John Gibson *
Street safety: A group of foreign tourists pay great attention to traffic (top), while a foreign woman holds the hands of her companion as they cross the road in Ha Noi. — File Photos
We can't cross here!" My dear spouse and erstwhile protector of our lives exclaimed.
"Why not," I said, "It's just a matter of sharing. Just step off the path, maintain a steady walk, adopt an attitude of nonchalance, and if so inclined smile to the motor bike riders, cars, taxis and heavy vehicles bearing down on you, or at least a gentle wave to suggest to the oncoming horde of vehicles that you need to be missed or otherwise one of them will be seriously late for work or their next meeting!
"And you want me to take that chance?" she pleaded.
"Yes," I countered, "because you're not at risk of being in danger as it's a simple exercise!"
I refrained to mention the in-depth training I received from friends who guided me in the nuances of this (supposedly) relatively simple task.
Their rules were: always – just walk, look towards the oncoming ‘danger' – never ever run or try to sidestep moving traffic and... Voila you are there – with heart beating loudly, bit of sweat on the brow but a glow of achievement that is maybe akin to going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel and arriving safely,
So with this in mind I said, "Well. Let's cross now."
"Oh yeah, well you cross the road first and we'll see if you survive!" she retorted
"No," I said, "because it is you that wants to go to that Bag Shop across the street and I am happy to go with you – or I'll stay here and meet you when you've finished shopping – so that means two crossings you have to make!"
I also felt like saying, "I may also never see you again."
* John is a regular visitor to Viet Nam and sometimes writes on restaurants, food service and living life as best one can.
So, the Bag Shop won, something to do with real leather, I eventually discovered, and we crossed together, hand in hand. We made our way steadily, and steadfastly, across the danger zone and to be allowed to continue on our way whilst all the oncoming traffic negotiated around us.
On arriving safe and sound on the other side I suggested to spouse, protector and bag hunter, "That was fun let's cross over and do that again!"
"Don't need retraining," said my safe and happy erstwhile protector, and, with a new bag over the shoulder she said, "Let's get a cyclo home!"
So, crossing the road in the busy city streets of Viet Nam, in particular Ha Noi, is a daunting experience that warns of caution. But, there also seems to be an understanding that the roads are to be shared between pedestrians and vehicular traffic – and that is why, I am sure, it works.
Here and there the pedestrians and vehicles do get some reprieve such as traffic lights at the busy intersections but always be on the alert for the "colour blinded motor cyclist who doesn't recognise that the Red Light means STOP.
So, the last rule is, even when the Green Light signals "Cross Over" – beware of those in a hurry to get to the other side, or from the opposite direction, a cause for concern but they will miss you, providing you never run, sidestep, and are totally nonchalant about all that is happening around you, and you will cross over safely!
It is really all about sharing!