How to Cope with Terrifying Traffic

Or “How the chicken crossed the road.”

Yes, you’d think crossing the street would be basic, but not in Vietnam’s manic traffic — with more than 20 million motor bikes on the road.

Seriously, a major intersection is a major deal. And an intersection with a round-about? Forgettaboutit.

So after a couple of near-misses, I thought I’d pass along a couple of rules to live by:

· Cross in pairs. This is the jungle and the law of the larger vehicle is in full swing. Two people are bigger than one, making you both more visible and more substantial if a crash occurs. If you don’t have a friend, sidle up to a local and stick close by them. They’ll know what you’re up to, but they understand the laws of the jungle too and won’t object.

· No talking while a cross is in progress. This is no joke. There enough action on a multi-lane road that you’d need to concentrate deeply and to keep your mouth shut. Even for me.

· Once you start, don’t stop. This is a key rule. Slow and steady wins the race here. The drivers on the road will calculate your position and swerve to avoid you (but they will not stop). A quick dash or freezing like a deer in the headlights and you’re a goner.

· Use the mediums. This has been a lifesaver. Choose a road which has a center divide, providing a temporary break in the insanity. If it’s a busy road with no mediums, just keep walking or change your course. You probably don’t need to cross the street to buy that mango anyway. There’ll be another fruit hawker on your side of the street within 30 seconds.

· No squealing. Basically, you need to keep your composure. In the roar of the traffic, no one will hear you if you go down anyway.

This is how I’ve survived traffic insanity so far. But I still have one more day. Fingers crossed that I haven’t counted my chickens before they’ve hatched!

p.s. Note in the picture: the guy who’s in the thick of it and the girl who’s dumbstruck (and stuck) on the other side.

Article Update

After I wrote this article I got hit by a motor bike trying to cross the street in Hanoi. I got hit from behind while stepping off a curb by a motor bike going the wrong way on a one-way road. I only suffered a few minor scratches and a bit of shock, although the package I was holding in my left hand went flying through the air — but better my shopping bag than me! Man ‘o man!

Where’s the worse traffic you’ve ever seen? Tell me!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific, How to Cope.

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