The population of the Socialist Republic (which is just another name for a communist regime) of Vietnam currently stands at 44 million, and rising. Vietnam is in danger of bursting at the seams. Some Ministry or another (there are a lot of Ministries in Vietnam), issued a directive to curb population growth. Young couples must put a muzzle on their natural instincts. One child per family meets with government approval. Producing two children is also okay, but having three incurs government displeasure and results in severe punishments being meted out to the offenders.
Forty-f0ur million people=44 million life stories. I think it would be rather interesting to write a literary docu-memoir or two about what it feels like to be a Vietnamese national residing in Vietnam. For each of my literary docu-memoirs, I could choose my subjects from various levels and groups within their society. Of course, this is all pie in the sky on my part: the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam would never give permission for such a project.
Arrived in Vietnam on the same day that we left Australia, safe and sound. We were driven from Ho Chi Min airport by private car to our hotel in the city. Never have I seen such traffic congestion. So many motor-bikes on the road. The following morning we were met by our tour guide, Tam, and taken by car on a tour of the city. The Vietnamese are a really lovely people, friendly, smiling, open, courteous, respectful and polite, and truly caring. I have forgotten the drivers name, I do remember that it was very hard to get my tongue around, but meet Tam, our tour guide for our first day in Ho Chi Min city and Vietnam.
My impressions of the congested state of the roads were confirmed. There are 40-odd million motor-bikes on the roads in Vietnam. The remaining 3-4 million people either ride bicycles or go shanks-pony, or are way too young or far too ancient to ride a bike, or far too poor to buy one. Owning a bike does not exclude a Vietnamese also owning a car, but very few people have cars. Tam has two motor bikes, one for him, and one for his wife who works at a bank. They do not own a car even though, in Vietnam, working in a bank and working as a tour guide are considered to be very good jobs indeed.
We were given lessons by all our guides on all matters that are considered important for visitors to know: leave our valuables with the hotel reception for safe-keeping, wear our travel hand-bags over our shoulders and to the front, keep our hands folded over our purses whenever we leave the hotel. There are an enormous number of poor in Vietnam.
In some places (very few) there are one, maybe two, sets of traffic lights. Bob bought himself a t-shirt that says it all; “Vietnam Traffic Light Laws: Green I can go; Yellow I can go; Red I can still go.” Crossing the street is a matter of focusing on the other side of the road, step out slowly into the traffic, keep moving, and hope for a good outcome.
Yes, there are road rules in Vietnam, all or any of which are duly ignored. Mostly though, it’s all about speed. Speeds are limited to 40 and 50. When the police want to make a bit of cash for themselves, they wait their chance to pull someone over who may have been, say, driving at 1-5 klms., over the limit. No second chances, no warnings, no time to pay, cash on the spot in US dollars, or cool your heels in jail then pay to get out. On the roads, it’s a case of sort your own selves out–whoever gets in there first or is the biggest wins. Everyone just goes any where; push in, make five lanes out of two, drive on the wrong side of the road (whatever, there is no right or wrong side) at the oncoming traffic … it doesn’t matter because they’ll politely move out of your way and chop someone else off–so find your chance fellas. Better still, create a chance fellas. Have heard that many drivers in Vietnam are unlicensed, and some have never possessed one anyway. I was very surprised to see what sorts of goods can be carted on the back of a bike.