The Hanoi Shuffle

Adjusting to the Vietnamese traffic has to be done quickly otherwise you are going to be standing in one spot for a very long time, particularly in Hanoi as the population has increased from a few hundred thousand (which the city streets were built to cope with) to over 8 million of which everyone, and I mean everyone owns a motorbike or car.

To paint the picture, there are motorbikes EVERYWHERE! They take up 95% of the traffic. They drive on the right hand side of the road…sometimes. This is not a definite. They are not aggressive drivers but they use their horns, ALL THE TIME. They have junctions but do not use them as such, they are seen as more of a corner. Traffic lights are more of a way of slowing them down slightly but not stopping them. There is no right of way, its more ‘who has the balls to go for for it’, frame of mind. There are roundabouts but they are pointless, people use them to park around.

We decided to take on the method of watch and learn from the pedestrians point of view, and it was an entertaining and scarily exhilarating view. It turns out traffic does not stop for you, it will kindly zip around your body with incredible closeness, but will not stop. Don’t bother with zebra crossings, they make no difference, just cross where you need to, look in both directions as they can come from anywhere, take a deep breath (maybe a quick prayer), step out onto the road, and slowly, slowly shuffle your way across the road.

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It turns out that the thing to look out for is cars, as I said, motorbikes will go around whilst cars will just head straight for you blearing their strange horn. After watching the traffic for a while, we figured this way of crossing the road kind of makes sense. As no one has to stop, everyone keeps moving and just moves out the way for each other. And for a city full of traffic, keeping it moving is important as it quickly builds up.

Unfortunately these photos do not do it justice, and uploading videos at the moment is not possible. But we will add it on when we can.

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