Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vietnam Splendor - The Scooter City of Hanoi

The city of Hanoi is literally filled with scooters. Cars are utterly swamped with the weaving in and out of scooters on every corner and every junction of the city.

From a visual standpoint, the traffic here seems even more dense than that of Bangkok, but for some reason, it never seems chaotic. In fact, there is some weird order in chaos voodoo magic working in the streets.

Looking around, it is amusing to see families of four or five riding on a single scooter, a feat that sounds impossible, but somehow actually works and without missing a beat.

Hanoians probably train kids to ride the scooter the moment they can stand. Young children the age of 6 are regularly seen holding the handle bars with the adults behind them, seemingly teaching them to ride as soon as they can.

And I can understand why. Everyone has a scooter here. Cars are a luxury, and a a liability. Scooters can go anywhere, through the streets and poking in little nooks and corners that cars cannot reach. And don't even try to cross the road if you the faint hearted.

Crossing a road in Hanoi seriously requires a leap of faith, especially like me, you are from the rule crazy place of Singapore. There are literally no rules here. Cars and traffic never stop, and most times, the traffic lights are not followed.

Leap of Faith Crossing

 You just simply take the first step and cross. And guess what? The traffic actually avoids you! You see, traffic in Hanoi, or for that matter, Vietnam is really slow. In the city, nothing travels faster than 40km/h.

Everyone horns, not out of anger or frustration, but simply to warn the traffic in front of them. And that includes pedestrians. Scooters and cars will literally brush against you even as you walk along the busy streets.

And you know what? It never feels jammed in the streets. Cars and scooters are constantly on the move. Motorists will always miraculously find a hole to pass. Braking is almost non-existent.

On the highways, there is little distinction between lanes. Faster motorists will always overtake on the left and constant honking is always heard.

And in this rustic city that still has influences of the 60s, this amazing way of managing traffic is certainly fascinating. Just don't come here if you are scared of crossing a road in Singapore. You might just be crossing a road for weeks, without moving.

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