Where anarchy rules the road

by Kieran Meeke

A child is tied with a safety belt to learn riding skills she will no doubt need in future. Photo Paula Bronstein / Getty

YOU can’t go to Vietnam without being impressed by the sheer number of scooters thronging the streets. Anarchy appears to rule and crossing the road seems impossible. Then you realise there is a simple way.

The roads of Ho Chi Minh City, like every other in Vietnam, are a river of two-wheeled transport, smoking and roaring their way at all hours of the day. But, like any river, it will flow around an obstruction. So the way to cross the endless stream is to just walk straight across. Unlike a car driver, a scooter rider has an incentive not to hit you — it might hurt them more than you.

The apparent absence of road rules hides a clear one

The first time you do it takes bravery. I see other tourists try but hesitate, dashing into the road, then back to safety as they lose their nerve. That creates confusion because no one can predict what they might do next. Soon there is shouting and hooting of horns as both sides lose their cool.

The apparent absence of road rules hides a clear one: just do what it is you want to do. It may look like anarchy because it is. But sometimes anarchy works if you trust people enough.