Theories on Hanoi traffic

Last night I spent a pleasant hour or so nattering to some people in the Buffalo Bar – basically an open-air top floor of the hostel. What made it particularly good was the mix of nationalities. Two Danes, two Aussies, three Austrians, one Mauritian (living in China), one Chinese-American (living in Texas) and myself lowering the culture level somewhat. And the tone. But that’s just me.

As ever, it was pleasant to chat to an American with a passport. Despite being Texan by birth she still can’t stand her president – something I’ve found to be very common in Americans who actually see the rest of the world with open eyes.

The Danes are heading to Sapa to climb Phansipan, something I’d been considering doing myself. At a shade over 3700m, it’s twice the height of Ben Nevis and a lot less cold! It would also only cost me around $120 for the entire trip, including trains, guide, tent, food… Definitely on my list if I have some cash left when I leave Hanoi!

Today’s visit to Blue Dragon was fairly brief as I had laptop problems in the morning so headed up late. However, we now have a schedule with lesson plans and everything. Two groups of kids with two lessons each per week spread over 4 days. This means a little redrafting of my work plans, but nothing major.

I have to say the motorbike rides there and back are also a highlight of my day. One reason to travel is to experience things that are utterly at odds with what you’re used to. That’s why travelling in Europe is relatively dull compared to heading for a different continent entirely. You can’t beat culture shock for a way to enjoy a holiday!

I seem to have a regular bike ride now. The chap waits at the end of the street for me and comes running up, pushing his bike to meet me. No need to tell him where I’m going, or haggle over a price. I jump on, get off at the top end of Hong Ha and hand him 10,000D. I know I can get the ride for 7000D, but small change is a nightmare over here. It’s a struggle to get notes smaller than 10,000.

You do get used to the traffic, though. There’s one junction – an attempt at a roundabout – where we cross over the “motorway” to Hong Ha. And it’s scary as all hell. Traffic always passes with the roundabout on its left, but that’s about as close as things get to order. Everything else is chaos. You see, the area is about 100 metres square. Five or six roads lead into it. And the “roundabout” is roughly 3m in diameter.

The general rule, if such a thing can be claimed to exist, is that you give way to traffic that’s already where you want to be. Otherwise you’re driving into an empty gap, and whoever gets there first “wins”. Horns blast all the time, as I’m sure I mentioned, but not in the case of my driver. His kind of sounds like an aging smoker trying to blow a party hooter. And failing.

There are some horns that really annoy me, though. Now, as a rule, if you hear a horn blast and the tone changes you can generally work out whether something is getting closer to you or further away. There are some vans and buses that have a horn which goes *ahem* “BWAAAAWAAAaaAAaaAaaaa”.

Right. That’s not the best description. Essentially it sounds like one toot followed by several other “echoes” that get gradually quieter. If the vehicle with this horn approaches you at just the right velocity, the fact the toots are getting quieter is cancelled out by their closing proximity and it sounds like the damn thing’s stationary – and therefore not a threat.

Worse than that, though, is the horn I heard last night. Jingle Bells. I kid you not. What is the world coming to?

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