Do not attempt to cross the road!!!
Wow. Talk about adventure sports. I never considered being a pedestrian to be quite this dangerous before. The crazy traffic patterns in Saigon remind me of the street crossing in Tokyo where it looks like a herd of wild animals all moving as a pack in a flowing march of humanity. Except here, it’s motorbikes, and cars, and people trying to cross amongst them.
So you try to avoid crossing the street for as long as you can. Then you realize that to get to that tourist spot on your map, you have to cross a street sometime. So, first you cheat and try to cross only when you can glom on to a confident local daring the traffic. But so few people walk in many areas, that at a certain point, you’ve got to take the plunge yourself. But here we have the problem.
You have to do everything the OPPOSITE of how you would in the west. If traffic is coming at you, you don’t run, you slow down. What? That would never work! Oh, but it does. Once you’ve successfully fought all your instincts and DEcreased your pace when traffic is flying at you, you can see how the traffic patterns rely on the pedestrian being slow and deliberate so that cars and motorbikes can drive AROUND you, based on where they predict that you will be when they get close to you. Yeesh. But it works. I mean- not always- I’ve read that pedestrians get hit all the time here, but you can see it working right in front of you. And it’s kind of fun. It makes you feel like you’re in that old arcade game Frogger. Just try not to get squished!
I even thought it would be great to take a video of the experience to share with you all, but decided I was too terrified and unwilling to split my focus long enough to pay attention to both the camera and to not dying. But then, finally, the other day, when I was crossing at the edge of a roundabout near the marketplace, I found myself in a pack of about 6 other people, with equal numbers on either side of me. And I decided to make a quick movie while I relied on my fellow man… as human shields. So, here’s a short video to give you a slight taste of the experience (and thanks to Fay for being one of those human shields :-).