Vietnam Rules of the Road – Mayhem or Order?

Initially to an Outsider, it certainly looks like mayhem. Motorbikes and bicycles going every which way, against traffic, on the sidewalks and driving right inside buildings!

In any new situation, I try to watch as an observer and withhold judgement until I have some data.

Watching as an observer, not biased by the framework you know, but looking for patterns and understanding of the system in front of you, then the picture will become ever clearer.

“car seat”

My first couple weeks, riding as a passenger on Trinh’s Honda Air Blade, one of the most numerous motorbikes.  (In this blog, I call all these very small engine (50 to150cc) bikes, motorbikes.  This includes was we in USA call scooters).

So, sitting behind Trinh in the first weeks, I was ??Nervous.  I quickly realized in many situations it was best to just close my eyes!  Yes, that was amazingly effective.

Leaving the hotel, if we had to go west, just make a U-turn in the middle of the block. Traffic too heavy for the U-turn, go around the block, are you kidding, go against traffic at a 45° angle until we are on the right side of the road.  Sorry, I have no video of some of the most outrageous hijinks, because I either had my eyes closed or I was awestruck.

In the first days, I derived their first rule of the road, don’t hit what you can see.

Now a simple rule like this can be amazing effective.  It certainly seems to work.  Let me say now that after 6 weeks, I have seen all of two accidents, which were not so much accidents, as unintended touching, causing one or both of the motorbikes to fall down.  And seeing how the traffic is all low speed, between 6 and 25 miles per hour (mph) or 10 to 40 km/hr., these incidents don’t incur significant injuries.   (In fact, now that I think of it, I have only seen an ambulance racing down the street once. Contrast that with NYC where it’s a few times per hour).

When you develop and rule, a theory, you then test it against the data. So, I looked at everything with that in mind, don’t hit what you can see. What I saw was that while less than half the bikes (the roads are 90% motorbikes, 10% human powered bikes) signal their intentions, for turns, the bikes behind seem to anticipate this.

They are the ultimate defensive drivers.

Published by Richard on Dauntless

I’m an eclectic person, who grew up in New York, lived overseas for many years and have a boat, Dauntless, a 42 foot Kadey Krogen trawler yacht. Dauntless enables me to not only live in many different parts of the world, but to do it in a way that is interesting, affordable, with the added spice of a challenge. Dauntless also allows me to be in touch with nature. As the boat glides through the ocean, you have a sense of being part of a living organism. When dolphins come to frolic, they stay longer if you are out there talking to them, watching them. Birds come by, sometimes looking for a handout; sometimes grateful to find a respite from their long journey. I grew up on the New York waterfront, in the West Village, when everything west of Hudson St. was related to shipping and cargo from around the world. For a kid, it was an exciting place of warehouses, trucks, and working boats of all kinds: tugs and the barges and ships, cargo and passenger, they were pushing around. My father was an electrical engineer, my mother an intellectual, I fell in between. I have always been attracted to Earth’s natural processes, the physical sciences. I was in 8th grade when I decided to be a Meteorologist. After my career in meteorology, my natural interest in earth sciences: geology, astronomy, geography, earth history, made it a natural for me to become a science teacher in New York City, when I moved back to the Big Apple. Teaching led to becoming a high school principal to have the power to truly help kids learn and to be successful not only in school but in life. Dauntless is in western Europe now. In May and June, I will be wrapping up the last two years in northern Europe, heading south to spend the rest of the year in Spain & Portugal. Long term, I’m planning on returning to North American in the fall of 2017 and from there continuing to head west until we’re in Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, where we will settle for a bit. But now, my future lies not in NY or even Europe, but back to the water, where at night, when the winds die down, there is no noise, only the silence of the universe. I feel like I am at home, finally.

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