Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to drive... again

by Karissa

The traffic follows very different rules than any country I've ever lived in and takes some getting used to. We're glad we had bicycles for a couple of weeks before getting our scooter because it gave us a better idea of how to navigate the seemingly disorganized chaos:

-pulling out from your sidewalk parking spot into traffic, in front of, and into, oncoming traffic
-making a left turn, but cutting in front of people to make the turn
-being so close to people while driving through a traffic circle that you can tap them on the shoulder to ask them to back up
-friends driving 20 km/h beside each other and chatting as they drive down main roads
-two or three or four or five people on one motorbike, with the babies standing up
-honking, lots of honking and none of it is out of anger
-no stop signs. None at all. Which means when you come to an intersection, you gauge your timing with oncoming motorbikes, pedestrians, trucks, cars, etc and just drive through.

Yes, seemingly chaotic. And yet, we've learned there are several rules to the road Here are some:

You are only responsible for what is in front of you. People can pull out in front of you or slow down and you must not hit them. Sounds crazy, maybe, but it also means that you basically can assume that if you have to quickly slow down or if you need to turn into a street, people will not hit you because they're watching for that.

You can drive really close to other vehicles and no one will freak out or slam on their breaks. It's really okay.

I wish you could just come here and experience it. I love walking confidently through a busy traffic circle knowing that, while it looks crazy, I'm safe and I just need to make sure I'm not in the way of a truck or van, but that motorbikes will just drive around me.

I'm great at walking in this traffic.
And I'm good at biking in this stuff, too.

I've taken the motorbike out a couple times to practice driving.

Today was the first time I took the motorbike out to actually run an errand. It wasn't practice this time. I had forgotten my helmet at the restaurant I had a meeting at this morning. Eric had dropped me off, I hung the helmet up on the helmet rack (similar to a coat rack ;) ) and after my meeting (I'll talk about that meeting another time--exciting things!) I walked home. And while I need a helmet to ride a motorbike, I don't need one to walk home.

By the time I got home I had decided that I would borrow Eric's helmet, drive myself back to Bread of Life, and get my helmet. So I did. And one of my favourite employees was on 'bike security' or 'welcome duty' so he saw me drive up. While he can't speak (he's deaf, another story) he gave me the best facial expression of shock and excitement to see that I was actually driving.

Summary statement for my blog post? I'm pretty excited about driving 'for real' today.

1 comment:

  1. That is really interesting....the different (unwritten?) rules of the road....It's really hard to imagine...but I saw the video you posted early on in your time there (the frogger video!) that helps me imagine it a little. :) I think we'll all agree (especially Eric) that I must NEVER attempt to drive a scooter in Vietnam. :) My nerves would not be suited for it! :)