Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Stars of "Froggers" take on Ho Chi Mihn City

I never believed that I could be the main target in the classic 80s arcade game called Froggers.  The only object of Frogger is to navigate your amphibian home by avoiding cars while crossing a busy road. I surmised, like scrunchies, mullets and big shoulder pads, Froggers was a distant memory. That was not the case in HCM City.

It was our first time to Viet Nam and we were excited about going to a Vietnamese/Portuguese wedding. We knew we were in for a feast for the eyes with the lavish costumes and a feast for palate with the countries' flair for gastronomic wonders; the shark fin and abalone soup while politically incorrect, did not disappoint.

What we were not prepared for was the hundreds of thousands of scooters zipping and dodging precariously in and out of traffic.  We were not prepared to see mopeds and bicycles taking on trucks and buses, often time, not winning the battle.  The masks worn from pollution was another shock. We were not in Kansas anymore, or our beloved Singy!

After checking into the hotel we wanted to wander the streets and get a quick feel for the city. We got a quick feel all right, nine at night probably isn't the best time to explore in a strange city.  We ended back at the hotel bar having peculiar drinks of enormous alcoholic proportions.  The killer alcohol did little to soothe the traffic culture shock we witnessed. You must keep in mind that R2 is from Mexico City and even this gridlock made his mouth hang open in astonishment.

The next morning, with a wee hangover, we hopped on the wedding bus with people from various countries.  The groom, like R2 is a IT consultant with ties all over the world and it showed by the guest list. Like us, everyone was stunned at the "gangs of scooters";  the insane way the drivers carry trees, jugs of water, tables, building material and their entire family on these machines, while daring traffic to stop them. Red is just another shade of green when it comes to traffic lights.

After witnessing the early morning ceremony, we had several hours to kill before the evening festivities. We decided to tour the downtown markets and shops.  Easier said than done. Trying to cross the roads, with lack of lights, sidewalks or anyone noticing you was treacherous.  We thought crossing with other tourists would make it easier -- yes, easier for them to hit you because you became a bigger target.  I wonder if they are gunning for you on purpose or if they even see you; local pedestrians are rare.  We noticed that when the drivers couldn't get down the main road quick enough, all laws be damned; they headed for the sidewalks and took them over as well. It resembled hordes of ants streaming from an ant hill, in organized confusion.

I would like to say this annal has a happy ending, like the massage parlours in HCM City, but alas, it does not. After one more try on Sunday morning to do a little walking, we gave up and headed to the comfort of the airport where we went to Singapore Airlines First Class lounge.  That is where I had my Pho, rolls and strong Vietnamese coffee.  It was in the safety of the lounge, I told R2 that if he ever is transferred to HCM City, he is on his own.  I am certain once you leave the city, you will find breathtaking sites and a serene countryside, however, it make take some time before my heart palpitations lessen from our "real life" game of Frogger.


  1. a note from Jacquie - Loved your Frogger connection Layna. I had a similar but not so congested experience in Bangkok. I was trying to cross a main street, walking down the street to find traffic lights, or some such crossing area. What really freaked me out was the crazy ninja men that came out of nowhere on their loud motorcycles the minute you tried to dart across the street. I was jet lagged (read slow and stupid) which made it more challenging. I gave up after a half an hour or so and returned to my hotel to sleep and build strength for future explorations. Not so keen on Bangkok but loved Thailand. Hugs

  2. The Asia Trekker3 November 2011 at 17:16

    If you read the blog in chronological order, you can see how the "disgusting spitting cobra" and "I cant believe Singapore is so strict" etc. becomes "My beloved Singy". Wait until we visit Cambodia, Myanmar and, TADA! India ;)

    The truth is we are in a privileged place among all the craziness that surrounds this area, so, bring it on !

    Great writing by the by .

  3. Really enjoyed the stories! Interesting! You remember you told me i would have to read all your blogs to find out why you where in hospital!

  4. I'm a BARBIE GIRL!8 November 2011 at 19:49

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE YOUR STORIES. KEEP THEM COMING. Where are you going next. Get back to Singapore so we can hear more and live through you!!!

  5. Nice article. Personally, I always get amused whenever someone complains about traffic here in the States. It doesn't even compare to some of the other countries out there!