This is actually the last level in "Frogger."
January 6, 2012 12:08 PM   Subscribe

"Where I come from, a little patience at the crosswalk usually rewards me with a stoplight-induced pause in traffic, but here things are different. One had to simply cross, stride forward into the asphalt gauntlet with no fear, just faith that two intersecting streams of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, would reconcile themselves. And they always did." Photographer Rob Whitworth stitches together 10,000 images to bring you a very kinetic time-lapse video of "Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam." [via]
posted by bayani (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hive-mind! Looking at that, ants and us aren't all that different.
posted by crunchland at 12:17 PM on January 6, 2012

Interesting--the French have a very similar approach to traffic, which I think comes down to thinking of the car or the moped as simply an extension of the body--you move it into a crowd of other cars not thinking "what, systemically, makes most sense for traffic flows" but "what is my shortest route from point A to point B." I've seen intersections in France where multiple roads meet at various angles, and the cars just fight their way across the intervening space as best they can. I wonder if there's any possibility that there is some French colonial legacy that helps explain the Vietnamese behavior or if it's just random cultural convergence.
posted by yoink at 12:26 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suppose if you live there you get used to it. But watching that video, and imagining myself trying to navigate those intersections personally, scared the living whee out of me.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:27 PM on January 6, 2012

Traffic in Hanoi was exactly the same when I was there for a couple of months in late 1999. I got a tutorial on street-crossing from a friend who was living there, which went something like this: Just step out into the traffic. Keep moving slowly, calmly, forward. Do not stop. Under no circumstances should you switch direction.

The short version was this: You are a stone in the river.

The first time I stepped out into a busy intersection, I felt like I was jumping off a cliff. The roadway was probably six conventional lanes wide, but more than 90 percent of Hanoi traffic was two-wheeled - mostly motorcycles and scooters plus a lot of bicycles - so there was nothing like order to it. It just buzzed and roared in a vast swarm. I took a step and then another, looking straight ahead and reciting stone in the river stone in the river stone in the river in my head like a mantra. Miraculously, the relentless traffic simply eased its way to either side of me. By halfway across, I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea.

It was crazily exhilihirating. Still to this day one of the most singular experiences I've ever had anywhere in my travels was crossing a busy street in Hanoi on foot.
posted by gompa at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2012 [5 favorites]
posted by smidgen at 12:54 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

The editing on that time lapse is amazing. I really like how he slows and speeds the framerate to highlight specific phenomena, cars, etc. Nicely done.
posted by Nelson at 2:24 PM on January 6, 2012

Same thing happens in the Middle East. I've heard it attributed to a combination of the Inshallah attitude (If you get hit by a car, well, that's what Allah wanted to happen) and traffic laws that essentially give right of way to whoever got there first (seriously, I saw people accelerate into unavoidable accidents, because the cops will judge fault based on whose front hit whose side).
posted by Etrigan at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2012

I just received this email today from my friend, Phuong, a Saigon resident:

"Last few days a bad thing happen with me.When I coss the street there was a motorbike just hit me " bang" from my back (bottom) I fell down and could not move... until now my arm, my back even bottom still hurting. I have to stop at the cafe all a week. Very unlucky after I fell down the one hit me by motorbike just run away That's time I feel like death warn me up... thanhks god I still alive( some one bring to to the hospital) The landlady look after me for few days.

Too much motorbike in Viet Nam and the street is seem to be so small, People do not carefull enought to ride and very bad after they hit someone with out stop for a second to see how bad it is... I'am still afraid of the traffic."
posted by lometogo at 2:53 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe you should buy Phuong one of these.
posted by flabdablet at 3:23 PM on January 6, 2012

My friend worked as a doctor in a Saigon hospital. She has a quite different opinion of the traffic there.

The first 24 hours my partner and I were in Saigon, we didn't leave the block we were staying on; eventually we upgraded to tailing savvy viets when they crossed. By the end of the trip we were crossing those massive roundabouts near the binh thanh markets with relative calm.

But my friend's stories, + the one, horrible accident we witnessed, did an excellent job of dispelling any nascent thoughts of invulnerability.
posted by smoke at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hanoi is definitely worse than Saigon, but when crossing streets I've never seen anything match Tehran at rush hour.
posted by nfg at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2012

Oscar was the incredibly groovy drummer in mr.likeso's band for a number of years, until his next posting abroad for an ngo. He'd often traveled and lived in SE Asia, and was very familiar with the traffic in Hanoi. On the evening of the second day of his posting, he went to dinner with some of his new coworkers. Afterwards, he chivalrously walked a lady home to her hotel who was not as familiar with local traffic. On the way back to his own hotel, he was hit and killed. His body was discovered the next morning. The driver was never identified.
posted by likeso at 6:34 AM on January 7, 2012

In my dad's old job, he used to do a lot of jet-setting, and he was in Vietnam a couple of times. His usual routine, after getting to his hotel or wherever he was staying, was to get a feel for the city by wandering down to the British embassy: Vietnam was the only country, he said, where the first thing the embassy staff would speak about was, invariably, traffic safety.
posted by Dim Siawns at 7:57 AM on January 7, 2012

The early overhead shots reminded me of watching little microscopic rotifers and protozoans boogying around under a microscope. And the stop/go pulsing action at the traffic circles reminded me of movies of blood cells flowing through arteries.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:08 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of being in India where traffic lanes are 'more like guidelines.'
posted by BillW at 11:04 AM on January 7, 2012

« Older Pop Surrealist Intervention Art   |   When dinosaurs ruled the art world. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments