Thursday, October 22, 2009

[Travelogue] Challenging the Chinese

The Vietnamese are challenging the Chinese for the title of world's craziest drivers. But here's it's not the bus drivers who are crazy, it's the scooter riders. In China there is a very clear rule for establishing the right-of-way: the bigger vehicle wins. So busses run down cars, which run down motorcycles, which run down pedestrians who are decidedly at the bottom of the Chinese mobility pecking order. All of which makes a weird kind of sense with respect to certain economic quality metrics. With busses at the top of the heap, more people get where they're going faster. Of course, the price is the odd motorcyclist or pedestrian casualty (average of three fatalities per day in Shanghai we were told) but when you have 1.3 billion people I guess you can afford to lose a few.

Here in Viet Nam it's the scooters who assert the right of way over everyone else. We rode from some port whose name escapes me to some town whose name also escapes me, all the while watching our bus driver honking and weaving to avoid little scooters who would blithely ride wherever the hell they pleased, apparently oblivious to the rather poor odds of winning a confrontation with a bus.

The fact that I have to look up the name of the last place we were gives you some indication of the impression it made on me. The most memorable thing we saw was three large cargo ships that had been washed up on the beach by a recent typhoon. We had a really delicious lunch. And we saw a lot of rice paddies, and a silk-production facility. That was actually kind of interesting. I've never seen a real silkworm "on the hoof" as it were, so that was kind of cool. I'll never look at a silk tie the same way again. But that was pretty much it.

I'm sure Viet Nam has a lot of really fascinating things to offer, but with the exception of Halong Bay, which is spectacular, we have yet to find them. But tomorrow we're in Saigon. so I'm still optimistic.

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