top of page

Motorbikes, motorbikes - a lesson in crossing the street in HCMC

Motorbikes in Saigon's District 7

I liken crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh City to a game of Frogger. Remember that game? Jumping the little frog forward, backward, and side-to-side to "hop" him successfully to the other side of the street without getting hit by a car. That's my daily life here. In a city where motorbikes rule the road [and sidewalk...] crossing the street is not for the faint of heart. Throw a toddler in the mix, and it's downright treacherous.

Nonetheless, we've walked quite a few miles of this city, and crossed the street probably 100 or more times by now. I'm getting quite good at maintaining my assertiveness, while respecting the fact that traffic is headed right at us from literally every direction. There is no "look(ing) both ways" - there is only look, don't hesitate, and try not to blink. Seriously.

Motorbikes are everywhere - pushing their way in traffic on the street, cutting through the sidewalk, and parked in rows and rows in front of every street stall, restaurant, and retail outlet. They are used for regular transport and commuting by most locals - and it's not uncommon to see a family of 4 on a single motorbike! We've seen them hauling pretty much everything [flat screen tv's, multiple 5-gallon water jugs, take out food, construction equipment, and floral deliveries], and pulling over for just seconds to pick up a newspaper or some of the freshest fruits/vegetables from a local on the sidewalk. In a thunderstorm, they'll pull off in a mass exodus to the side of the road to outfit themselves with ponchos [in similar form to chaining up the car on a snowy mountain pass]. It's alarmingly normal, and really quite fascinating.

Elijah loves to watch the motorbikes push their way through traffic both in the car and on foot, and the constant "beep beep" from cars/buses/taxis make for a fun symphony of sound. One of the things I was most nervous about in our move here was the seatbelt/car seat issue. Many cars in SE Asia are not outfitted with seatbelts and car seat usage is a rarity. We are blessed with a good driver and a SUV [Toyota Fortuner...kind of like the Thai version of a 4-Runner] with seatbelts. Compared to the motorbikes [and pedestrians] I'd say we'd fare better in a fender bender. Having a company-provided car/driver ensures that when we commute, Elijah is just a bit safer in his car seat. I wish it was secured using the LATCH system, but the seatbelt will suffice [after all, Matt & I both grew up in a less protective car seat world without LATCH, and we turned out ok...mostly].

Checking out the Saigon traffic

You Might Also Like:
bottom of page