Flying half way around the world to move to a completely foreign country can be intimidating enough without having to deal with the Ho Chi Minh City traffic. For those who have not seen it, I can only describe it as a haphazard, scary jumble of automobiles and motorbikes/scooters. There are no real rules such as don’t cross the double yellow, or speed limits. The only rule people appear to follow is the bigger your vehicle is the less you have to move for others. This rule basically means if you are driving a van, you honk and the flood of motorbikes in the street is supposed to move to the right side so that you may pass. So vans and trucks never move to the side. Cars will sometimes move. Motorbikes have to move. Pedestrians have to pray. Crossing the street is one of the most thrilling and scary things any visitor can do in the HMC. The rules for a person crossing what is a frightening amount of traffic are just step off the curb, go at steady pace, don’t run, don’t stop, and watch out for vans, trucks, or cars. It takes what amounts to a leap of faith to cross the street because if you break any of the rules you get hit by a motorbike. I find myself having to fight the urge to run hurriedly across the street in a fit of a panic.
With the traffic still fresh in my mind I would now like to tell of my perfect first night moment. After some orientation and showers myself, Kristen, and the Teachers for Vietnam proceeded to go out for some drinks. The other teachers were feeling the jetlag and called it an early night. I did not. Kristen and I went to dinner with some other expats living in the HMC. She left to pick up a friend at the airport and I went out with her friends to the T&R Bar, to get there we took motorbikes. Riding on the back of the back of a motorbike in the calm air of a Saigon night was an experience worth the flight and the lousy traffic. You ride amid a pack of locals hurriedly racing to and fro, each local turning to get a look at the American on the back of bike, myself looking back at the throng of reds, greens, blues, yellows, and every hue in between marking each helmet and rider like some jumbled, flowing, and living Seurat painting. There was a certain beauty in being a part of it, being as they were, carefree on a cool night in the HMC.