01 January 2006

Siagon Zzzzzoooooommmm

This was mild traffic.

Picture it:
Scooters ... Mopeds ... Bicycles

Now add 1 to 4 bodies stacked on top of any one of those. Sometimes 10 deep (10 bikes across). Hundreds lined up on each side of the road. Throw in scattered taxi vans & cars, people crossing & walking with us, the bicycles with a seat in front, a bicycle with a 5 x 5 basket in front stacked up to it's driver's chin, a few people walking their vender cart with corn or pork or novelties .... This is the traffic in Ho Chi Minh city New Year's day 2006. But, this isn't just holiday traffic.

It's been a New year for me for about 17 hours longer than most of you. It was kind of funny to think about my day almost being over & you're just now throwing down for the New year a couple hours after midnight. Ok, back to this lovely traffic.

We saw a couple boys resting their heads on the handlebars for a little nap on the ride home. Women in heals & business suits fashion their motorbikes. A couple of guys. Some brothers & sisters. Grandparents. A few on the cell phone, dialing what have you, just like they were in a car. Some wear face masks, some don't. Some wear helmets, most don't. But, if you're on the freeway you'll get a 10 day impound fine if you aren't weating a helmet. A lady carying a tall metal frame resembling an ironing board. A huge box wedged between you & you'r driver. Groceries stacked. Water jugs hanging off each side. The most people I've seen on one scooter is 4 adults: 4 skinnies mind you. I also saw a family of 5. People ages 17 (maybe younger) to 75 driving along all seeming not to have a care in the world. I'm not sure exactly what consitutes breaking the law here, but we saw a couple of young cats pulled over. But, 2 out of 2 million (on this street ;-) ain't bad.

I had the pleasure of being about to ride about for over an hour. I was taken into the center of town by Christina's 2nd cousin. This is where most of the traffic action took place. I kept waiting for that fear to hit, but it didn't. I thought for sure it would come when I'm staring at 4 scooters coming towards me, a taxi van, a few scooters & a bike on the side ... nope. When handlebars brushed my knee I should be a bit nervous right. A 7 road turn about was on our route. Molst of the time you're inches or feet away from the other scooters, vans, or people walking. Oh, riding on the sidewalk is ok too; no one even bats an eye. If you don't like how the flow is going on your side of the road, just drive on the other side. I don't know why there is even a dotted line in the middle; I guess it Is ok to pass at any given moment though. Organized chaos.

When the traffic light (mostly just the walk/don't walk signs are used to guide, except for in the center of town) changes people are still going. The way it changes is you force them to stop & trickle through by going on ahead, beeping your horn... no one minds, it's just the way it is. Weave & dodge, weave & dodge ... beep, beep, beep ... beep, beep. We're all only going about 25 kph. I haven't seen one accident. When you see a toddler standing up between his parents weaving & dodging traffic & they're not even concerned. Or when you see a mom breast feeding from the back seat of the motorbike, while her other child is in front of her husband, you feel safe. I only used a couple of fingers to steady myself when we had to jolt ahead, or stop quickly.

I dare not drive in this, but I'm up for another ride any time.

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