki says:

      I know the feeling Amy – I ended up on the back of a bike in Vietnam (for all of about 5 minutes) but it is not an experience I want to repeat! I much prefer my own two feet!

  5. Carol Colborn says:

    Great post! I enjoyed it a lot. I come from the Philippines and such sights are common but you got the cream of the crop! I have one from Taiwan on a rainy day and the motorist was holding an umbrella throughout his ride!

  6. Megan says:

    Ha!! I love this. I just spent a few weeks in Bali and saw a few that were as dramatic as this. At one point there was a family of five on bike. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Bryanna says:

    That seriously takes skill!! Crazy how they are able to balance so many things on their bikes. The one’s with the kids always blow my mind since in the states our kids are totally locked down in the car!.

  8. Tom says:

    I’ve ridden on two wheels in a handful of SE Asian countries, and firmly believe that much more of the world should ditch some wheels down from 4 to 2. People who think that certain things can’t be accomplished with only two wheels should read this post.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Tom! I’ve been on the back of a bike once in Vietnam, and I’m sad to say it would be something I wouldn’t put my hand up for willingly again!

  9. Rebecca says:

    It’s amazing what they can carry on a bike! I like the Swiss army one. What fun to watch all of these go by. Gives new meaning to the term people watching!

  10. Bharat & Supriya says:

    Growing up in India, an overloaded motor bike, car, truck, bus and even a train is not a surprise – but some of these were insane (the last one!!) Kudos to you for thinking this up, and to the contributors for sharing 🙂


  11. Sumti Bhadani says:

    Motorbikes are really very crucial part of life in South East Asia. I have too seen more than 4 people in a single bike. Its amazing but some time I feels its madness too

  12. Kenny says:

    I have seen from a bus – an over 200 live chicken were tied (without cages) to a motorcycle and the car was stuck in a horrendous traffic jam in the city center of Jakarta, Indonesia. Creativity and possibility are endless. @ knycxjourneying

  13. Kerri says:

    What an absolute classic. The flowers get my vote for the prettiest and the upside down pig and the chooks get my vote for the funniest. It reminds me of all the things I’ve seen carried on people’s heads in other countries. A fun article Vicki!

  14. Julie says:

    This is hilarious! I remember gawking at the crazy motorbikes during my journeys through SE Asia, and I never failed to be impressed with the ingenuity of people. Seeing the little kids hanging this way and that always made me a little nervous, but I was clearly the only one. No one ever batted an eye at toddlers standing on moped ‘floors’ or an entire family traveling across one of those famous insane intersections!

  15. sabrina barbante says:

    Oh my good, this motorbikes and their equipments are so crazy!! You made great pics and I think they are really “inspiring” for photographers! East Asia looks so exotic to me, hope to visiti it soon!

  16. Lisa says:

    Hi Vicki…Your pics turned out great! I love seeing all the motorbikes, we are avid motorcyclists here in the US so its right up my travel alley so to speak! Like that you did a different angle on travel with this post

  17. Grey World Nomads says:

    It’s difficult to take photographs of people on bikes, you’re right. But you managed very well, they talk their own story and that’s more important than anything else. Well-done!

  18. Cathy says:

    I also share your fascination of what I’ll see on motorbikes. Our first experience was in Tanzania. The craziest there was a huge piece of wood that jutted into the road, the wood was at least 15 feet long! I was also amazed and scared watching all the babies on the motorbikes in the Dominican Republic. Thanks for the laughs!

  19. stephanie says:

    Ah such a great post! When I travelled in South East Asia I saw some insane sights on the back of scooters, I was alwasy too slow to snap a photo though!
    My favorite photo of yours is the one with all of the wicker baskets, how and why? Haha.

  20. Tamara Elliott says:

    Definitely seems like the easiest way to zip around- I’m not sure I’m brave enough though! You’re right, it’s amazing how many things people can stack on one little bike! 🙂

  21. Claire says:

    This post brings back some wonderful memories. I’ve been amazed what i’ve seen people carrying on a bike out there! I’ve seen fridges, eggs, sinks, everything! Even saw one with with loads of goldfish bags!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Bell – I’m not a fan of being on the bike myself either! I went on one once in Vietnam and that was enough for me!

