How to Cross the road in Viet Nam – The New York Times

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Ah, the invigorating challenges of the foreign
visit, exotic food, halting conversation, but here in Hanoi, the biggest hurdle is maybe
just getting across the street. This is Thomas Fuller reporting for the New York Times. Nearly
4 million motorcycles and mopeds registered in the Vietnamese capital. You can feel like
they are all barrelling down at you, all at once. The honking and the two-cycle cacophony
start early in the morning and continue well in the night. Motorcyles and crucial cargo
carriers for inside Hanoi and beyond. Mats, mirrors, sacks of trash, construction materials,
of course people, too. This is the Vietnamese version of a family station wagon. Crossing
a single street can take a considerable investment in time especially at rush hours. This woman
tried and tried and tried again. Her opening came when a flood of motocycles brought traffic
to a halt. Locals may be use to the challenge, but Hanoi’s filled with tourists. Vietnamese
law dictates that motorcycles must stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Really? David Cadben,
an English teacher who has lived in Hanoi for the past five years, offers tips for crossing
the road. David: “Never run. Never rush. Don’t move suddenly because they’re predicting that
you’re going to move forward and going to adjust for that.” Describing is one thing.
Demonstrating is another. David:”Start moving. They should pass around you. Watch for the
car further up. And the traffic joining and rest in the middle.” Sidewalks in Vietnam
are no safe havens either. David: “On Mondays specifically have heavy traffic, of course.
Then the pavement has a lot of [drivers] on the roads, but I don’t think that’s legal.”
The sheer volume of motorcycles has spawned cottage industry. Shops have sprung up selling
face masks and ponchos. Women can choose between standard helmets or ones that designed to
accommodate ponytails. The traffic can look treacherous, but Hanoi’s residents say that
traffic slows motorcycles so much that accidents, when they occur, are very minor.Tran Thi Sen
sells donuts on the street every day from 6 in the morning till 9 at night. Some tourists
are petrified the first time they face the crosswalk. Nicola Williams, a visitor from
England, called it, “A major culture shock,” but after a few challenging crossings, she
got used to it, even enjoyed the challenge. Nicola: “So yea so far..we’re still alive
so… (laughed)”

4 comments

  1. 1:40 this is how I did it even on my first day there. Then again I had two years of training in Jakarta. It would be quite a shock for someone that hasn't spent time in Asia. I agree with Nicola the challenge of crossing is actually kinda fun. You feel very powerful against motorcycles because they go all around you. All you have to make way for is cars and trucks.

  2. I think you're showing it wrong, you don't wait for a break, if I'd done that, I'd still be there. You just step out and slowly walk across. The bikes avoid you. If you stop, you'll get hit. Only place I've ever been where the guide showed us how to cross a street.

  3. Gosh, now I know the answer to: "why did the chicken cross the road?" More importantly "how did the chicken cross the road?"

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