Thursday, March 4, 2010

On the road to Viet Nam

Here is a little story I wrote about traffic (and beer)

You'll be in some kind of heavily air-conditioned automobile weaving in and out of traffic only to come upon a motorcycle carrying a load to market as wide as the motorbike is long, Now i dont want anything to get lost in translation here, think just how long a motorbike is - thats a bloody wide load... Your mind starts to wander how the young thing at the wheel can keep such a wide load from tipping over. You'll find yourself impressed how the constant sound of horns and heavy traffic seem to leave this mystery driver, a girl of not yet 25, unfazed. A series of well meaning honks of the horn and a flash of the lights later and you pass on the right only to see she is also carrying two small children on the front of the bike - your jaw drops to the floor. welcome to Viet Nam.

In Australia the general consensus amongst a aging population is once you reach 65 its time to retire to a nice but manageable villa in port macquarie that is walking distance to the local bowling club so you can imagine my suprise newly arrived in the capitol of Hanoi when the first thing i come across is a old lady, maybe 7 or 80 (They are so healthy its hard to tell) peddling a bike across 5 lanes of peak hour traffic - something i cant imagine my grandma ever doing, even in her youth.

Its a whole other way of life in viet nam and the transport rules and regulations - or sever lack there of is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is a unspoken language in vietnam, not that of 1000 year old scriptures or ancient sun gods but of car horns and indicators. In Australia we honk our horns in rage and flash our lights in frustration - the roads of vietnam however are a whole other ball game, where one honk of your horn simply means a polite "just letting you know im here" and two honks roughly translates to " I'd like to pass now please"

We might use a indicator to turn left, the vietnamese theirs to (for lack of a better word) indicate that you may pass on the left and a slight shake of your right hand in a clockwise direction , like you are turning some kind of imaginary door knob, means police ahead. Confused? I sure was but our driven Tan was seemingly unfazed as he whizzed through traffic on route to Saigon.

Vietnam is a country so fiercely contrasted to life here in Australia it is a must go to destination for those wishing to elieviate them selves from their current comfort zone (of favorite spot in front of the telly) Where we have dry heat Vietnam has humidity, We drink our beers in bars, they drink their beers on the street, and let me tell you, You havnt had the full vietnamese experience until you have knocked back a 20c beer whilst perched on a plastic stool 10cm off the ground and all but 1m from the constant flow of traffic.

For more photos from my Vietnam trip click here

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