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Chaos on the sidewalk

Navigating the cities in Vietnam is a challenge. It is hard to compare the massive traffic in Ho Chi Minh City to that of western cities.

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnams largest city with more than 8.5 million inhabitants. Navigating the city by foot is a challenge as millions of motorbikes clog the streets and - although illegal - the sidewalks.

Street vendors selling coffee and sandwiches roll their carts out on the sidewalks, while restaurants and bars extend their seating well into the pavements. For pedestrians, the best option is often to walk on the street.

Until an Ho Chi Min City official named Doan Ngoc Hai tried to bring order to the sidewalk. He declared war on the street side vendors and motorbike drivers who use the pavement. He was dubbed "Captain Sidewalk" by local media as he spared no one and fined everyone who did not obey the law. Many locals were not happy with the way he tried to organise the daily chaos while clearing the pavements of street stalls.

For people whose livelihoods depend on working on the sidewalks, moving elsewhere is a difficult task. Mrs Nguyen Thi Tuyet, 62, has been selling tea, cigarettes and snacks at her street stall for decades. Street vending, she said, is part of Vietnamese culture.

“Tourists won’t stay here forever, but the people who are working on the street are here forever,” she said, adding that any attempt to clear the sidewalks must be accompanied by new job opportunities.

In January, the city official resigned and many street sellers can breath a sigh of relief. This means it's back to the daily chaos on the roads and for tourists, this means being extra careful when exploring the city.

source: dpa-international

image: Christoph Sator/dpa


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