..a word about driving in Viet Nam…

DON’T!!! As an acute student and observer of the human condition, I was fascinated by the driving habits of my Vietnamese hosts.  First, on any stretch of decent road, there are 32,768,541 motor scooters, traveling in what any physicist will recognize as Brownian Movements, the random dance we observe in energetic atoms.  The white lines down the middle of the road are but mere suggestions as is the direction of travel.  While driving down a divided highway, I saw a lone scooter coming head on at us and held my breath for the inevitable carnage to follow when, with a deft dipsy-doodle maneuver, the scooter passed safely to our left with 2 maybe 3 millimeters to spare.  I then noticed that the passenger was asleep.  Horns wear out way before brakes, yet, I never saw or recognized a discernible reaction.  I guess the theory is, “If you’re beeping, you see me so it is up to you to avoid me.”  Not one Hawaiian Good luck Sign was evidenced.  You know, the one with the middle finger extended accompanied by colorful language?

This is proof of Darwinism.  All the bad drivers perish before they can reproduce. Fortunately, it is quite reasonable to rent a car and driver for the day for any excursions you might undertake.

Actually, this is not completely true.  Ya see, I arrived on a holiday weekend and Ba Ria is on the way from Saigon to the beach resort of Vung Tau.  The occasion was the 35th anniversary of “Reunification Day” and the 120th birthday of Ho Chi Minh.  Normally, the roads in and around Ba Ria are light with traffic.  However, when the traffic density does reach critical mass some interesting phenomena become evident.  The notion of “safe interval” becomes “If it ain’t touchin’ it ain’t too close.”  The best way to cross the street on foot is to walk slowly and steadily, never making eye contact with any driver or rider and never, never, ever let ’em see ya sweat.  Ignore the beeps, boops and aoogah’s… they are not personal.

You will observe many quaint and interesting sights on the highways and byways of Viet Nam.  Traffic in Saigon, during rush hour, is insane.  Really…  I think it has to do with the fumes from the millions of vehicles standing still and just idling in the heat effecting the collective consciousness.     Kinda like the Jersey Turnpike… all the time!!!   A family of four on a 50 cc scooter, Mama-san changing the babies diaper and boy-san standing in front of driver-san is not terribly unusual.

It is amazing, the loads that the Vietnamese can put on their scooters.  While walking around

Loading refrigerator on motorbike

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Ba Ria, I passed an appliance store.  The workers there were tying a refrigerator on a 100 cc motor bike.  Duh…  They tied it to the bike then drove it away… gingerly.  I do not want to meet that on the road.  I saw moving mounds of various farm produce with two wheels and a straw hat, if you looked closely, moving down the road.  The motor bike IS the Mack truck of Viet Nam.  The people make do and they make it work.  I saw two guys on two bikes with 12 ft pieces of re-bar slung between them puttin’ down the road.  To say that they are an innovative and industrious people is an understatement.

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