Scooter swarms and road crossing in S–S–S–S Saigon.

Hello from Vietnam, or as Robin Williams so famously put it in his role as war radio DJ:

Gooooooooooooooood Morniiiiiiiiiiiing Viet naaaaaaaaaaam!

Although any pedant would pick out my error in my comparison, I think you get my point!

I write this from Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon, as the locals still call it. I’d read a lot about the roads here being rather chaotic and to some point I agree, but that’s only because I’m from a place with so many safety rules that even sneezing is seen as dangerous! Anyone fancy a Corona?

Oh man, did I not realise just how many scooters and mopeds would be on the road! You have to see it to believe it, especially when you’re crossing at a junction and the lights change as you’re halfway across to a roar of a million 50cc engines suddenly coming to life! 😬

For a while I found crossing roads here unnerving as I wasn’t sure of why the rules were regarding pedestrian crossings — do I have right if way? Do they stop for me?…

My memory came to my rescue when I visited Marrakesh in Morocco many years ago. I recall standing at the side of the road watching the flurry of cars and a million mopeds zipping by and no-one stopping at the pedestrian crossing for me. After a mild panic attack and stepping away to regain my balls, a little old lady just stepped out into the stream without breaking pace — or limbs — and the sea of moving traffic stopped individually as she passed, then continuing as soon as she was out of the way. It was like she parted a river and amazing to watch!

Anyway, once I’d remembered that moment, I gave it a try here and BINGO! All I had to do was watch for slight breaks and time my walk, ensuring I’m making eye contact with the next bike! I say bike, as I don’t trust car drivers here — they either drive far too slow which tells me they’re not confident or they drive like a missile which means they just don’t give a f*ck about me! Of course, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few car drivers, flashing me to go but they’re in the minority.

So the streets of Saigon are an interesting test of ones resolve BUT they also look worse than they actually are! It just takes some common sense and some seriously big balls … at first anyway!

A typical junction. Obviously waiting for the cross sign is a must but even then, you’re still faced with turning traffic!

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