Vespa chic in Bangkok's Chinatown

Here's a little cinematic trivia quiz to kick-start (pun fully intended) your week.

Q: How many films can you name which feature a Vespa scooter?

I ran out after Roman Holiday and Quadrophenia but the gloriously nerdy Internet Cars Movie Database lists 44 pages of films in which a Vespa appears. 

That's no surprise. The Vespa is such a cool bike that it immediately enhances the credibility of any scene where it appears. If you were a script writer penning your potential Oscar winning screenplay, you'd undoubtedly specify "Vespa" in any scene where you wanted the bike-riding protagonists to exude cool. Not that Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck needed much help in that department.

The Vespa is 70 years old this year and there's a healthy trade in new and reconditioned Vespas in Thailand. A smart, new Vespa showroom is tempting the cool kids in one of Bangkok's more salubrious neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, in Chinatown's narrow back streets and alleyways, you can find a number of independent mechanics offering Vespa servicing and reconditioning.

The Vespa is often the preferred choice in traditional market districts. Small wheels make it manoeuvrable, the encased engine protects against dirt and grease, a flat footbed offers comfort and protection whilst the optional rack gives a sturdy platform upon which to carry goods.

Riders might claim all these benefits when choosing a motorbike but I can't help thinking that adding a little Italian chic is more than half of the appeal of the ubiquitous Vespa. After all, if it's good enough for Gregory Peck...

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On Bangkok's busy Yaoworat thoroughfare, preparations are taking place for Chinese New Year. The street vendors' red lanterns and green umbrellas offered a pleasing background for a series of Vespa-themed panning photographs.

(All images: Leica M, Summilux 50mm 1.4, 1/15th at f/16, ISO200. Yes, I'm an Englishman in Thailand photographing Italian scooters in Chinatown with a German camera. Truly cosmopolitan.)