The furthest East I’ve travelled in my life so far has been to Tokyo. Before that, I’d travelled a fair bit, but towards the other points of the compass. A lot of people who have travelled predominantly in Europe might refer to Rome or the area around the Arc de Triomphe when they talk about crazy driving, but the driving in Vietnam takes all the awards at the ceremony, and then sets fire to the auditorium.
I’ve observed many strange driving behaviours that make the melee around the Hanger Lane Gyratory System look like the inner workings of a Swiss watch, including but not limited to:
- Driving for 10 minutes signalling left
- Driving without using the mirrors
- Driving without having mirrors
- Driving whilst texting – on a moped
- Driving with the whole family of four – on a moped
- Sitting side-saddle on the pillion of a moped whilst texting with both hands
- Mopeds cutting up trucks
- Trucks cutting up mopeds
- The horn being used to politely warn: “If you don’t move out of the way, I’ll kill you”
- Crashing into other traffic and driving on
- Red traffic lights are a mere suggestion
- Driving on the right hand side of the road is just a convention
- Pedestrian crossings are where pedestrians cross but you don’t stop for them
Mopeds are the preferred form of transport here because cars are heavily taxed on import. Hanoi, for example, has a predominantly moped-based transport system, whilst Saigon (much richer) has more cars. If you see a car in Hanoi, it’s likely to be a Bentley or a high-end Mercedes belonging to a Party bigwig. In richer Saigon, it’s harder to know for sure.
Most interesting to me is how the moped has become more than just a commuter bike, but has also become:
An all-purpose transporter, this being one of many loads (look at the gallery at the bottom for more examples):
A Mobile Kiosk
Social venue and romantic spot:
A Mobile Kitchen
A family transporter (I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the 5 I once saw on a moped – mother, father, 2 kids and a baby on a sling):
A way of delivering shrimp to market:
A means of transporting livestock:
Yes – Livestock!
Not to worry – we saw the ducks the next morning at the market:
Bicycles aren’t exempt from this loading proclivity either:
The “system”, crazy as it looks, works, and even when it doesn’t, I haven’t seen anything horrendous happen. I was in a cab, which pulled out in front of a moped rider, collided with him, knocking him aside. The moped righted itself and drove on after a few expletives were shared. The taxi driver wasn’t bothered in the slightest, and it prepared me for whatever traffic horrors would await me later in Thailand.