Crossing the Road in Hanoi and Other Rips in the Space Time Continuum

By May 3, 2012Travel

man with a bunch of colourful balloons on the streets of hanoi vietnam

Crossing the road in Hanoi is an act of faith, one must be imbued with the deep confidence  and belief that despite the red flags violently waving in a primitive self preservative part of your brain, that it is indeed ‘safe’ to cross. The realisation that you are no longer in control of your life and wellbeing when you cross the road is both liberating and zen like. Unlike elsewhere in the world, where one might wait for a break in traffic before crossing the said road, in Hanoi, the traffic never stops, a constant, monotonous flow coursing through the veins of the city, the motorcycles like salmon migrating upstream.

The only way then, is to simply step off the relative safety of the pavement, and begin the walk across to the other side, and suddenly, almost as miraculously as the parting of the Red Sea, slowly, the never ending stream of motorcycles will suddenly start making space for you, weaving their way around you as you cross, sort of like how a river might wend its way gently around a rock placed in the stream. The whole process is rather ‘gentle’, if such a term can be used in this context, and without fuss. The only trick is to keep walking, and at a constant pace. As long as your movements are predictable, the traffic makes space for you.

Never, at any moment start running across, or worse still, stop. The resulting effect is not unlike a rip in the space time continuum, where chaos starts to take over, the oncoming traffic cannot predict your speed and where you will be and that causes erratic swerving and evasive manoeuvres, which is very bad news in a stream of motorcycles closely packed together. The effect of this is accumulative, with nearby vehicles swerving to avoid hitting the other motorbikes. Like ripples spreading out from a stone that is thrown in the previously calmly flowing river, the effect spreads outwards and that’s when an accident might actually happen. All because some tourist had the audacity to stop!

Fortunately, this rarely happens, most people quickly get the hang of it and are absorbed into the flow.

bust of uncle Ho Chi MinhA bust of Uncle Ho

reflection off a motorcycle wing mirrorReflection off a motorcycle wing mirror

summary executionSummary execution

dentist chair by the roadOral hygiene

st joseph's cathedralMass at St Joseph Cathedral, Hanoi

street scene hanoiStreet scene, Hanoi

woman playing Tetris hanoiWoman playing Tetris

tourist kidsCaptive audience

water rides at West LakeWater rides at West Lake

ubiquitous transportUbiquitous transport

Post no billsPost no bills

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