Here is your man’s bike. The only one in Hanoi equipped with satnav 🙂
One of the most impressive things in Hanoi traffic is: I have never seen so many women in pyjamas – riding motorbikes 🙂
Another astounding thing is the onslaught of motorbikes during rush-hour – when an estimated 1.5 million of them clog the streets of Hanoi. If you haven’t been in the middle of such a massive throng of bikes you could not imagine the feeling!
And this clump moves only step by step while you could barely slip your hand in between two bikes. One thing you learn very quickly (an absolute matter of survival) is to balance your bike at near standstill and to manoeuvre your bike precisely at minimal speed. It requires a technique using the break and the gas at the same time. The bikes are so close to each other that it is very dangerous to put your foot down on the street for balance as someone most likely will hit it!
Another must is to use your peripheral vision, especially outside rush hour (during rush hour you are squeezed in anyway). Because then motorbikes come out of any imaginable hole or corner. There is no right of way. Red traffic lights are obeyed only by some women.
Cars, oh they are a different chapter, never drive on a lane. They move and switch and criss-cross…and generally rely on the advantage of their size against motorbikes. They are your natural enemy. But they can also be used by the smart biker. For example when they cut through the opposite lane with the oncoming traffic. That’s your chance to cross as well (keeping on the lee side of the car :))
Riding a motorbike also teaches you more about the Vietnamese than anything else. You get very good at categorizing and judging people by their clothes, looks and pasture. This is very useful as it helps you predict their potential behaviour.
As it probably becomes clear: participating in Hanoi traffic is a very active task. And it will take you a long time (or simple-mindedness) to get relaxed enough to “multitask” on a bike – like these guys talking on their mobiles: