Start from the Beginning – Motorbike Diaries Vol. 1
Mirror Mirror on the motorbike, what is your purpose; are you just there for decoration? Unfortunately after driving a motorbike in HCMC for the last 3 months, I feel as if I’m the only person here who uses my motorbike mirrors for their intended purpose; to see things behind you and in your blind spot. Yes, that’s right; the poor motorbike mirror is seldom used. Why you ask? I don’t know if I have an answer for that. It goes on my list of “Unexplained Oddities in Vietnam” with things like:
Why is there always a shower curtain rod but no shower curtain in bathrooms in Vietnam?
Why do parents put mosquito nets on children’s heads in place of a helmet?
Why does everyone use short little chairs and tables that look like they are for kids?
Why are there tons of brothels, but I never see anyone going in them?
Back to mirrors, I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the locals driving responsibility is determined by angles. Imagine you are on a motorbike looking straight in front of you. There are other motorbikes all around you weaving in and out…yes…be scared, be very scared. However for the locals there is no reason to ever be scared because you are technically responsible for about 45degrees to either side of you…46 degrees…who cares…not your responsibility.
That big truck bearing down behind you – don’t worry. If you want to move to the right of the road while you on currently on the left, don’t worry, just take a steady 45 degree angle and the motorbike seas will part as if you are Moses and you will get to the right side. Actually, I once heard someone describe driving in Vietnam akin to being in a school of fish. I honestly think that’s quite accurate. Fish don’t turn their head and look behind them, they just move in this weird flowing unison. That’s how traffic here works – we are all fish.
After driving in the US for 16 years, it’s ingrained in me to be responsible for more than 45 degrees…hence – why I use mirrors. I like knowing what’s behind me, call me old fashioned or a stupid foreigner; I don’t want to give up my mirrors! I must admit though, when I’m in heavy traffic – I sometimes talk to myself and tell myself “I’m a fish, just swimming here with my friends, we all move as one. I’m a fish, I’m a fish.” I know it’s strange, but it does seem to help keep me calm in times where any normal westerner would be quite tense and nervous!
Most of the people that I see driving don’t have mirrors, or maybe they only have one mirror that looks like it’s pointed at the sky. Then there are the drivers that actually have mirrors, but they choose to point them towards each other so they don’t get in the way of their driving; the mirrors seem to be considered a nuisance most of the time.
The part that I don’t get is that there are many, many vendors along the side of the road selling motorbike mirrors. Simply stop, pay a couple of bucks and screw in your new mirror…presto. But I don’t really understand the supply and demand here, who’s buying them?!
Regardless, every day when I get on my bike, I turn the key, press the break, hit the automatic start button, give it throttle, and check the mirrors and put them in position. This is the point where my neighbors laugh at me….up until then it actually appeared as if I knew what I was doing! With a big sigh…I hit the roads again, always keeping an eye on what’s behind me, but trying to tell myself to ‘forget it’ and just swim with the fishes!
Get your own Vietnam Motorbike License and get out on the streets!
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