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Rules of the road Saigon style
POSTED | 15:40 PM | 29-10-2015

Rules of the road, Saigon style

-- By Harry Hodge, The Saigon Times

“I don’t want a pickle, I just want to ride on my motor-cicle and I don’t want a tickle, I’d rather ride on my motor-cicle, and I don’t want to die, I just want to ride on my motorcycle.” – Arlo Guthrie, “Motorcycle Song”

In my ongoing analysis of expat living in Saigon, food was the first thing that came to mind and I wrote my first article. Not far behind is driving in this city.

Coming from the West, I managed to avoid getting a motorbike for about a month while I did a teaching course in the daytime. I didn’t have any place that I particularly needed to be, I only knew a few people, and my course was close enough to the backpacker area that I could walk to the bars on Bui Vien Street in District 1 without needing a lift.

But as life evolves in this city, and transit inevitably disappoints me (come on urban rail! Only… five more years?) Then we have all come to rely on our motorbikes. Some of my well-heeled (reasonably or very wealthy) friends have cars at their disposal, but honestly, don’t waste your time. It’s slow and everyone hates you for getting in their way.

That said, a few simple rules will keep you above ground a little longer if you follow them to the letter.

(1) Keep your head on a swivel. Since Saigon is mostly motorbike traffic, rush hour gums things up and you don’t actually go very fast. On the flip side, there’s always that guy (if you’re reading, you know who you are) who sees a sliver of daylight and tries to gun it through the throng, hoping for the best he’ll come out the other end alive. Be watchful of this and you should be all right, use those mirrors! (They’re not just for touching up your lipstick, ladies and gents.)

(2) Be aware of hidden intersections. With so many hem (alleys) in Saigon as well as spots behind trees/around corners/under bridges, you stand to have an encounter with (A) careless motorists and (B) traffic cops. At least the people in (A) can be reasoned with; for (B) either bring a couple hundred thousand dongs or speak to them in French. Or German. Or Russian.

(3) Don’t lose your cool. Everyone has stopped and rubbernecked to watch the traffic accident that leads to a dust-up in broad daylight, with fists flying and tempers boiling. I am not suggesting you avoid confrontations for your safety; I just don’t want your audience slowing me down on my drive home!

Follow Harry’s rules of the road and they won’t steer you wrong.

Photo by Anh Quan

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