Tet preparations stall traffic all over Saigon

By Ha An   January 18, 2020 | 05:15 am PT
Tet preparations stall traffic all over Saigon
Traffic on Cong Hoa Street in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon of January 17, 2020, one week ahead of Tet. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
With a week to go before the Lunar New Year, almost all routes in Ho Chi Minh City are jam-packed with commuters and their vehicles.

They are full of people returning home, going shopping, and transporting goods in preparation for the upcoming Tet festival, the biggest holiday of Vietnamese people that will peak next Saturday.

Traffic on both directions of Cong Hoa Street in Tan Binh District, a route to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, was frozen with a tailback of almost three kilometers Friday afternoon. With the mercury rising to more than 30 degrees Celsius, exhausted faces were to be seen everywhere.

Hoang Hoa, 32, said she had not been able to move her motorbike for half an hour to get away from a gridlock at the junction of Cong Hoa and Hoang Van Thu streets.

Hoa was returning home from Tan Son Nhat, which is two kilometers from the intersection.

"I saw a family member, who returned home for Tet, off at the airport and left at 4 p.m. Normally it takes me just 15 minutes to get home from the airport."

Not very far from where Hoa and thousands of others were standing still, Truong Chinh Street in Tan Binh District was also packed with people, most of whom were carrying flowers and gift baskets.

At least six traffic police officers were assigned to regulate traffic along the street.

Le Duy, 65, a security guard at a kindergarten on Truong Chinh, said normally traffic congestion only took place in the morning and evening,  but these days, that became the normal state throughout the day.

Over the past few days, the afternoon gridlock has lasted for almost two hours.

"It feels like everybody is on the street these days," he said.

Senior lieutenant Nguyen Trung Nguyen with the traffic police at the Tan Son Nhat said the airport has become the axis of traffic gridlocks ahead of Tet due to the increasing demand for travel and transporting goods.

He said they have been working alongside with airport security guards and local authorities to ease traffic pressure and tackle gridlocks around the airport.

"We have to take turns to be on duty around the clock to keep traffic in order," he said.

In Binh Thanh District, all routes leading to the Mien Dong Bus Station, which has buses going to destinations all over northern and central Vietnam as well as the city's eastern neighbors such as Dong Nai, Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc, have experienced  gridlocks for a few days now.

On Dinh Bo Linh, National Highway 13 and Nguyen Xi streets, thousands of people could be seen sitting on motorbikes with luggage, backpacks and gift bags joggling to find space to get into the station.

The downtown area, meanwhile, has been choked with people flocking to shopping centers. Many taxi drivers and delivery staff had no choice but to stop in the middle of the streets to pick up and drop off passengers and goods.

A traffic police officer in the middle of a sea of motorcyclists in Ho Chi Minh Citys downtown January 17, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

A traffic police officer in the middle of a sea of motorcyclists in Ho Chi Minh City's downtown, January 17, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Traffic jams are most serious at the crossroads of Le Loi and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Streets in District 1, from where people can walk a few steps to reach Saigon Square, which is more of a market than a mall and is quite famous among foreign tourists; and Saigon Center and Takashimaya, which are two malls in one.

Tran Thi Thu, 62, who has sold clothes in Saigon Square for over 10 years, said a construction site on Le Loi Street to build the first metro line for the city has narrowed the street and worsened the traffic jam.

Vo Khanh Hung, deputy director of the municipal Department of Transport, said the department has requested the postponement of all works on roads to make as much space for traffic as possible between January 17 and February 1.

The transport department will also keep a close eye on the traffic via a camera system to notify the "quick response team" of any problem.

It estimates that the number of passengers leaving the city from cross-province bus stations during this occasion can reach nearly 130,000, double that of normal days.

The Tan Son Nhat Airport is expected to get peak crowds between January 9 and February 8 as people travel for Tet, the main occasion for family reunions. Thousands of overseas Vietnamese also return home for the festival.

The number of passengers per day is expected to average 130,000 during the month, 10,500 more than last year.

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