Saigon Traffic

Posted: June 14, 2011 in Opinion
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Old Quarter in Hanoi

Well, well, I’ve been gone for long enough I think.  Now it’s time for a much needed update.

The reason for my long absence, to be quite frank, cannot be appropriately explained, other than saying that I was distracted by life.  Yes, life – that quirky, irritating thing that tends to tap you on the shoulder and beg your attention when all you really want to do is ignore it and continue pursuing your hobbies.

Life isn’t all that bad though.  I recently had the opportunity to do a short tour of Vietnam, a really interesting nation.  Being a fan of history in general, and also after having seen Vietnam in one of the TopGear specials, I thought that this was a country that was suitably different and exciting enough for a bit of an adventure.

Now you’re reading this and wondering: “What on earth does this have to do with motoring?”  Well, here it is.  The traffic in Vietnam’s cities is really something else.  The TopGear special really doesn’t do it justice.  The amount of small bikes that populate the roads is just beyond ridiculous.  It’s a veritable chaotic buzz of mosquito-like vehicles that swarm around the roads, filling every available space.  If I remember correctly, there are about 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City alone.

I had the opportunity to ride pinion on one of these bikes, and although it wouldn’t necessarily work in many other parts of the world, it makes total sense in Vietnam.  Weaving in and out, and then hitting the rural areas, a motorbike can go and fit anywhere.  After having been immersed in this traffic, I finally figured out how it works.  Just like in Chaos Theory, if you study it long enough a pattern emerges.  Generally, it’s much easier to be in this traffic if you’re the one of the millions on the bike!

Mad traffic in Saigon

When it comes to crossing roads, well, it’s a bit of a leap of faith, especially during your first attempt.  Most people are tempted to make a mad dash across the road, but doing this will only result in your being sashimi-ed by a dozen speeding bikes.  The trick is to make slow progress, as if wading through a river, so that bikers have the time to see you and manoeuvre around you.

Although the trip fulfilled every bit of adventure I was looking for, I have to be honest and admit that I’m glad I’m back in a place where the lines on the road are treated as a bit more than just a guideline.

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