Things are moving on here in Hanoi. We just got our own flat in the swanky Ho Tay district with all the foreigners. That’s Elena’s choice, but I don’t mind it.
In addition, we’ve also decided to hire ourselves a motorbike so we can join this frenzy below. Yikes!
The first time I drove a motorbike was on our honeymoon, in a much quieter place called Dalat, which is down near Saigon. I’d never been on one before, and the Vietnamese guy at the bike rental shop showed me how to do it in 5 minutes. As soon as I figured out how to operate the bike, Elena jumped right on and I immediately crashed into a giant terracotta flowerpot with a bonsai in it and dropped the motorbike on her leg. To my surprise, she jumped straight back on and said that if I were about to crash and die she would want to be with me. Awwwww.
At first look, this chaos looks impossible to drive in. Motorbikes weave themselves through mind-bogglingly small gaps and if there any rules they seem to be voluntary. The exhaust fumes and the honking makes the whole thing an assault on all senses.
However, all Vietnamese people I’ve met assured me that driving in the city was not as crazy as it looked and that, being of Vietnamese descent, I’d have no problem! This was before they heard me try to talk Vietnamese…
For the first 3 weeks, I flatly refused to drive a motorbike in the centre of the city, but since moving out to our new place we found it was impossible to get anywhere without a motorbike, so we hired one yesterday to give it a go.
As it turns out, biking in the city isn’t all that hard, there’s just a new logic to get used to to that’s all.
You just have to remember to look out for yourself and only yourself. The logic here is that everyone on the road is responsible for themselves and if there is an accident it’s probably your own fault. This explains the honking of the horn – if you honk before you crash, it’s deemed to be the other persons fault for not moving out of the way. If however, you didn’t honk then it’s your fault!
With this in mind, we set off to take on the roads of Hanoi yesterday and almost managed to get through a whole day on the roads without incident. It rained all day yesterday and at one point, the button that starts the engine got stuck (I’ve no idea what you call that) and remained stuck as we drove. I didn’t notice until we stopped at a light, and the bike wouldn’t start again.
The next 10 minutes was spent looking confused at the side of the road, while trying to work out what had happened. I think the locals thought that, being Vietnamese-looking, I would be able to figure it out by myself, but after watching me make a phone call to the rental company, a local guy came over, kicked a pedal and started the engine! I had to call back, relieved and we set off.
Can anyone explain to me what the heck happened? I’m sure there’s a reason for this!