The traffic on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City was one of the most fascinating things I saw during my recent trip to Vietnam. I took more pictures and video of the traffic that I did of anything else. The first thing that you notice is the number of motorcycles and scooters. They are everywhere. They weaved in and out of traffic and around the van we rode in. We were told that the middle class had about a seven year period of growth in this part of the country and that the bicycles had been replaced by scooters. We were also told that the taxes on cars were extremely high, effectively tripling the cost of a car. This was intentional on the part of the government to try and discourage people from buying cars. The streets could not accommodate more cars. They were putting in subway systems to try to help.
Watching the traffic was fascinating. I expected to see wrecks everywhere because of the congestion but I didn’t see any at all. No one drove very fast and the movement of all of the vehicles through the traffic was very fluid. The driver of our van was constantly honking his horn. We were told that this was typical of the drivers. They weren’t honking out of anger. They constantly honked to let other people on the road know they were there. It was also fascinating to watch to see how much stuff people had on these scooters. You would see large packages, plate glass windows, and huge business signs on the backs of the bikes. I even saw a family of four all on one small scooter.
We went out to eat in the old part of the town on our first evening there. We arrived at the restaurant and were told as we were getting out of the van that we would now have to learn how to cross the street. We were standing on the sidewalk and our restaurant was on the opposite side of the street. There were no crosswalks anywhere near us and the flow of scooters was constant on the street. Our host instructed us to step off the sidewalk, walk slowing and keep moving. He also told us to not make any sudden movements. He said the scooters would go around us. And they did. It was odd to be out in the middle of the street with traffic just oozing around you but that’s exactly what it did. Most of the traffic was flowing toward us from my left side. I was happy to have someone standing to the left of me. I was also not comfortable looking to my left. I would equate it to someone like me with a fear of heights not looking down when they are on a ladder.
One of the people traveling with us was an avid runner and had gone out of our hotel that morning for a run. There was a park across the street from our hotel where he intended to take his morning run but he wasn’t able to cross the street. The next morning after we had been trained, he was able to make it to the park for his run.
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