Can’t Beat the Traffic in Asia?

July 21, 2013 6:06 pm1 commentViews: 38

You’re on holidays and despite the fact you’re there to see the sites one of the greatest impressions you ever get from a country is the traffic. But that’s usually not when the traffic is working well, for example countries like Germany. It’s how the chaos of another countries traffic laws or lack of them still seem to work for them. That is you’d expect more accidents.

And why’s that? Because the people of that country have learned to cope with the crazy way which the traffic flows in their own country. Previously I thought Spanish drivers were crazy. Until I went to Colombia. They made the Spanish seem like good drivers on the road. Cars overtaking on blind corners. Motorbikes with the whole family. Father, mother and 2 small children. I refused to drive in Colombia.

Crowded Bangkok Traffic

crowded Bangkok traffic

This is not a love story nor to complain. It is a story about funny travel experiences that you look back at and laugh.

So my recent visit to Asia. I started in one the best behaved countries, and went from bad to worse.

Thailand compared to Colombia is a godsend. Bangkok as a big city is crazy, but just because of the amount of cars. People still do crazy things. But they can do it without incessantly beeping the horns. And the best thing is when cars are moving across lanes they let them in. In general, there’s a lot more respect on the road, and less risks taken.

Phnom Penh Street Chaos

Phnom Penh street chaos

Next step Cambodia. We thought it couldn’t get any worse. People would drive on the wrong side of the road. Dangerously overload their motorbikes,

and my favourite; the double overtake.

What’s a  double overtake you might ask? A vehicle overtaking another vehicle which is overtaking the vehicle going slow. The other noticeable differences were that you couldn’t walk on the footpath because every filled them by parking their cars and motorbikes there, so you had to walk out into the crazy traffic to get around.

But considering the craziness the Cambodia’s respected the traffic, whether they were driving on the wrong side of the road, pedestrians or anything else, they would use the space they had to avoid you. And the surprising thing that came with this respect were few accidents and they didn’t need to use their horns.

If you’re travelling east from Cambodia, the next country you hit is Vietnam. What happens is the shock of the traffic actually hits you. Hanoi is a great example of throwing someone in the deep end of having to watch out for yourself, whether you’re driving or a pedestrian. There are no rules here.

Cars and bikes fill the footpaths meaning you have to go out on the crazy road. Pedestrian crossing exist only to give people a false sense of security. You may as well cross the road wherever you feel like.

The white lines painted on the road for pedestrian crossings were the greatest waste of tax payer money in Vietnam. Drivers do not respect them>Never!

You cross the road at your own risk. And unlike Cambodia a car does not divert their line of driving to miss you, even if you are on a pedestrian crossing. You run or get run over.

In Hanoi traffic there are 2 speeds. The motorbike riders speed (fast) and the taxi drivers speed (slow). If a taxi and a motorbike are coming in your direction from the same starting point, try hard to judge where you have to be to cross the road without being in a bad position for the next crazy motorbike driver.

The other big impression you’ll get in Hanoi is just how many motorbikes there are on the road. As  our guide told us a few years ago to stimulate the economy the Vietnamese government put out incentives to buy motorbikes both locally made and from China. The result is a huge amount of motorbikes.

English: Coat of arms of Vietnam 日本語: ベトナムの国章

English: Coat of arms of Vietnam 日本語: ベトナムの国章 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even if you are walking on the footpath a motorbike rider still doesn’t respect your freedom to move on what is normally a safe place to walk in most countries. One motorbike rider insisted that he has right of way on the footpath leaving me enough room to jump over the tyre of the stationary bike beside him, because he sandwiched me between the 2 bikes, forcing him to stop before he caused me harm.

Other great driving tactics are the double overtake as seen in Cambodia, and the overtaking on blind curves as seen in Colombia. Driving on the wrong side of the road is also common. Also cars turning right which are should stop for the red traffic light, don’t really stop, but proceed and try to push in to the traffic going the same way as they are now going.

Motorbike Jungle Hanoi

motorbike jungle in the French Quarter, Hanoi

Another great manoeuvre was when our bus driver decided to cross a 10 lane freeway. He was going against the flow of the 5 lanes in either direction bringing the effected lanes to a stop until someone from the next lane stopped for him to move further across. As you should already know, freeways do not stop for anything, but not in Vietnam. Pushing through traffic the while  going the wrong way is common in Vietnam and in Cambodia.

But not to be outdone, (even though this would happen equally in Cambodia if they had the money to buy it), was the passenger I saw on the back of a motorbike, holding a pane of glass as wide is his arms out at full stretch, and 1.5 times the height of him sitting down on the seat. I hope you understand this because it is not so easy to explain. There were many more of these great feats performed in both Vietnam and Cambodia.

Hanoi Crazy Traffic

Thankfully in Halong Bay there are no motorbikes in the water and I could relax a little.

In the end 4hrs in Malaysia confirmed one fact to me. That not all Asian countries had crazy drivers, and I could again walk across the road safely. And here I am. I live to tell this funny story

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