Dennis CoombsVietnam, 47700

Weaving through Vietnam

Dennis CoombsVietnam, 47700
Weaving through Vietnam

The only option is to pluck up the courage and go for it. You can’t just stand there forever. And, however long you wait, it will not get easier. Such is crossing the road in Vietnam.

The population is around 70 million. Almost none have cars. But they seem to travel endlessly on some 50 million small motorbikes. Some solo. Some double. And a surprising number carrying three, four or five. They also transport unbelievably large loads.

Driving is officially on the right though this is by no means exclusive and is never the case when the required shop is on the left. Just weave through the oncoming traffic.

And weaving is the way. There are few road markings. The motorbikes and pedal cycles travel several deep weaving in, out and across. The pavements have been usurped as parking areas, or street cafes, or by the thousands of vendors lining the streets. Walking is to the side of the road. The secret is to be confident and keep moving. When you need to cross you just walk slowly and must not stop. Vietnamese riders never stop. Not anywhere. They will weave either in front of you or behind you. Stopping confuses them as they are probably aiming for the spot they expect you to vacate.

It is all so colourful, the people, their clothing, the stalls with their fruits, vegetables and flowers. They spend most of their time outside. Everyone is friendly and smiling, even in the rain. Crossing the road is actually like walking through a busy funfair. It’s just that most of the people are on wheels.

As someone who remembers the Vietnam War, I had not expected a country where the people are so contented and optimistic about their future. Political and economic changes have evolved. Food is plentiful – and very good. Everyone is happy.

There is much to see in Vietnam. Fifty-four tribes. Two thousand years of history. Historic buildings. Traces of the occupations by the Chinese and the French. Remnants of a terrible war. World heritage sights. And much more. But the richest experience comes from weaving through the streets, watching the people at work and play, soaking up the atmosphere.