Friday, April 9, 2010

Hanoi Traffic

and my love/hate relationship.......

The traffic of Hanoi is the blood of the city. The constant flow of motorbikes powering through the veins of the capital brings this place to life. It is frantic and hectic and stressful and fun. The traffic in this country is unique. It is a part of their culture and works in tandem with the Vietnamese way of life. I love the traffic in Hanoi. The streets are thick with commotion, a maze of metal mess moving continuously. There are over a million motorbikes in Hanoi. A million.

The traffic drives the city and starts early morning, carting anything and everything for the days trade. I am still often shocked by what I see on the back of a bike; be it TVs to bed mattresses, live chickens to kegs of beer, the small bikes are as resourceful as ever. You learn to accept the constant BEEPING as the beat that keeps the city moving. All day every day; BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

I have felt it for a while and I still feel it now; when I ride the streets of Hanoi I feel a part of it. I am completely comfortable and relaxed and despite its obvious dangers I thoroughly enjoy it. It is fun.

However, as always there are two sides of the coin. The traffic is never ending and that means pollution. A million bikes spewing fumes everyday is going to take its toll. When the flow of bikes becomes blocked in a bottleneck, which happens daily during peak hour in many of the small unorganised streets, as a rider you really feel it. Sitting amidst hundreds of bikes releasing dirty fumes makes it hard to find fresh air. Throw in a big bus and a few cars and it gets disgusting. Often in these situations I am holding my breath as long as I can, coughing when I need some air. I have a few times fought off vomiting, having to pull over to the side of the road to compose myself. It can't be good for your health and I can't see it getting any better. Apparently the government is trying to enforce the type of fuel used in bikes but an the end of the day fuel is fuel and a million bikes means dirty air.

Walking around West Lake I look out over the city, a thick white blanket engulfing Hanoi. I try to go for a run but I can taste the smog. I feel a little disheartened and wish it wasn't so bad. I feel this not because I am a spoilt foreigner but because I love this place and when you love something you want the best for it. As I ponder this I am quickly brought back to the source of the problem, the very same thing that drives this city and helps make it the wonderful place it is; Hanoi Traffic. You can't have everything and to be honest I will quite happily continue dealing with the pollution if it means calling this place home.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. The motorbike culture in Vietnam is unique. It is crazy what they can carry. Loved it there.