Throughout Vietnam we were either in traffic or had to cross a street with traffic. I’m sure there are laws about operating a motor vehicle and there is a licensing process, and to be fair there is a flow to traffic. However, it was a flow and chaos that really put our faith in people to the test.
Some of the challenges we faced as civilians:
- Many intersections didn’t have stoplights, people just coasted in and merged slowly.
- Scooters were often piled high with people or supplies making them much larger.
- Scooters went the opposite way to traffic flow if they did not want to wait to make their left hand turn.
- Scooters were always driving on sidewalks. Whether to park, cut a corners, bypass traffic or drive into an unmarked alley way.
- Motorized vehicle operators wove in an out of traffic lanes as they pleased even into oncoming traffic, turning at sharp angles suddenly, and varying speed or stopping suddenly.
- No vehicle signaled to turn.
- Every vehicle honked or beeped when:
- Wanting to pass on left or right
- Coming to a turn
- Exiting an alley or coming to a blind intersection
- Most sidewalks were filled with scooter parking and vendors so most people walked on and off of the street with traffic.
- Some intersections did have stoplights, however only 80% of the people respected the rule to stop. Others cruised right through it if they believed they could make it without incident.
- There are 9 million registered scooters (who knows how many unregistered) in Ho Chi Minh City. Population data from Wikipedia shows of 2018 as 8.9 million people live there.
The incessant beeping and constant moving make crossing streets or even walking on the street nerve racking. As Khoa our tour guide from Ho Chi Minh city put it: “Just start crossing, our scooter operators are very skillful. If you are still concerned, just close your eyes and start walking across.”
Crossing roads in Ho Chi Minh city on busy roads was an act of faith in humanity. No stopped, they just went around.