Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Motorcycles and Crossing the Street

You would all like to hear about the motorcycles, right? There are literally millions of them here. Marti describes them as battalions, advancing or retreating down the streets, 10 or more abreast, row after row after row in both directions! A guide told us that in Saigon (population 7 million), one out of every 2 people has a motorbike! They are all sizes and brands -- Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Vespa, Kawasaki and some we don't know (no Harleys so far)! Some are new, bright and shiny, others are rusty and have parts tied together with wire or string. They transport everything. The most people we saw were 5 (parents, baby, child, grandma) on a bike in Cambodia 2 years ago, but 4 is quite normal. They carry tables and chairs and other furniture, long bamboo stalks, trees (including the soil and roots), baskets of vegetables with leafy greens spilling over the sides, 50-lb bags of rice, cement or other construction material, pots and pans, trays of baguettes heading to the bakery to be baked, pigs, chickens, fish, piles of clothing, all sorts of plastic things, balloons and toys, karaoke machines, incense sticks, and on and on. Also, here, most people wear helmets, but not the babies and kids!
And of course there is the noise (constant honking and motors revving) and the fumes. A lot of people wear face masks to try to keep the pollution, dust and germs out (or in) and the women to protect their skin.
Now, how about crossing the street? Well, you take your life in your hands (or feet) since there are few traffic lights. As the relentless traffic continues, you step into the road with a glance to the right and left, then looking straight ahead make your way between the motorcycles, buses, trucks, rickshaws, bicycles and cars that weave around you. For some reason it seems to work, although we have seen a few spills!
It's all about surviving in Vietnam and following the locals (when in Rome...)!

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