Writing & Living in Hanoi, Vietnam
Standing in a blaze of heat at a bus stop I took a wobble and for the first time felt disabled not riding a motorbike.
A fan boy for the Ha Noi bus network, I skulked off into the shade to keep an eye on the road from afar. As legions of mopeds whizzed past I began to question the wisdom of eschewing the freedom offered by two wheeled transportation.
After 15 minutes my bus appeared on the scene and I had to spend half the journey standing. At least with a moped you are guaranteed a seat.
But my doubts vanished as I recalled why I ended up on the buses in the first place. I had reluctantly called a bike hirer who appeared the next day at my apartment with a moped.
I told him I was a car driver who had missed out on the powered two wheeled transition from push bike. No problem, he replied, he would show me. After a very cursory tour of the controls off we went. And I literally mean ‘we’ as he insisted on getting on the back.
I am not sure how he thought this would help. He was either brave or foolish. He knew where I lived so it was not like I was Valentino Rossi impersonating an utter novice rider only to take off with his bike at high speed before he climbed aboard.
In an any event we crashed twice in the first ten metres as I was too heavy on the throttle trying to compensate for all the weight on the bike. I am around 80/85kg and he was no light weight either.
After the second ‘ground level interaction’ as airline pilots may have termed it, I decided I had ridden my luck enough for one day. The hire guy agreed that might be a good idea as he surveyed his slightly scratched machine. I was also a bit irked he had shown up without helmets.
So it was the buses for me as I convinced myself taking to the road in Ha Noi was just too challenging. Firstly, I didn’t know my way around the city.
As well as the culture shock of different road manners, there was also the extra ball to juggle of having to ostensibly drive on the right. Add in the fact I had never driven a moped before and I could see nothing but broken bones and road rash at best.
My hunch was later backed up by the statistic that 95% of foreigners presenting at hospitals in the capital are there due to two wheel related accidents.
* My thoughts are with Stephanie Inglis and her family as she fights for her life after a xe om accident in Halong