First things first, when stepping into another country, one would immediately notice the difference in the mode of transportation compared to the one we have at home here in the United States. Well, at least in Vietnam it was very noticeable and a little crazy to say the least. The plane ride was no different from any other plane rides, however, stepping out of the airport, our group of USF students noticed the ocean of motorbikes just flooding the streets and reaching every inch of the road in both direction. That might be a little exaggerated, but motorbikes are the most common mode of transportation then cabs, buses, and then there is the option to walk as well. I want to focus this entry towards the form of transportation in Vietnam mainly because it is important to know how to get around a foreign country, especially developing Third World country at that.
One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focuses on industry, innovation, and infrastructure. My trip to Vietnam allowed me to look at this goal and see how the country of Vietnam fares. As far as infrastructure is concerned, Vietnam is definitely a little behind compared to the United States. They have highways and paved roads almost everywhere we went, with exception of the local villages that still has roads made of sands or mud. They also have street lights, pedestrian lanes, and median barriers. However, almost all of the drivers such as motorcyclists, cab drivers, and bus drivers have the tendency to overlap lanes, to speed over the limit, or drive very closely to each other. Fortunately, I did not see any accidents occur while I was there, although it would tremendously help if there is a law enforced and followed regarding staying in the same lane, using blinkers to indicate a lane change, and staying in the speed limit. One thing I noticed was the lack of police enforcers on the road. Unlike in the United States, there were not any police patrols to pull over drivers who overspeed or seem to be violating a rule of the road. I am really surprised how they are able to safely reach their destinations without having to follow a strict regulations on the road.
There is a reason as to how the Vietnamese population are able to drive in almost a cramp situation, or as they say an “elbow-to-elbow” driving situations. One of the reason is that they make it a habit to always use their horns to let all the drivers know that there is someone driving behind or from any other direction that is coming closer. From what I have learned, they use their honks as a form of sonar indicators to know their surroundings. It is a very unique form of communication in the road, however it is one that works fairly well. Being in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, near the Mekong Delta, I have to become accustomed to the noises coming from the cars’ engines as well as their constant honking. In a way, this shows that the city is very much alive.
Furthermore, I have done my share of walking within three weeks in Vietnam that would probably equate to about three months of walking from classes to classes at the USF campus in Tampa. Walking and crossing the road is one of the greatest way to test one’s bravery. Although there are pedestrian lanes and street lights that allow us to cross the streets safely, most of the time we just follow how the locals cross the street. One might consider it jaywalking, but they don’t seem to have a rule about that in Vietnam, as far as I have experienced. Basically, we just try to cross with oncoming traffic from both lanes. It is very scary at first, but after some time, we became used to it. Most drivers would driver around people who are crossing and some of the bigger vehicles would stop to let people cross. It is totally safe, especially with a group of people.
My experiences in Vietnam are very conflicting especially with the safety issues and the vivacity of the country. I have experienced riding in a motorbike with one of the students from Vietnam and I have to say that they are very safe drivers. I especially don’t mind the constant noises coming from the streets of Vietnam. Compared to the peaceful and more private lifestyle in the United States, Vietnam is more rugged and close-knit.
p.s. The video above is a hyperlapsed version of when my Vietnamese friend took me to eat traditional Vietnamese eel soup. (Make sure to change the quality setting to 480p in order to clearly see the video better.)