Moto madness – how to cross a road in VietnamTim McDonald
There are certain things that are self-evident after a few days in Vietnam.
One is that almost everybody has a street food stall, another is that possessing a motorbike means you have a right to drive it wherever you want.
If the internet was ever embodied in physical form, I would imagine it would look something like the streets of Saigon.
Whilst there some larger lorries and cars that follow the traffic laws, the majority of the traffic is the pure chaos of the motorbike swarms, cutting whatever corners are necessary and obeying only those rules that, by coincidence, will stop them from being ploughed into by said larger vehicles.
Anyone who has tried to cross a road here will know the drill. There is no such thing as a gap in traffic, it requires a true leap of faith. Step off the kerb with the expectation and confidence that as you cross, the traffic will bend itself to your presence, swerving and slowing to give you, the most insignificant thing on the road, the right of passage.
Now, there are certain caveats to this. For example, it is the height of bad form to step out if anything as large as a bus is coming. They do not expect to have to slow down, so if I were you I would not try and test their conviction.
Cars are a grey area. They may stop or slow, but only if you are already committed halfway across the road and they know you no longer have a choice. They do not have the agility of a motorbike in traffic and can be stubborn even on a fairly empty road.
The strange thing is that though on the road the pedestrian beats motorbike, the opposite is true of the pavements.
Anyone who has ever been walking along quite happily in what may seem a traffic free area, only to suddenly find a bike bearing down on them going thirty miles an hour will know that it is you that will move, not them.
It is perhaps the biker’s subconscious revenge, perhaps just easier than waiting for the lights to change, but either way, if you’re a nervous character by nature, I suggest staying home rather than suggesting a pleasant stroll around the city streets of Vietnam.