Our first experience on the streets of Vietnam was a breathtaking one; not in the “oh-wow-this is so amazing and beautiful-I can’t even breathe-I’m so happy” kind of way (which does technically describe their sunrises over the South China Sea), but rather breathtaking in a “hyperventilating, oh-my-god-we-are-all-about-to-die” manner.
First of all, you need to know that Vietnam is the land of the motorbike. Motorcycles and riders outnumbered the cars at least twelve to one. The only cars out there were primarily taxies and delivery trucks. Now imagine a very fast river, with rapids pounding all over rocks, water cascading everywhere. Now substitute water and rocks for very large mass of these bikers and cars, and you have this amazing fast paced moving stream of traffic. Traffic lights were few and far between, and even then only occasionally obeyed. It was like a huge stampede of wild horses running through the jungle. Really fast.
Our taxi driver speeds away from the airport at a fairly fast clip, (tough to say, we were too nervous to do the metric conversion). Upon approaching the intersection of vehicular chaos, our driver did not slow down a bit (as we might have expected), but if anything accelerated, and dove right in. Amazingly, it was perfect. Not a single rider was overturned. It was like the traffic was one single organism, moving as one. Some motor bikes swerved a bit, some slowed a bit, and our taxi immediately became engulfed as part of the stream, picture perfect osmosis. We then proceeded to begin passing and merging other vehicles with complete abandon, again with no harm caused. It was like every single rider was completely aware of his or her surroundings. We even saw many bikes with families on them, a mother, father and small child all sandwiched on one fast moving bike in the middle of the stream. At a certain point we had to let go and imagine we were actually watching a high speed chase in a movie, and hope to high heaven there would be no overturned fruit trucks in this scene.
Upon arriving safely and soundly at our hotel, our driver then had the audacity to demand a big tip on top of his already jacked up price as a reward for how quick he got us there. Let’s be honest, I gave him 2 dollars, cause I was definitely impressed.