Friday, January 29, 2010

Ho Chi Minh Traffic

Ho Chi Minh City traffic is a tourist attraction onto itself. Scooters weave through the teeming boulevards sometimes carrying tremendous loads which can be four to five times the size of the scooter. I thought I'd never get to cross the street because there is no break in traffic, just a continual stream flowing past. Cars do not stop for pedestrians, motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians, nor do bicycles stop for pedestrians. So how to get across?

An ex-pat told me that the way to cross a street in Saigon was to not make any eye-contact with any scooter driver, and to continue to walk across once committed, and heaven forbid, never stop. Indecision and eye-contact could create a game of chicken between you and the scooter driver, and you would get run over. If you look straight ahead and keep going, the drivers would stream around you and keep going.

It felt like a barrel heave over Niagara Falls, but I decided to take the plunge and try my luck. I waited until there was a tiny gap in traffic, then without looking sideways nor stopping, walked forward at a slow to medium pace. It takes guts my friend, but just as the ex-pat told me they would, the scooters flew by both behind and in front of me, like a swarm of mosquitoes darting around a telephone pole. I can't think of another country I've visited where I would dare do the same.

Check out the bottom left photo. What the hell is that guy carrying? And which way is he going?

Saigon TrafficSaigon Traffic
Saigon TrafficSaigon Traffic


Not only did you have to watch out for the traffic, you had to watch out for the giant tree roots that hung everywhere, or what could be mistaken for tree roots but were actually telephone wires. I shrieked and ran away from one I got tangled up in because I thought I was going to get electrocuted. No-o-o-o-o-, I'm not an electrician, but you never know!


Small food stands are ubiquitous and I never worried about food poisoning, but about whether I would be homo erectus ever again after sitting in their lilliputian plastic stools. I couldn't get enough of "pho," a Vietnamese breakfast soup that consists of beef and noodles. The noodles are made from rice and are often served with basil, lime, bean sprouts and peppers that are added to the soup by the customer. I loved it.