Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

Slow travel , Immersion travel , Cultural travel

Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

Navigating Vietnam traffic. What downhill snow skiers understand about Vietnam traffic

What kind of insanity is this Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam traffic, it’s…it’s….it’s snowskiing.! Yes, that’s it! It’s the black diamond run at the ski resort and the pedestrian trying to cross the street is the snow bunny, you know, the beginning skier who cuts across the path of on-coming skiers. I used to be a ski instructors so I can tell you that it is the responsibility of the skier who is uphill to avoid those in their path. The Vietnamese driver is the uphill skier and the snow bunny is the pedestrian crossing their path. The advanced skiers can recognize the snow bunny in their path and avoid them, but only if the bunny proceeds steadily along a single trajectory, and doesn’t stop, or turn back, or fall. Only this way can the drivers track the bunny’s movement and adjust their own trajectory allowing him to reach his destination unharmed. This works only with advanced skiers, try it on the bunny hill and you’ll be smashed. For this reason, I deem the Vietnamese drivers as the most advanced drivers in the world!  

What is the most frightening traffic you have experienced as a pedestrian? If you haven’t been to Vietnam, I’m guessing that anything you have seen pales in comparison to HCMC or Hanoi. Back in the 1970’s, Asian traffic consisted of bicycles and walking. Maybe you’ve seen old black and white footage of Asian streets filled to the brim with bikes. Those were the calm and quiet times.

Vietnam traffic then and now

Read this quote from a National Geographic photographer describing Vietnam’s streets in 1973.  “It was silent. It was all bicycle traffic or people walking, so there wasn’t much on the streets to hear.”

It’s anything but silent now and almost nobody walks anywhere. Those bicycles have been replaced by 40 million loud, roaring, polluting, constantly-horn-honking motorcycles and scooters. This description from Cate Kennedy of the newspaper, The Australian, is a more apt description of what I am experiencing today: “Amid the honking, blaring, shouting, and gesturing, jackhammers will be going about their business, ­endlessly hacking up old concrete to make way for new, exposing pipes in the gutter, water flowing and pooling, the gas bottle heating the boiling oil vibrating and teetering. And all of it threatening, to my bumpkin eyes, to go arse-up in the most cataclysmic way imaginable, every moment”.

Vietnamese are expert drivers because they have to be

It may look like chaos, but it’s organized chaos! Did you get a good look at the precariously balanced bamboo chair in my picture? This is the normal mode of transportation of toddlers. Are you appalled? I am. And as if that isn’t dangerous enough, you would be terrified if I revealed how infants are transported. For this reason, Vietnamese drivers are required to be experts. There can be no mistakes!

Culture tip: If you going to Vietnam, consider a motorbike. Contrary to circumstances in 1st world countries, it’s safer than walking.

Chaos theory is alive and well in Asia’s traffic. Have you seen anything similar?

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