Every morning I ride my motorbike to work and it never ceases to be an adventure. Here in Saigon most inhabitants use a motorbike to get around which creates a lot of pollution. After 8 months of breathing in burning fossil fuels I finally decided to go with a mask no matter how ridiculous I might look. Most of the ladies on motorbikes here also cover themselves although they prefer that no skin is visible since white skin is seen as beautiful. It really has nothing to do with Europeans I would think but rather they don’t want to be seen as manual laborers who work in the sun and whose skin turns almost black. They cover themselves so well that they almost look like a million terrorists riding around in hat, sunglasses and scarf covering all of their face as well as shoulder length gloves.
Traffic rules here are also mostly a suggestion. The traffic lights are a relatively new feature in the city and people usually revert to their country habits when crossing an intersection which is to beep frantically, reduce speed and continue right through even if the light is red. Here in the city there is a ton of traffic so people are getting used to the red lights but as in the West they too get tired of waiting for it to change even if there is a ton of on coming traffic. Therefore, they all tend to slowly push halfway out into the intersection until the oncoming traffic has no choice but to stop.
As you might imagine there are also a lot of traffic accidents. Even if you are able to look in all 16 directions when driving there still will be people crossing the street at the worst possible times. To cross a street here in Saigon, you simply step off the curb and proceed at a very slow pace until you reach the other side. The traffic will swerve around you like a school of fish and come within inches.
But it really is not as dangerous in the city as it might seem. The Vietnamese have a very innate sense of traffic and the motorbikes remind me of a school of fish which avoids collisions…. usually. Even if you get in a crash the speeds are not very high and everyone is usually alright. The true danger lies on the freeways when there are accidents at high speeds and the fatalities are pretty high. So if your thinking about driving across Vietnam on a motorbike you should probably not, and chose the bus. Even though most understand traffic there are a few who do not and those are the ones you have to watch out for.