by Hans Kempbook96
160 pages, $29.95
Visionary World Publishing, copyright 2003


by Sev Pearman

Think you know how to pack for a trip? Have you ever left gear at home because you couldn’t carry it? Worse yet, have you ever “had” to take your car because you had too much to bring? If so, please direct you attention to this month’s book, Bikes of Burden.

This book contains images of Vietnamese motorcyclists. While traffic is dense in Vietnam, cars and trucks do not yet dominate the landscape. Small motorcycles are the tool of choice and are used for everything. Humble singles are used as family commuters, two-wheeled taxis and delivery vehicles.

Author Hans Kemp has lived in Vietnam since 1995. He is fascinated with the motorcycle-based commerce of Vietnam and has photographed hundreds of riders and their mind-boggling loads. For Bikes of Burden, Mr. Kemp has selected 146 candid images of motorcycle commerce in contemporary Vietnam.

Riders inventively strap everything onto the backs of Honda Step-throughs and other 50 – 100cc single-cylinder motorcycles. The author captures riders transporting chickens, ducks, and piglets, even a freshly caught shark. Riders inventively move loads that call for a pickup or SUV here in the US. Boxes, carpet rolls, multiple bicycle frames and motorcycle exhausts sag suspensions and compress tires. My favorite image is that of the guy hauling a safe on the back of a Honda Super Cub (p. 138)

This is an archive-quality, hardbound book. The full-color photos are richly printed on luminous stock. Photos are 8-5/8” x 5-3/4” and are printed one photo per page. There are no captions. You are left to marvel at the riders, their loads and their obvious skill. (The author does include a photo index that provides short descriptions of each load.)

I have never had so much to say about a book that contains so few words. Everyone with whom I have shared this has been captivated by the mesmerizing images. Bikes of Burden is beautiful, thought provoking and serene. Recommended with four-out-of-four cylinders


Bar Hopper – “You can carry that on a motorcycle?”

Ride to Work – Motorcycles are viable, practical modes of transportation.

Non-rider – Simple, powerful images will stay with you.

MMM welcomes your ideas for future book reviews. Send your suggestions to: Please put “Book Review” in the subject heading.


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