We stepped out into the streets of Ho Chi Minh, bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited to start exploring our first Vietnamese city. The culture shock hit almost immediately when we came to our first main road and saw the sea of scooters flowing every which way, not stopping for anyone or anything. Now, we’d been to Bali before so we’d experienced this haphazard style of driving that you come across in many areas of Southeast Asia, but we definitely had not faced the issue of having no idea how to cross the street. We stood on the corner holding our map, staring bewilderingly out at the traffic while locals tried to sell us souvenirs and tuk-tuk drivers tried to pick us up. We soon realised that crossing the street in Vietnam was quite an art.
How did we end up crossing that first scooter-ridden street in Ho Chi Minh? We found a local who was about to start crossing and adopted Hamish and Andy’s ‘ghosting’ technique, staying as close to them as physically possible (without actually touching them) and following them across. This was our approach for our first few streets, but we soon learnt there’s six simple rules to follow when crossing a street in Vietnam:
1 – Step out onto the road amidst hundreds of scooters (don’t wait for a break in traffic – it doesn’t exist).
2 – Do not look back and do not hesitate. This is no time to be indecisive.
3 – Keep your head held high and look straight ahead with confidence. Think: catwalk.
4 – Have no fear, do not think about that fact that scooters and cars are weaving around you like you’re a traffic cone and you can almost feel the brush of a tyre on your leg.
5 – Walk slowly but steadily and with purpose. Get safely up on the sidewalk.
6 – Try to stop shaking like a leaf.
That’s all there is to it! You just wait, two days on the streets of Hanoi and you’ll be a pro.