I have read little about the traffic in Vietnam before experiencing it. It seemed callow, on one hand hysterically fearful, and on the other, blithely and ignorantly patronising towards the Vietnamese who are getting killed on the roads.
I decided to stop reading and see for myself.
And, see it I did, on day 1 and 2.
One the way to Ha Long I saw a women off a motorbike on the macadam looking decidedly grey. The first responders were not doing what I would have done, by way of first aid.
The second was a chap crushed under a truck. Bits of his clothing and his helmet had been stripped off. It was clear that his life was over. It was what we would have refered to, in my days working in the hospital as "coming in in a wheel barrow." It wont have been the truck that got him though, it will more likely to be he lost control of the bike, ended up dirtside. The truck crush was a secondary consequence.
There really are three types of traffic same as every where in the world.
1. Big City. Saigon. Very safe but mind blowingly confusing. See below.
2. Country roads. The most dangerous of all. My host drove for 5 hours to get 200 kms. His maximum speed was 80 miles an hour. There are children playing in the traffic at night. They are increasingly drunk after 5 pm.
3. Back streets. Safe. A no brainer.
Crossing the street in Saigon; much is made of this.
Don’t just launch out into the street without reading the traffic and the signs. Unlike Australian roads the motorists will do thier best ont to run you down and ARE paying attention but they are only human.
Use pedestrian crossings and cross with the lights. Wait for gaps in the traffic.
Once you have commenced the crossing under NO CIRCUMSTANCE vary your pace or hesitate. The motorists will have seen you as soon as you started and will have planned to avoid you - trust them. Also bear in mind the traffic speed is about 30km/h.
It isn’t as crazy as it seems at first but don’t lose your concentration.