The day was a feast—now my brain has indigestion. My mind is a jumble. Thank goodness my camera isn’t! Bonus points to whoever thought of attaching the date to the photos as they are taken, so now I can match my pictures with my itinerary. Brilliant! Fortunately this is not a journal, so I needn’t keep things in order. At the moment my head is filled with Ho Chi Minh City—the locals still call it Saigon— which is a smorgasbord of contrasts.
I’ve just spent eight exhausting, exhilarating hours exploring the Mekong Delta. Several of those hours were spent hurtling through traffic like a stray bullet looking for a target. By my reckoning, 97.3% of the vehicles here are motorcycles, or “hondas” as the locals call them, and another 1.8 % are bicycles. These figures are approximate only, as I have absolutely no data whatsoever. None of these vehicles, nor their larger four-wheel counterparts, appear to be fitted with any sort of braking mechanism. If there is an occasional vehicle that is equipped with brakes, they would be purely decorative. What all of these vehicles have instead of brakes is horns.
The game of Traffic in Saigon reminds me a little bit of Aussie Rules football. Or rugby—I‘m told it takes leather balls to play rugby but I’m not sure leather would be adequate for playing Traffic in Saigon. It’s pretty much a free-for-all, where there is a destination in mind and about a million other players impeding your progress. Interestingly, there seem to be no boundaries. Or rules. I’m sure there must be some, but–like turn signals—their application is rare. I don’t think helmets are required by law, but you’ll notice most most people wear them. I can’t think why… Did I mention, a lot of swerving is involved?
Imagine it’s snowing and you are on a bobsled, screaming through the snowflakes at a great rate of knots. Driving through a maze of motor cycles at Mach 1 creates a similar visual effect. A bit like being sucked through a perforated tube. I’m sorry I couldn’t capture it in a photo, but my hands were too tightly clenched to operate the camera. Besides, it would have been a blur.
It’s going to take a while for me to troll through the many adventures (and photos!) of all the destinations—and I still have Hong Kong and Shanghai ahead before I get home!—but I shall endeavor to share some of the fun over time. . . once I have recovered from riding in a ricksha through the above-mentioned traffic. Stay tuned! MM