I can’t believe we have already gone past the halfway point in our placements. I have been completely enjoying Vietnam, immersed in my new routines way of life, and already I am leaving so soon. For today’s blog post, I wanted to share what I have learned about getting around in Vietnam.
First, getting around in a motorized vehicle. Most people use motorbikes to get around here, although there are still plenty of cars around. The Vietnamese drive on the right-hand side (for the most part) but the driving is nowhere near as structured or regulated as in Canada. There are hardly ever any traffic lights, or stop signs here, so virtually every intersection is what we would call in Canada an “uncontrolled intersection”. Right of way is determined intuitively, instead of by rules. Typically, people just drive/walk wherever they need to go, and merge and flow with one another without ever stopping. It seems chaotic to a non-native, but it’s actually rather harmonious, and it works! I haven’t seen a single traffic jam in my time here, drivers will slow down and weave around each other, but they rarely come to full stops. Watching large intersections, especially traffic circles, is fascinating because although there's 100 or so people going in different directions, drivers and pedestrians find a way to move fluidly around each other, regardless of the direction they’re going in.
Since I have not rented a motorbike (and instead use GrabBike, the local motorbike taxi app for long distances), I find myself walking frequently. When I first got here, I thought being a pedestrian was impossible, due to the busy roads and lack of sidewalks. If you stand off to the side, and look at the road, it seems intimidating to walk on, due to the flurry of motorbikes and occasional cars, whizzing by and taking up the entirety of the road. I’ve come to realize, however, that being a pedestrian is totally possible, just not as common as using motorbikes. Although there isn’t always a designated path for pedestrians, you just have to make your own! Whether you’re crossing the street or walking on it, it is important to keep an assertive, and steady stride, creating your own lane on the road. No one will hit you, and the road is just as much yours as it is a motorized vehicle’s. I have learned to not fear taking up space, while being aware and mindful or the people around me. I usually walk on the far right hand side of the road, and people adjust their trajectory accordingly to avoid a collision with me. It’s a little scary and intimidating initially, but once you get the hang of it, it starts to come naturally and easily.
Of course, another thing to get used to about Vietnamese traffic is all the honking! Everywhere you go, everyone is beeping, and it’s worth noting that this is perfectly normal here. In Canada, beeping is rarely used, and it’s mostly used passive-agressively, when a driver feels you have inconvenienced them. If honking in Canada was a spoken phrase it would probably be “seriously?!?!” Here, the beeping is used as a cautionary announcement that you’re about to pass someone, that you’re switching lanes, that you’re about to move forward in a traffic circle, etc. If beeping was a spoken phrase here, it would be more like “Coming through!” Given that the traffic is so hectic, and there’s dozens of people around you going different directions, the beeping helps keep everyone safe, it gives an auditory announcement of your intention to come through with speed, and lets everyone know what direction you’re coming from. So don’t take it personally if everyone if it seems like everyone is honking at you when you first step on the street here, they’re not honking at you, and you’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just giving you a helpful warning they are coming close to you, and want to make you aware of their trajectory.
That’s all I have to share for now, thanks for reading!
Now back to making the most of my last 20 days here...