Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hanoi: Streets

Chaos. Utter chaos.

And yet... as you step gingerly (and slowly, ever so slowly, if you value your life) across a street of Hanoi, a hint of pattern starts to emerge. Not real order, no structure to the insanity - but even chaos has a few rules. First of all, you, the pedestrian, are at the bottom of the pecking order, no question about it. You do not have a metal body, you are soft and squishy, and while there are rumours about the existence of Vietnamese traffic regulations, they are not confirmed, and I frankly do not believe in them. Neither do the Vietnamese.

At first glance, stepping on the street seems paramount to suicide. And yet, the pavement doesn't offer succour either, since for a Vietnamese on his scooter, the pavement is nothing less than an additional, if narrow, lane. So eventually you get tired of clinging to a tree, and, commending your eternal soul to Victor Hugo, you step on the street.

It will take several seconds for you to notice that you are not dead, although you might wish you were. Scooters, cars, every style of motor transportation known to man is rushing by you, missing you by a hair's breadth, honking merrily away to compliment your misery (Oh god, the noise). Still, you are not dead yet. And then you realise the chink in the seemingly impenetrable mechanised armour that is the Vietnamese traffic: No self-respecting Vietnamese wants to scrape your squishy organic flesh from his shiny new scooter. Therefore, and with an inhuman faith in the reaction speed of their fellow motorists they swerve, they evade, and (inescapably) they honk.Use this weakness to cross the street. There is no need to look left, right or in any other direction - rather, if you value your sanity, it is advisable not to look at all. You will not spot a break in the traffic, for there is none. The side of the road has no correlation to the direction of the traffic flow, as the Vietnamese scoff at the notion that such mundane things as the side of the road should determine the direction in which they travel. So why look? Just step on the road, slowly, with a slightly mad grin on your face. Step on the road in the secure knowledge that the Vietnamese motorist will do his utmost to miss you.

Also, it is either that or being run over on the pavement.


  1. "commend your eternal soul to Victor Hugo"?

    Now I'm just confused.

  2. That is because your soul hasn't been saved yet: Go to wikipedia and read all about Caodaism, the wacky Vietnamese religion featuring Victor Hugo as a saint. I'll have a blog post about it in a couple of days, too!

  3. Hi!
    Ganz schön gefährlich, aber mit deiner genauen Anweisung würd ich mirs schon zutrauen...
    Also, weiterhin Devise - nicht schwuen, einfach gehen :-)

    Lg Lisi Frank

  4. Genau, Augen zu und durch ist die Devise!