Hoi An, Vietnam 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Starters

I'm having a lot of trouble putting Vietnam into words. No matter how I try to describe the dizzying traffic, the innumerable smells, the incessant honking of motorbike horns, so on, so on...I keep falling short. It has something to do with the fact that everything is so different here from what I'm used to that I don't even know where to begin; but it's also the stunning realness of it all, how up-close it is. How it's shocking, but somehow not all that surprising.So I'm going to start small. Let's see: There is such a thing as "Soft-shell Crab" flavored Pringles. How they differ in flavor from "Hard-shell Crab" Pringles, I'm not sure.What else? Everywhere, people ride slowly by on bicycles outfitted with speakers that broadcast a monotone voice repeating a sentence. What the sentence means, only Vietnamese lessons will tell.I can't not talk about the traffic. A Vietnamese roadway is a layered with all manner of vehicles: trucks, cars, tour buses, Hummers, motorbikes (so many motorbikes), one-speed bicycles, cyclos (bicycle taxis), food carts, dogs, motorbikes with absurdly huge cargo and/or up to 5 full-grown passengers, people with these long sticks with a basket of fruit on each end across their shoulders, and pedestrians who are walking in the road because the sidewalks are too stuffed full of shopfronts and more motorbikes. The last category will be you, if you come to Vietnam. There are two traffic laws, so far as I've observed. The first is, yield to the bigger vehicle. He who is more likely to be crushed in a potential collision has the responsibility to prevent the accident. The second law is Honking. The more danger those around you are in, the more you honk. There's a kind of magic to the road system, though. Nobody--nobody--seems to be paying attention to what's going on in the road (riding a bike earlier, I was narrowly cut off by a guy on a motorbike in the midst of answering a cell phone call), but so far I've only seen one accident--from my hotel window I saw a drunk guy spill his motorbike with absolutely no one around him. How this subtly organized chaos works without even the benefit of attentive participants, I have yet to discover. I am getting used to it, though.That's enough for today. We'll go over crossing the street next time. scheduled