Thursday, May 23, 2013

Surviving Saigon - Stay in the Backpack!

Hullo Bears and Not-a-Bears! I was in Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City) for a week! And only got that one blog posted. I am now in Mui Ne, sitting by the poolside, sipping a honey drink and trying to catch up. Problem #1 - I took an awful lot of pictures in Saigon. I should mention... the city was called Saigon for many years - and it means "where two rivers meet", which is what happens here. After the war, in 1975, the name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City. But the central district of the city, where we were staying is called Saigon... beary confusing!

I had heard  stories about the traffic in Saigon... and they were all true!! This t-shirt says it all. Rules of Crossing the Street - No Eye Contact - No Stopping - No Erratic Movements - No Waiting - No Eating Pho (noodle dish) - No Panicking - No Holding Hands - No Second Guessing - No Turning Back.

First you have to know that most Vietnamese people drive motos, motorcycles, scooters - call them what you will. If everyone had a car over here... there would be no room on the roads and definitely no parking space! Most side walks here are not for pedestrians but for motorcycle parking! Which means that pedestrians walk in the street. Hmmm... much as I wanted to get out and about and walk around, I quickly saw that it was best if I just hang out in Mama's backpack when we were on the go. That way I also didn't get to see all the scary moments!

One thing that is also different here (than in Cambodia or Thailand) is that everyone has to wear a motorcycle helmet when riding one... even the passengers. And sometimes a motorcycle has a driver and 3 passengers!! A dad driving, with a kid in front of him, and then a kid behind him and mom bringing up the rear. Anyhow... their helmets are not like motorcycle helmets in North America or Europe... these helmets are called "eggshell" helmets because that's how thin they are! They have a plastic or metal outercovering, a thin layer of padding (styrofoam) and that's it. They are less padded than hockey helmets and sort of look like a jockey helmet. Some of them have interesting decorations too!

A typical sidewalk in Vietnam...

 Yup... we have to cross that! We did cross that!! You wait for a slight break in traffic, step off the curb and start walking. Theoretically the motos will swerve around you, honking all the while. You keep inching your way forward until you reach the other side. We got the knack of it... but it makes for some scary moments! And that... yes that was in a crosswalk!!!!

There are lots of guys standing around in green uniforms. We thought they were police but heard that no, they are young guys who aren't going to university (not enough money). They have to give two years of government service (for free) and most of them end up like these guys. They are supposed to help people cross the street but we never saw them do that.

This is the traffic starting up again after a red light. A few pedestrians scamper for safety because the motos often get going before the light actually turns green.

The other thing with motos is that they carry everything on them... everything!! This lady has a small garden on the back of hers. We saw people carrying cages with chickens, ducks, pigs. People holding chickens in their arms. Televisions. Cases and cases of beer. You name it... it is transported by moto!

Or big spongy spools of something...

I just realized I am not in any of those pictures!!! Ah well... that's what happens when you ride around in a backpack! Better a safe bear than a squished bear!

1 comment:

  1. More great photos! We've been looking for a little bear-size motorcycle--with a side car of course--for a long time. Maybe we should look in Vietnam!