I remember the first time I ever visited Ho Chi Minh City. I was walking with a local friend when she very nonchalantly crossed the street, inadvertently leaving me paralyzed on the other side, an image of the 1980’s videogame, Frogger, flashing through my mind.
For those of you from the Twitter / Facebook / Xbox generation, here’s an Old School history lesson: Frogger was one of the all time classic arcade games where you had to move your frog past cars, trucks and various other life-threatening hazards, inevitably leaving the frog as a green splat on the screen.
Flash forward to Ho Chi Minh City, circa now. With over 6 million inhabitants and almost 4 million motorbikes, it’s not hard to feel like a very small frog crossing a very big street.
So, tired of walking like a loser or getting ripped off by local mototaxi drivers (called xe om, literally “hugging bike / vehicle”, because when you get on, you’re always the passenger, sitting behind the driver. You don’t actually hug him. Well, at least I don’t… but I have seen foreigners unaccustomed to traveling on scooters copping the occasional hug…) I was off to Driver’s Ed, Vietnamese style.
I don’t even know where to begin…
First of all, in every picture, the FedEx truck incurred a violation. Maybe the Ministry of Transport lost a package once?
Next, as a test writer, I know a thing or two about constructing tests. This one almost seemed designed to trip people up. Why would they want to do that?
After 15 computerized questions in 10 minutes, it was on to the actual driving part of the test. Here’s what the course looked like:
Having a few nervous housewives hyperventilate before me didn’t help. That, plus navigating the tight figure 8 in front of about 100 onlookers…
But now, I’m proud to say that I’m fully street legal. I am no longer the frog waiting to cross the street. Now I’m the mean motorbike looking to squash me some hapless froggies…
For the full text to this story, see my latest article, “The “Forever” License – Becoming Street Legal in Vietnam” in this month’s issue of Vietnam Pathfinder.