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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.