Friday, May 28, 2010

Crossing the road in Vietnam

Tourists would do well to take lessons in jaywalking in Vietnam. While in some countries, to wander blindly into the traffic is an offence; in Vietnam, it’s a compulsory course of action.

Standing on a Saigon street corner watching an uninterrupted flow of motorbikes, bicycles, buses and lorries wondering how to cross the road without a human catapult or a bridge perplexes many. It looks like the river of premature death. Reaching the other side involves gauging the availability of just a few metres of tarmac space and then bravely stepping into the road and walking at a steady pace without meandering, and definitely without stopping, until you reach the Pavement of Respite.

Unlike in most other countries where you are responsible for your own safety, here you abdicate that and responsibility lies with the oncoming traffic not to hit you. At a steady walking pace, motorists know when to weave around you. Stopping mid street in a panic disrupts this rule and that’s when a flattening becomes likely.

Pedestrians inevitably do get stressed, even the Vietnamese, who’ve launched themselves into the traffic all their lives. Should you sense impending disaster, raise your hand in the air and wave it like a fish tail. You will be seen more clearly by the swarm on wheels and drivers know that this gesture translates as a personal alarm and, with luck, they will avoid mowing you down!

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