The only order in the universe is just a cycle of calm and chaos.–Toba Beta
With over four million motorcycles in Hanoi, it’s not surprising that rush hour is sheer chaos. Zipping through crowded streets, dodging slow-poke bicyclists and pedestrians, and holding on to children who frequently stand and watch the chaos is just business as usual in this city of eight million people.
And watching rush hour became just another part of our tourist experience.
Lines on the streets were merely suggestions. And bikes, carts, motorcycles — all had the right of way.
We stood at crossroads waiting for the light to change just so we could hear the zoom of the bikes, feel the rush of air as they passed by, and get a feel for what it takes to survive a green light in Hanoi.
Most people were determined. Determined to pick up their children from school, determined to get home and start supper or sell goods from metal baskets. Or just determined to make it to the end of the line.
We, the timid Americans, were puzzled about how to spare our lives as we darted across the chaotic frenzy to the other side.
But our guide gave good advice: Walk deliberately. Don’t look back. Don’t look at the cyclists. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop. Make one smooth, fell swoop of it. “You see,” she said,” the driver is gauging your speed and your direction, always watching you so he can chart his course around you. If you stop, you confuse him, and he may skid or brake and hit you.”
We got the hang of it. And lived in the chaos as if we were one of them.
We even came to love these times of hectic street maneuvering. Sitting on the front porch of our hotel, Silk Path, we watched as if it were the evening news. And toasted their efforts with our glasses of wine.
We waved at children, marveling at how most of them had no helmets even though their parents did.
And we noted that some riders and drivers were so unperturbed by the chaotic comings and goings that they checked their phones for messages in the midst of the hubbub.
But what seemed as true a chaotic experience as one could ever see in a city became what was merely “the way we do business around here.” Not once. And I repeat not once in the four days we were there, did we see anyone lose his temper or get off his bike or shake his fist or yell at fellow drivers.
Rush hour in Hanoi just may be the most humanitarian event of the day when drivers and riders alike go out of their way to make the ebb and flow of the traffic work well.
After all, they just want to get somewhere.
For more entries in this week’s challenge, go to Lens-Artists Challenge #88: Chaos on Leya’s blog.