How We Survived The Crocodiles Of Hanoi

Hanoi's constant flow of traffic is an intimidating sight for newbies to the city.

Hanoi’s constant flow of traffic is an intimidating sight for newbies to the city.

FIRST DAY EXCITEMENT IN VIETNAM | Darrin Henry

We’ve all held our breath watching wildlife TV programmes when a herd of wildebeest try to cross a crocodile infested river and the journey seems never ending – well, I’ve decided that’s the analogy I’ll use to describe crossing the street in Hanoi, Vietnam!

The players in this scenario are the wildebeest; that’s Sharon and me, and the other tourists. The crocodiles; those will be the Hanoi mopeds. The street is the river, the pavements are the banks of the river!

Here we go! It’s our first day, we’ve just dropped our bags in the hotel having come straight from the airport.

If there’s an experience to set the pulse racing in Hanoi, it’s crossing the street, something we’ve kind of taken for granted in our lives before now.

The serious look of concentration from tourists crossing the 'river.'

The serious look of concentration from ‘wildebeests’ crossing the ‘river.’

Forget everything you’ve learned before; the Green Cross Code won’t help you here, you’ll be looking left and looking right until it’s time for the flight home.

Forget the jump of joy at seeing the familiar stripes of the zebra crossing, this is just a communal stress point, the point where the wildebeest all congregate before crossing.

Forget what you’ve learned about traffic lights, these are just decoys in Hanoi, designed to lull us, the wildebeest, into thinking this part of the river is safe.

And don’t just look right as you step out, (or left depending on which country you’re from) traffic here can come from either direction at any time – seriously.

This wildebeest hesitated and then got stuck half way.

This wildebeest hesitated and then got stuck half way.

Even at night the flow of 'crocodiles' is relentless.

Even at night the flow of ‘crocodiles’ is relentless.

So here we are, new tourists, first time in Vietnam, clutching our street map in one hand that is telling us we need to cross the road to reach the lake. We’ve done a recce up and down the river bank and this looks like the best point to cross, midway between the busier junctions and a spot with maximum view of the swarm of crocodile mopeds either side.

My other hand is firmly gripping Sharon’s and I’m aware both our palms are sweaty, but no time to talk about that now, it will only make things harder.

Ready, steady... wait...

Ready, steady… wait…

Local street sellers show no fear and just stroll right through the traffic.

Local street sellers show no fear and just stroll right through the traffic.

We can see a tiny gap approaching between the army of little mopeds and after a few missed opportunities we don’t want to give the shop keeper across the road any more amusement watching us. We’ll show him.

We step off together into the gap. The crocodile mopeds start beeping at us – we’ve been spotted. Keep going, stride confidently, be a man, protect your wife! Yikes, save yourself! All these thoughts are running through my head.

This lady just looks straight ahead and goes for it.

This lady just looks straight ahead and goes for it.

These two have chosen their moment well.

These two have chosen their moment well.

A few more steps and we’re in the middle of the river, the crocodile mopeds are now weaving all around us, beeping away. I might be crushing the bones in Sharon’s hand a bit but she’s not complaining.

Suddenly we’re stuck! A series of urgent moped beeps tells us not to move, the gap has disappeared and zip, zip, zip, the crocodiles have us encircled. It’s a tricky moment. Is this the end for us?

This moped driver passed so close to this couple the driver had to duck under the umbrella.

This moped driver passed so close to this couple the driver had to duck under the umbrella.

A man with his daughter held high makes a dash for it.

A man with his daughter held high makes a dash for it.

These boys on side-ways roller skates just make the whole process even more confusing!

These boys on side-ways roller skates just make the whole process even more confusing!

Then, without warning, a little break opens up and we quickly step forward again; and again; and then suddenly we’re stepping up onto the pavement on the other side!

Like true first timers we laugh out loud with relief and look back at the treacherous route we’ve just crossed, congratulating ourselves for how brave we were. Hanoi-ings are watching us, but we don’t care, this is our moment. We survived the crocodile moped infested street and it feels fantastic.

There will be more to come, but for now, we will explore this side of the river bank and deal with the next crossing later.

The happy smile of another successful crossing completed.

The happy smile of another successful crossing completed.

5 thoughts on “How We Survived The Crocodiles Of Hanoi

  1. Pingback: How to Make a Quick Million in Hanoi | What The Saints Did Next

    • We watched a few of the locals who just marched right across without even looking left or right, supremely confident and clearly knowing what they were doing. At least we provided some amusement for them with our antics 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s