  22. Meg Jerrard says:

    I’ve always been a fan of people watching when I visit a new country overseas, though I can’t wait to get to Asia to sit by the side of the road and indulge in some traffic watching!! Thanks for this Vicki – amazing, it’s a whole different world!

  23. Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) says:

    Those photos are hilarious! Some of those drivers are taking serious liberties with the center of gravity.

    Sad to say, I didn’t see any motorbikes carrying anything that interesting when I was in Southeast Asia about a year and a half ago. Or maybe I did but just wasn’t paying attention. What do you think are the best places in the region to spot them? Are you more or less likely to have such a sighting in a big city like Bangkok or Hanoi?

    • Vicki says:

      I cant believe you didn’t see anything like this Harvey – we found them all over the place 🙂 I’d say we saw quiet a few in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam!

  24. Brie says:

    The human mind is so interesting, I am amazed at the genius ways people find to utilize their motorbikes for everyday life. Your descriptions where spot on, did you get the chance to take one for a spin while traveling?

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Brie – I ended up on the back of one when we were picked up for a tour once – but I wasn’t a big fan and don’t think I’ll be putting my hand up to do it again!

  25. Mar Pages says:

    These photos are super fun! Loved the commentary too- the one with the mountain of spinach is mind boggling, can’t imagine how they managed to even pack that much onto one motorbike!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Mar – I really enjoyed putting this together! And I like spinach.. but I’m not convinced I could get through that lot in a lifetime! Haha!

  26. Lieurene says:

    When I visit SE Asia, I was totally blown away by the amount of motorbikes there. I couldn’t believe my eyes just how its everywhere. I even saw a mother driving a motorbike while holding her baby and had one kid in the front and one in the back. It was very interesting to see. Your pictures came out great and definitely show just how much they are capable to carry on two wheels!

  27. John Morris says:

    I’m always amazed how powerful those motor truly are. My car dips a little bit with one keg in the trunk, but three on one moto is impressive! Unless they were empty!

  28. Nancy says:

    Your article made me my day! It was so much fun to show your photos to my son who was visiting. We chuckled and laughed and discussed how we need to see this for ourselves too!

  29. Salini says:

    Your article was fun to read 😉 being an Asian, I could relate to this article soooo much! I still remember how my family brought the first two wheeler and how all four of us (me, my sister, mom and dad) used to ride together. It also brings lots of memories :). Now I own a two wheeler and it gives me so much freedom to wade through the maddening crowds of Bangalore (India). Photos were indeed hilarious 😉

  30. João Leitão says:

    I visited and shared this page a few days ago. I love the way you make a topic out of this subject, which is inherent to all South East Asia travel. Motorbikes are the most noticeable featured of those cities. I totally love the different pictures… some are indeed very funny.

  31. Anna @ shenANNAgans says:

    I am such a people watcher, especially when I travel, I look like one of those clowns you see at the show, mouth open rubber necking, trying to take it all in. My visits to Asia have been the most exciting, seeing an entire family riding on one motorbike, or about 40 chickens . Its exciting. Loving your post, makes me wanna get back there stat.

  32. Criz says:

    Haha! Back home in the Philippines, some put an extension in their motorbikes so they can accommodate 5-6 passengers. We call it habal-habal, lols. 😉

  33. anto says:

    Wow, these pics are amazing and hilarious at the same time! We’ve seen locals travel like this in Nepal recently and couldn’t help but wonder *how*

  34. melody pittman says:

    Those motorbikes are all the rage but I did not realize how much “stuff” they could hold. I will admit the hauling/stacking of the live animals make me a bit nervous but the rest are just a bit comedic. I love how many people they can manage to stuff on them, too. I saw a family of 5 on one in the Dominican Republic.

  35. Priya says:

    What a fun photo essay of the 2 wheelers, love how they balance so many things from flowers, oranges to cages of chicken! Take practice !!

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