The zen of crossing the streets

Architectural checkerboard zen - Saigon, Vietnam
Architectural building zen in Saigon | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Still your thoughts. Clear your mind of everything. Don’t worry about where you will eat dinner tonight. Don’t concern yourself with whether the massage you were just offered will be the creepy type you get in a parlor or the relaxing type you get in a spa.

Put your full faith in humanity, the rawest of humanity, an inexorable, infinite stream of which is speeding towards you on mopeds and motorcycles down the Saigon streets. Believe that these thousands of people no more want to run you over than you want to be run over. They will flow around you, like raging river water around a rock.

Accept them as they are. Reconceptualize perceived flaws as uniqueness. Four people squeezed onto one moto? Eco-friendly ride share. A twelve year old kid behind the handlebars who is text messaging while steering? Child prodigy. A wobbly rack of flattened, translucent dried squid bolted to the moto’s back seat? Caterer. A king size mattress strapped to the back of a tiny cycle? Airbag.

Balloon vendors on bikes - Saigon, Vietnam
Balloon vendors on bikes, Saigon | Photo by Lauren Girardin

All is not what it seems. Beware illusions and the false security they harbor. A red light may have no different a meaning than one that’s green, which may itself carry no significance at all. Helmets may not be indicators of safety: beware the driver that does not clip his chin strap.

Surreal toothpaste billboard - Saigon, Vietnam
Surreal toothpaste billboard, Saigon | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Trust your senses. Listen for the guttural howl of revving motors. Look for motos driving on the wrong side of the road, particularly if they are in the process of making a left turn. Smell the fumes clouded around a pack of motos that’s been idling too long, impatiently waiting to bound forward.

Sassy meat market ladies - Saigon, Vietnam
Sassy meat market ladies, Saigon | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Be decisive, steady, and intentional. Once you begin to walk across the street, do not hesitate, make no sudden moves, and for god’s sake, do not stop. That rock I mentioned before? It’s more of a rolling stone.

If you plan to walk around a roundabout . . . well, best to avoid the roundabouts.

Photos from Saigon a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.