Wednesday, June 06, 2007
ONE hell of a stressful place to live in. As a gazillion bikes, cars, bicycles, pushcarts, tricycles and people move like floodwaves against or along each other, it takes more than a little imagination to see how the country has picked up so much only 30 years after the Vietnam war.
As the plane started its slow descend onto the runway, small specks of grey and white magnified into rural-looking estates which looked like they belonged to the 50's while puddles reflecting the sunlight became large padi fields positioned sporadically among the mass of buildings.
With fingers crossed we stepped out of the airport not knowing what to expect in this foreign country and were greeted by a mish mash of motorcycles, cars, people.. and unthankfully more motorcycles. Oookay, it's a little of a culture shock as the traffic was like 5 times more disastrous than Bangkok's, plus it doesn't help that we were immediately overwhelmed by taxi drivers demanding a treasure chest's price for a trip to our hotel (and charged in USD, mind you).
The journey to our hotel was nothing short of "spectacular" as the taxi weaved in and out through swarms of motorcycles. I have NEVER, ever, in my entire life seen so much (many would be an understatement) motorcycles in one place before. And just for those who have never been to Vietnam before, most of the riders wore cloth masks and straw hats and it isn't uncommon to see women adorned in their traditional costumes on bikes or a family of four happily cutting through the massive traffic on their "amazingly strong" scooter. In fact, I think that if you wore a helmet, they'd think you were an alien.
Even more amazing, they seem to be able to carry almost everything on their bikes. Let's put it this way, I've seen one guy carrying two queen size mattresses, another one carrying a huge painting on the side and check this out, a huge bagful of soft toys?! We even spotted one with two huge stacks of ice at the back, yes in the blistering heat it managed to remain solid (I don't know why..).
Sitting in the taxi was nothing compared to witnessing the traffic upfront while trying our best to cross the road. We were so pathetic moving only inches, that the hotel porter had to guide us across the road. Imagine 500 bikes coming your way on a narrow two lane road while spontaneously honking at God-knows-what. Now, that's scary.
Our next impression of Vietnam was that it was boring.. and seriously hot.. after initially and unsuccesfully trying to explore the districts (which were cluttered with small cafes, pho restaurants, banh mi stalls and surprisingly a substanstial number of painting shops), the cursed blardy hot weather forced us to desperately search for shopping centres (yes, we being typically Singaporeans admit that we CANNOT live without shopping centres) and after we did found one, after we thought we found solace, we were WRONG.
To Be Continued..