now tweeting


Monday, 19 November 2007

Saigon Traffic

The first thing most people notice here is the traffic. It is overwhelming and appears to be completely disorganised. Of course it isn't, it just has different rules and behavioural expectations than anywhere else. We read about crossing the road and watched traffic on YouTube before we came and what we read is pretty much true.

Common advice is to step out slowly into the traffic which will flow around you. It does, to an extent.

  • Step out, obviously not INTO the traffic, wait for a gap or thinning.
  • Be sure to look in the opposite direction to the main flow for someone going the other way. This isn't the wrong way, just the other way.
  • Walk slowly and traffic will move in front of you, when you reach a critical point in the middle of the (mainly) oncoming traffic it will start to pass behind you.
  • Reach the middle of the road and start the process over again.

These rules work well with motorbikes.

Cars don't flow, they might honk, they might stop. Buses honk anyway, don't flow and certainly don't stop and motorbikes, bicycles, cyclos and the three wheeled truck things made from motorbikes carrying four meters of metal piping flow around buses and cars directly into your path.

No injuries here yet and there's a certain cache in crossing confidently. Last weekend I rescued two septugenarians from East Kilbride who had been stuck in the middle of the road for five minutes holding a map and looking petrified.

I've been trying to get a picture that illustrates the traffic, I'd just about decided that only a moving image would do it justice but I tried a couple of tight in shots that give more of an impression of the madness.

Not excessive loads

This is a fairly normal street scene, the traffic isn't too busy and there's the normal range of things being carried by bikes. The man sitting higher than the rest of the traffic is riding one of the three wheeled bike/vans. No live animals being carried and everyone except the cyclist with the green lemons is travelling in the same direction.


This is more like it, all shapes, all sizes, all directions and more of the perspective you get when in the traffic, either on foot or wheels. You can see Government Information posters including, on the far right, one for helmet wearing. What you see isn't a midget on a bike but the bottom part of the poster. The demonic small person is a child perched between his father's knees. There's a big push on to get the populace helmeted and rejecting the traditional head protection of a basketball cap and/or ponytail. Even in the short time we've been here we've noticed a lot more head protection. So demonic small person posters seem to be working.

As I was about to stop taking pictures out of the traffic emerged a cyclo driver loaded down with bananas. He looked so poised and calm I thought he was a visual antidote to the mental stuff.

Banana Man

One last traffic posting for the moment. A few weeks back I put up some pictures of loads on motorbikes, I mentioned at the time that I thought the fridge bearers were delivery drivers. I was right, I spotted them outside the loading bay of Nguyen Kim a massive electrical shop where we bought an electric fan recently.

Nguyen Kim

The load of the day, a fridge and gas oven.

No comments: