In Vietnam, unlike its modern neighbours Singapore and Hong Kong, it’s still possible to experience the feeling of old Asia. With street hawkers cooking food and soups, known as pho, on the footpaths to sell to passers by, women wearing traditional cone shaped straw hats and carrying baskets slung from poles across their shoulders, bicycles and motor bikes everywhere.
Co-existing in complete harmony with the traditional are the modern shiny department stores and shopping malls offering the latest in high end consumer brands from the boulevards of Europe, as well as the popular American branded merchandise.
Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it is still called by the locals, is an experience that most first time visitors find
very confronting. As the most populous and busiest city in Vietnam, the traffic is 24/7 and never seems to take a break. There is an endless stream of motor bikes, sprinkled with cars and buses, which the locals just walk out into the middle of, to cross the road. Miraculously this system seems to work, with the bikes and cars avoiding the pedestrians.
For the visitor, crossing the road is much more daunting. Even though there are traffic lights and marked pedestrian crossings on some streets, the traffic never seems to stop coming. I have visited Vietnam on two occasions and found the best way to cross these busy roads was to wait for a local to come along, then cross the road beside them. As there are so many people on the streets, I never had to wait too long. Sandra Tiltman. Photos: John Pond