Crossing The Road In Vietnam

I will blog more fully about my trip to Vietnam soon, but for the next little while I aim to post my thoughts about notable moments.

I had been forewarned about the horrendous traffic in Vietnam before I got here, but nothing can really prepare you for the reality. There aren’t all that many cars on the road – they are beyond the financial reach of most people. There are a lot of bicycles, but for the majority of people in Vietnam, the moped is the transportation mode of choice.

The rules of the road seem to be mostly guidelines rather than rules, including which side of the road one should drive on. Pedestrians are very definitely down at the bottom of the pecking order. There are pedestrian crossings, but I don’t know what purpose they serve, as no one pays any attention to them. This situation is marginally better in Saigon, where there are at least traffic lights – though still not everyone on the road pays attention to them and you are still dodging mopeds even when you cross the road on the ‘green man’. Hanoi has no traffic lights and the roads are narrower, so the stream of traffic is literally unending.

Crossing the road in the face of an unending stream of mopeds is daunting, to say the least. If you wait for a break in traffic you will be there on the pavement forever. The only way to accomplish this task is to look straight ahead of you whilst stepping into the road and keep walking at an even pace, and trust that all the mopeds will change their course to avoid hitting you. So far this has worked for us – but it’s best if you cross the road without looking to either side of you otherwise you lose your nerve and won’t make it to the other side.

Crossing the road in Vietnam is not for the faint-hearted. I will never again take this seemingly simple task for granted. At least when I step onto a pedestrian crossing in the UK, the traffic stops for me.

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