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Traffic in Hanoi

Where is all the traffic going? Especially in Hanoi, but in Ho Chi Minh City, too, the rush of vehicles almost has to be seen to be believed. Motorcycles and bicycles make up 90 percent, with cars, trucks and cyclos adding to the stew.

An average new 100c Honda motorbike costs the equivalent of $2,300, a large sum in a land where the average per capita income is about a dollar a day. A car costs at least 10 times as much.

So where is all the traffic going? It is just going, from about 6:30 in the morning until it finally tapers off about 10 p.m.

What is remarkable is not just the volume of traffic but the way it moves.

Vietnamese drive on the right side of the road -- that is to say, most of the time.

At other times, they cross over and drive on the opposite side of the road right into the face of oncoming traffic in order to pass people who are slower. It is not unusual for a passenger to look up and see a large truck bearing down on him.

Vietnamese drivers seem to possess a sixth sense that enables them to tuck back into the flow of vehicles at the last possible moment. They are helped in this by what might be called creative use of the horn.

It is impossible to drive in Vietnam without honking the horn. Drivers of cars and trucks do it constantly. They come up right behind the person they wish to pass and start honking away until the other driver moves over. In America, a driver who did this would be considered a jerk, and an argument would probably be the result. In this culture, it is just considered helpful and nobody seems to be annoyed. The bigger the horn, the more likely you are of being respected ;)

No doubt that these thousands of daily confrontations translate into some horrendous accidents, but in a week in Hanoi, only three relatively minor collisions were witnessed. Perhaps the Gods of Traffic figure that Vietnam has suffered enough and its people deserve some luck.

A person also has to feel lucky to cross a city street. For newly arrived visitors, it is a daunting experience. Hundreds of motorcycles and other vehicles stream past, and the hapless Westerner waits for a break in the traffic, as one would at home. The problem is that often there is no real break in the traffic.

The trick is to launch yourself into the flow of vehicles slowly and predictably and trust that the motorcyclists navigate around you. Either by luck or good management, they manage to go safely past -- off to wherever it is they are going.

cheers!

Marc
pp:levels, curves, sharpen and that's it. late afternoon light was sh*t...
DAMN! why do colors always appear so damn faded on TE??? grrr!!!

Floydian, Leilani, delkoo, lc4giala, adores, robiuk, jorgi, parbo has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Marc Cl (Manamo) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 892 W: 149 N: 862] (3654)
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