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Only in Vietnam #16 16 April 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Traffic, Vietnam.
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So, I recently blogged about the lovely young man riding his motorbike along without holding the handlebars, because his hands were in his pockets, which I thought to be the least safe driving I had seen in Vietnam.

Yet only a few weeks ago, this was topped. By far.

I am driving along, minding my own business, when a guy pulls up next to me. He is sitting with his arms crossed, and his left foot is resting on the throttle (yes, that would be the right handle on your handlebar), while his knee is resting on the left side of the handlebar. He is somehow twisting the gas with his toes, while also steering with his knee.

He was a young, perfectly able-bodied man, but he just could not be bothered holding on to the steering of his bike like the rest of us.

At the first opportunity, he cuts me off (he was on my right hand side, he wanted to turn left), to pull in to the perpendicular street. This is in peak hour, and the roads are super busy. Of course, someone is about to pull out of said street, which makes him almost crash into them, so he is forced to quickly sit up and grab his handlebars. Having caught his bike just before toppling over and averted disaster, he has the cheek to throw a dirty as filth look over his shoulder at the other guy that was pulling out of the street! Who was almost standing still! Who was NOT manouvering his bike with his feet… Go figure.

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Street Racing 15 April 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Safety, Travelling, Vietnam.
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Last night was one of the scariest moments I have had in the capital of Vietnam. After a lovely dinner, and an even lovelier chat with one of the expats we’ve shared our journey with over the past three years, I was driving home around eleven thirty.

The weather was fantastic; fresh, inviting, spring was finally and definitely in the air.

The streets were mostly empty except for the street cleaning trucks that spray water on the roads and the drag racers.

The racers in Hanoi tend to all be the same, and I’ve seen some before, even had near accidents with them. They are young men, often shirtless, helmetless, sometimes tattooed, but always without a care in the world. When it is organised racing, pretty young women are often involved, too, perched as trophies on the back of the bikes.

But these were not the organised type – there was not a suped up vehicle between them. In fact, I believe I spotted a red Honda cub amongst the bikes.

But it was still scary. As I came down Thanh Nien, and hit the big round about at the southern end, the lead bike flew by. Screaming, shouting, leaning on their horns, the others were not far behind.

I was driving quite fast myself, but had slowed down due to the wet roads. They, however, did not.

And some of them would turn and make cat calls at me, acting quite threateningly. There were about 15-20 bikes that flew past on the wet road, overtaking me on the left and the right, hooting, laughing, swerving. There was not a safe manouvre between them, and no helmets.

Finally, as we were about all the way through the round about, they kept going around, as I turned right towards the mausoleum.

My sighs of relief were only short lived, as I encountered the water truck, a fork lift, and more racers in quick succession. There were even two cars racing on the streets. I was happy to be home not long after.

Only in Vietnam #12 27 January 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life, only in Vietnam, Traffic, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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I try not to go on about the cold weather in Hanoi too much. I mean, yes it is cold. But if you are here, you know that. If you are not, you probably don’t care.

But today, driving through the city centre amongst the Tet traffic and cumquat trees (still bobbing away on the back of motorbikes, but this year all wrapped up to protect the little fruit, luckily in see-through plastic, so still all good) I was overtaken by a young thing on a motorbike who clearly was not dealing well with the cold.

Normally, you see a lot of people with their right hand on the gas and their left hand in their pocket when it is cold.

This guy took it to a whole new level: He was zooming along, to about 50-60 km an hour, then he would let go of his handle bars completely, pocket both hands, and glide along through traffic until he had lost enough speed to do this all over again. Mind you, he kept it pretty straight, but that took traffic safety to a whole new level for me.

Never mind that he wasn’t wearing gloves, surely you would value your life over cold hands?

At least he was wearing a helmet, I suppose.

First accident 19 August 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Vietnam.
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Ok, so it was bound to happen, right? I have been cruising around on my motorbike in Hanoi for the past eighteen months or so, and all I ever have managed to do was to gently nudge the motorbike in front of me. They did not even notice at the time.

But yesterday, the inevitable happened.

In the midst of the chaos, one of those need-for-speed types (oh, you know the ones. Too cool for school, more often than not not wearing a helmet, driving at insane speeds and honking like there is no tomorrow, swerving dangerously in front of cars and buses and into oncoming traffic) came flying down the road and t-boned my bike.

I went through one of those intersections where there is traffic going in ever direction, and there were cars and motorbikes and I seem to recall a small bus as well. I had just crossed in front of this black car, and the coast was clear – or so I thought. I went through the rest of the intersection, when this guy flies into my bike just where a passenger would have been. (Lucky there was none).

My bike does the death-wobble, and all I can think of to do to stabilise her is to slam my feet on the ground.

Being a tall MoFo, I can easily place both my feet squarely on the ground without much trouble when standing still. But I wasn’t – I was driving. So the speed (not much, granted) combined with the wobble, made me pull my entire left big toe open. Not the smartest trick in the book, but at least I didn’t fall over!

Once I came to a full stop, I turned my head to make sure that the other person had not come of their bike. At that exact moment, his spare helmet, a bright pink little thing, fell off his bike onto the road.  The ensuing look of anger that I received was completely unwarranted, so I gave him a death stare back (I have been told that they are rather effective and unnerving) and knowing that he was still upright, his bike still running, and nothing further to worry about, I decided to get out of there.

Only when I got down the road did I actually feel the toe, and looking down I noticed that I was bleeding quite badly. I stopped and touched it, asserting that it was a heck of a lot of pain from such a little limb, but that the nail was intact and that it was probably going to be ok. I made my way home to clean it and dress it, and although it is now under the desk throbbing and being nasty, last night’s ice cream and attention from my partner made everything much better. (Or maybe it was the Bacardi?)

I am lucky if this is the extent of my accidents in Hanoi. There have been far worse, which I have luckily never been part of nor witnessed.