Vietnamese drivers! Let me tell you, we were forewarned. Noelle here, by the way. We read many a blog post, travel book advisory, news articles and Reddit posts too, and they all had one theme in common, beware the Vietnamese drivers!
How to cross the street in Vietnam
Our hotel even gave us a hand out regarding the correct way to cross the street to avoid the Vietnamese drivers. Although I can’t remember all the words and forgot to save the handout, it went something like this:
- Look both ways
- Also, look both ways
- Did we mention to look both ways
- Step off the curb
- Never step back
It’s important that you look both ways even on a one-way street, because traffic direction is clearly a mere suggestion. If you need to drive opposite traffic, you are welcome to, but just stay along the edge of the street. Please don’t misconstrue this post as mocking. I’m definitely not mocking, just noting that every time one crosses a street in Vietnam, you are taking your life into your own hands! There are a few crosswalks with pedestrian signals, but do you think they matter? Not one bit. We kept repeating to each other, “never step back”.
It’s a good motto in life I suppose: Never step back!
Anyway, the Vietnamese drivers literally do drive around the pedestrians. They’re good at it, although they don’t really slow down. They simply gauge your speed and then adjust their path to move around you similar to water streaming around rocks in a stream. And it mostly works. We didn’t see any pedestrians get hit but we did see a couple non-injury scooter vs car accidents.
Like the little dogs in Vietnam, I kind of fell in love with the over-abundance of scooters in those busy streets. It’s like the bikes in Amsterdam. Whole families ride a single bike there, and Vietnamese drivers load their whole families on their scooters. I am also amazed and somewhat stunned by the amount of goods transported by scooter as well. Goods are definitely transported, but the wife is often left holding on behind boxes.
I know this next picture is a little blurry, but oh sweet baby Jesus. Does she not realize this is dangerous?!?
Everything fits on a scooter!
One afternoon we wandered down a road with a many-miles-long mosaic wall. Yep, it’s what tourists do when all tourist things are closed due to a world pandemic! As we wandered, we saw all manner of boxes, bags and well all the things being transported by scooter. I quickly became as interested in the Vietnamese drivers as I was in the wall mural, because they’re fascinating! One man even drove with an automobile bumper, while trying to fish something out of his pocket. That’s another thing, Vietnamese scooter drivers don’t care too much about driving one handed.
Vietnamese drivers on bikes
Turns out that you need to keep an eye out for bicycles too. They ride on every street, usually on the edge of traffic, but just as often mixed right in. They also carry huge loads and sell things right from their bikes.
The produce vendors enthralled me by just the simple fact that they could keep the bikes upright. Not an easy task, but each one I saw had a big smile. So, I guess it’s all in a day’s work! We only saw the bike vendors during our first few days in Hanoi, because as the city closed down, the vendors went home.
Vietnamese drivers hauling all the things
Boxes, bags, and packages. Oh my! There is no limit to the kinds and numbers of items that can apparently be transported by scooter.
The drivers scoot way forward, so that they’re as close to the front of the seat as possible in order to fit more stuff. Sometimes, they even have huge bags of rice (or something) between their legs too. On our walk, we saw a scooter that looks just like mine, which is sadly in storage in Portland now. However, I can honestly say I’ve never transported anything that didn’t fit into my seat storage or rear carrier. Oh wait, I do think I’ve carried groceries home, sitting between my feet, but that was only three blocks!
As we wandered back to our hotel, stepping off curbs and into streets, we repeated our newfound mantra. Never step back, because you know, the whole delicate balance shifts instantly and it just takes one hesitation to change a whole course.