If you meet someone all over the world and don’t know what to discuss than weather is quite a good choice to talk about, here in Vietnam it seem that the basic conversation of foreigners is mostly concerned with traffic and how to behave as a pedestrian.
Hanoi’s boulevards and side streets are filled with roaring rivers of rubber and steel, especially now around Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. You can detect the newly arrived tourists very easily, as they are standing by the side of the road wearing expressions that range from startled to stupefied.
Tourists who check in some of the hotels in the Old Quarter are handed a tip sheet by the receptionist covering the ways “How to cross a road.”
Be relaxed and self-confident. Look two ways or make eye contact with drivers. Walk slowly with purpose. Never step back.
Hanoi is not for sure the only town on earth with a traffic problem. But when hundreds of motorcycles — there are about five million registered in the city — funnel in the narrow alleyways and streets, the resulting rush is hair rising for the unaccustomed.
It’s now my third year in Hanoi experiencing Tet and it’s always the same. There are more and more people of work as it seems. The whole city is on the run to prepare for the Tet festivities. Tet in my opinion is a time of the year to reflect, to relax and to prepare for the New Year. Everything very calm …. ha, ha,ha ….
Because of all the things to consider and to do the traffic chaos rattles the nerves of all, the nearly every time present and incessant honking even increases and the traffic participants are more stressed than ever.
If you ask some Hanoioan than they attribute the traffic conditions to migrants from the countryside. According to them they use the streets like they would do in their home villages, and according to the same rules, which is to say none at all.
If you are here make a point of looking both ways when crossing even a one-way street. Traffic signals, if their are some, seem like a waste of electricity.
This traffic situations is worse around Tet as Hanoi’s streets are absolutely swarming with motorbikes. Think of Manhattan on the busiest day of the year. Full of yellow cabs and cars zooming around, exhaust in the air, and honking. Replace all of those cabs and cars with motorbikes. Can you picture it? Now multiply those motorbikes by 20. Are you with me? Looks kinda crazy doesn’t it? But just wait. Imagine that all of those motorbikes are ignoring the traffic lights and weaving through each other head-on. As a pedestrian, you scurry through small gaps in traffic like a squirrel. And due to the Tet preparations the pedestrian ways are getting free and cleaned up. Not good, not good at all ….
Now this part of the road is as well used by motorbikes and typically results in a spaghetti-like madness of motorbikes and cars weaving through each other.
As everywhere traffic is at its worst during rush hours when everyone is attempting to get to work or home as quickly as possible. The pavement is used as the territory of motorbikes but this additional lanes doesn’t help to get rid off the traffic jam, it seems to worsen everything. So as a pedestrian walking here you are just as likely to get hit on the pavement as on crossing the roads at such times. Good luck for the New Year.