Vietnam – First Impressions as we drive in…

This is actually Dave writing on Patrice’s computer – just so you know…

Someone once told me that you only get one chance at making first impressions. Since being told that, I have paid attention to that and found it to be true. So the following are some first impressions of Vietnam based on arriving from Bangkok and being driven into our hotel from the airport at Hanoi.

If you load a big truck, you know the kind with duel wheels and an enclosed bed with doors, maybe 20 feet or so long, with rice. I am talking rice bags, big ones, all the way to the ceiling from front to back and drive it along the highway. If you didn’t pay attention to how much the weight of the rice is, you will blow a tire or two and be alongside the road changing your tire instead of driving the rest of the way into town. Sometimes it not better to fill all the space in a truck but only put on a truck what it can carry. Go figure that one. One wonders what they would have done if it was an open truck 
However, we learned you can successfully tie to the sides of a motorbike, large Styrofoam containers and used them for saddle bags. You know the ones that will hold about 40 quarts. Well they work great but they aren’t real strong, so a word to the wise would be to be careful in heavy traffic and don’t forget you have them. They do tend to crack and can develop holes and chunks fly off while you drive. Oh and it seems particularly trendy to tie it with green plastic rope too.

An axiom they seem to go be here is if you can strap it onto a bike, be it a motor one or a pedaled one, you are good to go. Maybe it is just me, but I am not sure I would follow that one as literally as they seem to here.

Speaking of bikes… I noticed lots, and I mean lots, of motorbikes lined up in some places alongside the road. For some reason it reminded me of some of those old Motorcycle movies they used to make back in the ‘70’s. You know the ones about the Motorcycle gangs or the misunderstood outsider. Or for that matter a movie as recently as “Wild Hogs”, was another one that I got to thinking about. Here however, the movie would be about the under 125cc Motorbike crowd. While I was thinking about those movies the old Steppenwolf song, “Born to be Wild” started running through my mind. It must have been because we had to get up at 3:30 am this morning to catch the plane to Hanoi. So let me try to paint the picture that started running through my head to the tune of “Born to be Wild”.

Get your motor running – Now imagine those all too well known high pitched whines that you here when you rev a 90cc motorbike, even after you kick that electric start.

Head out on the highway – Now picture all the beeps the horns make on those little bikes and add to it the car and truck horns that are going constantly here. I swear the horn noise in New York City isn’t as bad as it is here in Hanoi.

Looking for adventure – Add to horn noise the sounds of brakes and a random sea of vehicles of all types and shapes, all surrounded by motorbikes weaving down the road. Now that is adventure.

To complete this picture; although they have lanes, they are just guidelines. If there is room and you need to go faster, make a new lane. Also we noted that headlights and tail lights can be out but God protect you if your turn signals don’t work. They turn on signals to notify that they are about to cut someone off. It really gets fun in places you would expect “round a bout”, or traffic lights too.

You see generally they don’t believe in “round a bouts”. What they do here is just make the intersection wider when they have 4 – 6 roads come together. I think they figure that the drivers will figure out how to get through it and go the way they want to go. Sometimes they put miniature round a bout in huge intersections, I think just so they can say they have them. Oh that is when 4 way flashers seem to come into play. You see when you get into one of these massive intersections; you turn on your 4way flashers to indicate you are going straight on through. They love to communicate when driving.

Another odd little rule of the road here seems to be for motorbikes. Drivers, especially female ones, seem to like to use the dashes separating the lanes for some kind of dotted line to drive on. They drive along fast or slow and are totally oblivious to all the traffic around them honking horns at them to pick a lane.

Well there you go, I know it is just a bit of a tease on driving in Vietnam but it will have to do. After all, this was just our impressions on the drive in.

Just a small addition… While I was writing this we ordered some food at the hotel. You do it by number; I ordered 27, 32 and 35. I should have stopped there though, but Patrice wanted more pillows in the room, (what is it with woman and pillows anyway), so I asked if we could get a couple more pillows delivered to the room too. The girl on the other end said, “Beer you want beer”. In a smart move I immediately backtracked on the pillows and after the girl and I repeating my order 2 more times, I got the food ordered. They delivered it in 15 minutes too. It sure was good.

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