There is a lot of danger trying to cross the road in Hanoi, the quaint little capital of Vietnam. I spent some time there and then experienced the wonders of Halong Bay, before moving down south to Hoi An and Hue. It’s a dangerous country, Vietnam. I had heard stories of backpackers being mugged or targeted for other petty scams, but nobody ever warned me about the slipshod driving standards that the Vietnamese have, as they go about their business on their mopeds!
I took a selection of photos from what I saw on the roads of Hanoi, in particular from around the Old Quarter where my budget hotel was located. There is no overall standard on etiquette when riding mopeds in Vietnam; it seems you hop on and go for it! I have had bad taxi rides in Delhi where my first encounter of the horrendous Indian traffic almost left me metaphorically scarred for life, and I have also encountered appalling traffic and congestion in such infamous megalopolises as Dhaka and Jakarta, where even the simplest of journeys can take twice as long as you had expected! But nowhere was I more scared of crossing the road than I was in Hanoi!
One of the things that most amazed me was that rather than use vans or jeepneys (like in the Philippines), the Vietnamese just place their cargo on their bikes and ride off down the highway. In the UK, we wouldn’t be allowed to do this, but here in Vietnam it’s just a way of life. Each passing biker seemed to carry their cargo in a different way; some in front of their body; some behind their body; some even carried some cargo on their heads! None of this cargo looked particularly well-secured, either!
Even when the rains came, and they usually do quite heavily in this part of the world, I didn’t really see people slow down much. I often wondered about the accident rates from mopeds on these roads in Hanoi, even though I didn’t see anything untoward myself, thankfully. Some people used only a poncho to keep themselves ‘dry’, whereas other people didn’t bother with anything. Others, improvised with make-do plastic sheets to act as a shield against the rain!
As darkness fell on my first night in Hanoi – and Vietnam in general – I was glad to be able to retreat back to my hotel without having to cross one of the busy roads. Fortunately, I was able to do most of my sightseeing here on my first day without much road-crossing, but on the occasions when I did need to pluck up the bravery I was glad that these mopeds and bikes that I’d been watching all day were small and agile enough to avoid hitting me! I think the general consensus on how to cross the road in Vietnam is to walk at a slow, consistent pace in a straight line from one side of the road to the other. Do not make eye contact, and keep your wits about you!
As the Vietnamese would say: “Được ra khỏi con đường của tôi!“
For more detailed information on the hazards of crossing the road in Vietnam, check out the following blog from Buffalo Tours for a step-by-step guide on how do it safely.