18 December 2018

So You Want to Come to Vietnam and Ride a Motorbike? Part 4 — Rules?

In case you've missed them... Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

I've read many articles about riding in Vietnam. The great majority are written by people who only visited for a short time and those all say that there are no rules; that it's every person for him/herself.

Those writers are showing their ignorance!

Of course there are rules; they're just not the rules as you know them. It took me almost three years to figure out some of them—especially the one I call, "Do whatever the fuck you want; no one else matters."

Contrary to what you might think watching traffic go by, there are helmet laws in Vietnam that say everyone over the age of six MUST wear a helmet. The main problem with this law, other than the danger to little kids, is that apparently any semi-solid head covering is considered a "helmet". I've seen guys riding US$40,000 motorcycles (taxes and duties here add almost 100% to the cost) wearing a soft bicycle helmet as they rip through the streets of Saigon as if they're in a hurry to get on to whatever afterlife they believe in. Watch traffic in any city for an hour and you'll see construction hard hats with no chin strap; "gimme" helmets that wouldn't protect you if you fell off a chair; and a number of people who either don't fasten the chin strap or have it so loose that if they fall, the helmet would separate from their head before either hit the pavement.

The other problem is that most kids under 10 still aren't wearing a helmet.

As I've written before, there is virtually no safety education here re helmets. Most everyone wears one so the police don't stop them—except my wife. who wears one mostly because she doesn't want to listen to me bitch at her if she doesn't. Fortunately, Honey loves her 3/4 helmet, wears it everywhere,

and begged me to buy her a pink full-face helmet we saw one day. It's now hers, we're just waiting for her to grow into it.

How would you fare riding a motorbike in Vietnam? Take this simple quiz to find out if you know the rules.

Choose the best answer:

  1) When turning right, you
       a) Look to your left to ensure it's safe to proceed.
       b) Look both ways—someone could be walking down the sidewalk.
       c) Stop; look both ways; proceed when clear
       d) Don't even slow down, just go for it.

  2) When turning left, you turn from
       a) Your left lane to the new street's left lane
       b) Your left lane to the new street's right lane
       c) Your right lane to the new street's right lane
       d) Either b) or c) depending on your mood

  3) On a two-way street, the far right path is for
       a) Slower traffic
       b) People turning right onto that street
       c) On-coming traffic
       d) Both b) and c)

  4) The lines on the road are there
       a) To let you know which lane is yours
       b) To mark the center of the road
       c) To indicate whether or not it may be safe to pass another vehicle
       d) Because they have them in other countries

  5) Turn right from the right lane and left from the left lane.
       a) True
       b) False
       c) It depends.
       d) All of the above

  6) When your friend has had too much to drink, you should
       a) Take away his keys.
       b) Put him in a taxi or take him home yourself.
       c) Help him balance on his motorbike until he gets some momentum going.
       d) Both b) and c)

  7) When using your phone, you should
       a) Pull off the road until you are finished.
       b) Tell them you'll call them back when you're not driving.
       c) Ask them to call you back in 10 minutes.
       d) Not let it stop you or slow you down.

  8) When stopping to ask directions or look at the map on your phone,
       a) Pull over to the far right lane.
       b) Stop wherever you are, even if there's traffic all around.
       c) Who has time to stop? Multitask.
       d) Either b) or c)

  9) Who has the right-of-way?
       a) Whomever is in/on the largest vehicle
       b) Whomever has the biggest cojones
       c) The vehicle on the right
       d) Both a) and b)

10) The maximum safe speed is
       a) Dependent on road & weather conditions
       b) 40 kph within city limits; 60 kph outside
       c) As posted
       d) Whatever I decide it is

11) The traffic police
       a) Wear yellow uniforms
       b) Point a white baton at you when they want to talk
       c) Will accept traffic fines on-the-spot
       d) All of the above

12) The right lane is for motorbikes and the left lane is for everything else.
       a) True
       b) False
       c) In theory
       d) Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (pause for a breath) ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

13) When a car, truck, or bus flashes its lights at you, it means
       a) Your brights are on
       b) There are police just ahead
       c) Hello
       d) I want to be where you are. MOVE NOW!

14) The minivans are the WORST and will take you out if you let them.
       a) True
       b) False
       c) Sometimes
       d) Well, DUH-UH!

15) When entering a roundabout, who has the right-of-way?
       a) The vehicle in the roundabout.
       b) I do.
       c) Right-of-way? What's that?
       d) Either b) or c)

16) Using your headlight outside cities is
       a) Stupid because the zombies will catch you
       b) For sissies
       c) Optional
       d) Why are you riding out in the country at night? Are you suicidal?

17) Slower traffic
       a) Stays to the right
       b) Goes wherever they want
       c) May stop suddenly with no warning or turn into you
       d) Both b) and c)

18) Most locals ride as if
       a) There is no one else on the road
       b) Either their hair is on fire or going over 10 kph will kill them
       c) Whatever is behind their front wheel does not exist
       d) All of the above

19) Having the correct tire pressure is
       a) Crucial to your safety
       b) Not all that important—anywhere from 5 to 58 psi (0.35 to 4 bar) is fine
       c) There's a "correct" tire pressure?
       d) Either b) or c)

20) When making a u-turn, you
       a) Pull over to the right and wait until there is a break in traffic.
       b) Wait until the next roundabout or large intersection.
       c) U-turns are not allowed within city limits.
       d) Just go for it wherever the urge hits; everyone can wait as you block traffic.

21) When parking,
       a) Park only in designated spaces.
       b) Park anywhere, even blocking a business's main entrance.
       c) Park on the sidewalk, especially where you will block pedestrians.
       d) Both b) and c)

22) Riding on the sidewalk is permissible
       a) Never
       b) Only if there are no pedestrians within 50 meters
       c) Only during daylight hours
       d) Whenever you want to; no one else matters but you

How do you think you did? Let's find out...

Did you notice a pattern in your answers?

The answer to 6 is c)

The best answer to all the others is... d)

If you missed more than 5, it may be best to forget about riding a motorbike and bring a bit more money so you can take taxis or buses everywhere. They're very cheap.

Either way, enjoy your trip!

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