If you grew up in the 90’s you will remember the ‘Wacky Races’ cartoon. It was the best, all the different teams in the race had the most ridiculous vehicles, there were no rules, and they always did whatever they could to win the race. In a funny way, that cartoon reminds me a bit of driving on the roads in Vietnam. The way people drive on the road blows me away. You have to put on your meanest stink face, forget about being courteous, forget about anyone else, forget your usual road manners, you do what you want. This is your road and your only objective is to arrive alive at your destination.
I’ve observed a few things that seem to be a rule of thumb on the roads of Vietnam. The bigger your vehicle is or the more expensive it is, the more right of way you have. If you have grey hair, you can do what you want. Old people own the road. I often see oldies with grey hair on bicycles in the middle of the road going 20km per hour, without a care in the world, on their way, ignoring the roaring and hooting of the traffic blazing past them. You can go the wrong way down a one way if you want, if you stick to near the sidewalk.
The sidewalk is part of the road during peak hour traffic, even the popo are fine with it. When you turn right, the people on the road that you’re turning onto have to treat you as an obstacle, no need for you to yield and look when turning right, ever, just make the turn. Obviously, a red light only means stop if you feel like stopping. If you’re in a rush, you’re allowed to skip the red light, just climb on your hooter so everyone becomes aware of your mad stunt. You may carry anything you can manage on you bike. I’ve seen mountains of everything imaginable on the back of bikes over here, when you look at them from behind it just looks like a mobile pile of whatever it is they’re transporting, you can’t even see the bike or the person on it.
I’m really nervous for the day I go back home or somewhere else where the roads have rules and I have to drive. I will probably get arrested or I will be the cause of some heavy road rage due to the way I’ve been conditioned to drive in Vietnam. Every time you hit the road in Vietnam you have to avoid crashing into people, so when you do almost crash into someone, it’s like nothing, standard procedure. You’ll exchange stinky looks and it usually gets left at that. Even when someone does have an accident, usually the bike gets lifted back up, a few swear words are exchanged, they pop your shoulder back into its socket, and you’re on your way as if it didn’t happen. It’s crazy and brutal, but I like it.