Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Saigon Traffic: More Details

I know they say pictures are worth 1,000 words. I don't know what moving pictures count for, but I did make a grainy video of the traffic here. Anyway, I know that 1,000 words is worth at least roughly 1,000 words as well, but with the dollar in crisis and fluctuating exchange rates... I thought I would write about the traffic problems I face here every day (in no particular order).

General Info:

People often wonder what side of the road any given country drives on. In Vietnam, people may wonder, do they drive on the right or the left? The answer is yes. And on the sidewalk. On any given street there are one or two official lanes going this way and the opposite, and an unofficial lane going every conceivable direction but vertical.

A couple terms, or rather moves:
The Human Shield: When making a left-hand turn across a busy lane of traffic, wait for some other motorbike to start venturing through it and drive safely through his temporary, small traffic dam.
Piggy-Backing: People do stupid things in big long single-file lines, usually traveling in an unofficial lane. If the particular thing is convenient at any given time, you just add yourself to the line.

The Horns!!!:

Dear Lord in Heaven (I am not blaspheming or breaking any commandments here, this is a sincere prayer from my heart) the horns in Vietnam are overwhelming, and turning my nerves into 100% pure cancer (yes it's a possibility in the realm of physics--a note for the reader, not for God).

It is like early afternoon on December 25th and everyone in Vietnam got a horn this Christmas morning. If six people are already honking at a red light that will soon turn green, is it necessary to add your horn to the cacophony? I have started driving with headphones, which admittedly does not make this obscenely dangerous traffic any safer, but it does keep the bile from rising to my mouth.

Turn Signals:

You turn on your indicator and people continue to pass you on the side that you are clearly expressing your intentions to turn. I almost died a number of times before I caught onto this. If you think there isn't enough space between you and the curb for someone to disrupt your right-hand turn you are sorely mistaken. Of course they will honk their horn 18 times to make you aware of their presence, but because everyone else is also honking, this noxious noise gets lost in the ambiguity of the horrible horn noise pollution.

Laziest, Highest/Lowest Angle, Blindest Turning:

If you're pulling up to an intersection to turn right as true to the corner as possible, you are quite likely to run into someone turning left onto the road that you are on.


People everywhere like to talk while they drive. It reduces boredom. If traffic sucks, it gets your mind off the slow progress you are making. It makes a chore a social activity. But when people are talking while driving on two different motorbikes on the narrow roads of Vietnam it can be quite troublesome. You want to get by them, but because they are looking at each other and not at the road the gap between them and to either side fluctuates so that's a bit like Indiana Jones diving under the lowering wall. So of course you honk at them, but they can't hear you over their own honks, which they are applying to make people aware of their dreadfully slow moving moto-conference.

Plenty more to come at a later date.


Wyatt said...

Dad went up to Seattle today to buy a motorcycle. Around here if it's not freezing outside or raining it's still fun to ride motorcycles... We'll have a lot by the time you get back. Hope you'll still like it.

AJ said...

I will read this post when it looks shorter.

Katharine said...

Rats! W3 ruined my news! Yep! Now your father has not 1 but 2 new roadbikes.When Dad and I come over there we're bringing his 2 new bikes and spending most of our time cruising the streets of Nam. You make it sound so fun---How could we do otherwise?

Evonne said...

Jack Johnson got new album,I love the new song "If I Had Eyes".

have you listen it yet?i guess u did.
take care

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