Tuesday, January 15, 2008
After deciding the last post was too boring I am going to break the trip up into little things that stand out - traffic is the first experience you are exposed to after getting through customs.
We had a taxi meet us from the hotel in Hanoi and although it was our first trip and we weren't used to Vietnamese driving, I still think it was the wildest ride we went on (although Ho Chi Minh traffic was a step up in eye popping behaviour again).
Seat belts are rare, esp in the back and mostly the only cars on the roads are taxis/minibuses. taxis always have ornaments on the dashboard (this one had an assortment of nodding creatures - more likely are religious figures, all the help they can get I suppose). There are five lanes on any road, no matter how wide, the outside lanes are for the millions of motorbikes and pushbikes, the inner lanes for cars, trucks and buses and the white line lane for general travelling, overtaking and avoiding the people also using the white line coming the other way.
Overtaking is easy, come up behind the car/truck/bus in front, blow your horn, flash your lights and in extreme cases (as on the first trip) use your hazard lights and they will eventually move into the motorbike 'lane' (hooting at motor bikes as they push them out of the way). The bizarre thing is with all this noise and lights and so many bikes, we only saw one or two accidents (and then only low speed dings) and there was absolutely no road rage. If someone cut off any of our drivers, they would just shake their heads and give a wry smile. it actually works.
Crossing the road as a pedestrian can be heart stopping, as zebra crossings are on the road, but more as if Vietnamese had seen them on tele and thought they looked good, rather than any notion of what they mean. Unfortunately we didn't get any decent photos of this as we were hanging on to whatever we could grab most of the time.
Crossing the road tips, just avoid any four wheel vehicles and the motorbikes will generally go around you. easy, Geoff reckons this is the way I walk around malls (maybe..) so I had it down pat, Matt thougth about it too much and was left behind more than once.