Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You Have Never Seen Anything Like This!

I really love being in Vietnam. I have a great time and I think this country has a lot to offer. Of course that does not mean that Vietnam does not have its faults. One of the craziest things I have ever seen and experienced is the road and driving culture of this country. If you have never been here, I promise that you have never seen anything like it.

To start off with, at any given intersection, there can easily be 50, 60, plus motor bikes crowded together, waiting to continue on. It is not uncommon to see a family of three or four people on the same motorbike.
A family of 4 on one bike waiting at a crowded intersection
I am always impressed by the the ladies wearing nice dresses or skirts, who somehow keep their balance while riding side saddle as the bike weaves and shakes through traffic. Why is the bike weaving and shaking through the traffic? That is because there are basically no rules on the roads of Hanoi. The traffic patterns in Hanoi can only be described as chaos. Some motorbikes go slow and block traffic, while others speed around them cutting one another off. Many motorbikes do not have rear view mirrors, so everyone is constantly tapping on their horn to inform their fellow drivers of where they are on the road. Of course the lack of rear view mirrors are less of an issue for the drivers going the wrong way down the road. And all of this is going along as every motorbike driver is trying to avoid the ever growing number of cars on the road. (Video below)

This might sounds very scary to someone that has never seen anything like it. However, having driven here in Hanoi, I realized that this chaos actually works. In general, no one wants to be in an accident, so most drivers are very careful. On top of that, traffic in the city rarely goes any faster then 30 or 40 km/h (18mph to 25mph). Driving in Hanoi is one of the more interesting experiences I have ever had. And once you are in the traffic, you realize it is not that scary.

What really was scary was being in a car outside of the city. Two weeks ago, me and some friends went on a trip to an Island. We had to go to the port by Ha Long, a 5 hour drive from Hanoi. Most of the roads up to Ha Long were 2 lane highways that cut right through small villages and cities along the way.

A Map of our route to Ha Long

For the locals of these villaes, the road is a local one, and they dive along the road at the same slow pace as in Hanoi. But for those using the roads as a highway, they speed along at speeds up to 80 or so km/h (50mph plus). And of course people are weaving in out of traffic trying to avoid the slow drivers, not to mention the vehicles that are going the wrong way down the highway. Besides the speeds, another major difference between these roads and Hanoi is that most of the vehicles are not motorbikes, rather they are huge trucks and buses. I remember sitting in the front seat of our taxi when all the sudden a huge dump truck was heading right for us. And amazingly enough, I was the only one in the car that was scared. For everyone else, this is simply how people drive here.

So being on the roads of Vietnam is an experience in of itself. I hope I did a good job of explaining the organized chaos. You should really come and experience it for yourself. It is quite astonishing.

The Vietnamese are either the world'ss best drivers, or the worst. I have yet to figure out which.

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is, wow! It's enticing and kind of scary. I love the picture, and the video is amazing. There are even people walking through that intersection!! Pretty wild.