Tuesday, December 7, 2010

motorcyclists in hanoi

before i visited vietnam i was told that the roads were swarming with motorcycles - that appeared to move in a haphazard way - and that it was a challenge to cross the road. so, when i came over to hanoi, i was looking out for motor-cyclists all the time. after a while, i discovered that crossing the streets of vietnam was not as life-threatening as back home because the traffic here moved at a much slower speed.

seems like anything and everything goes in hanoi, vietnam. wearing a crash helmet may be compulsory for motor-cyclists but not everyone complies. generally, most riders and their pillions put something on their head but it may not be a crash helmet. in fact, so long as it resembles a helmet, it seems to satisfy the requirement. i have seen baseball caps and construction workers' hats. it is as if wearing something on the head is a token gesture; sometimes, the strap is not even secured properly.

most riders were able to multi-task while riding. carrying on a conversation on the mobile phone was not something unusual here. some were even able to text and send a message while the bike was moving and, mind you, they were not pillion riders. the bike could be used like a four-wheel vehicle to transport more than one passenger and to carry bulky goods and heavy items. some carried both passenger and goods. while most pillions sat behind the rider, some, especially small kids, rode in front.

here are some tips on how to cross the noisy and 'crazy' streets of hanoi where you should not expect motorists and motorcyclists to stop at pedestrian crossings:

wait for a break in the traffic before stepping onto the road.
don't run; move at a steady pace
don't hold hands while crossing the road
do not stop and do not turn back because you will confuse the riders and drivers.
if you still cannot cross, then just depend on blind faith - close your eyes and just walk across.

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