Just Like Fish

Dirk and I have been to a lot of different cities. We have driven in most of these, been passengers in the others. North America builds big roads to allow for the increasing number of vehicles. Population grows, the infrastructure grows. A 2 lane divided highway is no longer feasible, we now need 6 lanes.

Our first encounter with Asian traffic was in Bali. Sitting in our taxi taking in the sites of not only a new city, but a new country, we both are amazed at the number of motorbikes and scooters on the road.

As an outsider looking in – you see what you want. Scooters weaving. Scooters honking. Scooters with 5 passengers. Scooters zooming along while a young mother breastfeeds her infant on the back. Scooters with only the parents wearing helmets. Scooters drivers with cell phones shoved in helmets so they can talk and drive.

This is uncivilized and lacks any means of organization or rules to follow. It is chaos. Or is it?

While in Ubud, we needed to rent a scooter as our hotel was farther out then expected and nothing around it at all. This was our first test at the driving system. And it all started to make sense.

There is a system. We needed to learn it or end up sitting at the intersections forever. Their system is actually simple. Common courtesy. They all know to be aggressive and nose out into traffic. Why? Because everyone is courteous enough to let them in. No one starts to freak out, swear, or flip you the bird.

Passing is done with a short honk of the horn. This warns others that you are making your move and please move over. These are not the back home acts of aggression, they are a system of allowing others to know you are there. They honk to pass, they honk at blind corners to make there presence know. They honk to let you know they are turning.

If anyone has ever driven with Dirk, you know he got the speed and honking down pretty quickly. He even was able to weave around the dogs as they wondered out into the street. He was quickly becoming a fan.

Dirk said it best, when walking down the street and you encounter another pedestrian, do you walk into them? No, you make eye contact and merely flow around each other.

I liked his observation, but I felt it was more like a school of fish. Always knowing where each other was, never touching, but moving as one.

Scooters are weaving for a reason. They can. In Ho Chi Ming City, we took an amazing scooter tour by Saigon Adventures (yes I am plugging them). They were three young university students that would give you a tour of the city on the back of their scooters.

In a city of 11 million people, 7 million scooters are on the roads. Yet the system and flow is amazing. We drove around the city for four hours. Everyone flowed as one. At a traffic circle, which from my perspective was daunting and not going to happen, we smoothly flowed through. Just like fish.

Enjoy these pictures of Vietnam.

Travel Tip:

Don’t be afraid to try new things. We have been told not to rent scooters as it is dangerous. I disagree. Although it will take time to get use to your surroundings and etiquette of the roads, it is not dangerous. Ensure you where a helmet. 

When renting, ask the hotel to help you out. They know the safest and honest places to rent. Most rentals are only $7CAD a day and payment is up front. 


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