Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We Know “Where the Sidewalk Ends”… and Why

Courtesy of Pictures
I always wondered what that phrase meant – “where the sidewalk ends”.  With the famous American poet’s book by the same title, I’ve been intrigued by Shel Silverstein’s thought process.  Mental images of neat and orderly urban sidewalks suddenly coming to an abrupt end at empty lots satisfied me only slightly as I figured Shel probably had a much more sophisticated and abstract idea in mind when he titled his book. Something about a magical place of imagination worthy of exploration in our dreams.

Well, we actually found the truth.  We found where the sidewalk really does end. And who would have guessed it would be right here in Hồ Chí Minh City?
"We dare you to try to use the sidewalk!"
You simply cannot get from here to there on the sidewalks.  Somewhere long ago someone decided that the walkway outside their storefront was much too valuable. Seeing as pedestrians are rare, (Elder Coffey and I are among the very few crazy enough to traverse the sidewalks) they opted for creating some additional moneymaking real estate.

 Motorbike parking lots with watchful security guards - they can charge a small fee for motorists to park their bikes on their property.  

 Little vendor eat shops with tiny plastic stools surrounding
 equally tiny tables line the sidewalks in practically every part of town.... 

Courtesy of Hmoong
...sometimes blocking the entire sidewalk!

"You'll just have to go around us, ma'am!"

There are also construction zones, promotion aisles for over-crowded storefronts, small businesses...

...and people sitting around just waiting for time to pass - or to maybe play a round of Xiangqi...

Courtesy of Matthew Klein


The sidewalks even become thoroughfares for motorists, making sidewalk-traversing an adventure in motorcycle-dodging - only to be done by the bravest of souls.

So this dizzying array of dishes, flowers, clothes, fruit, bánh mì, merchandise and a near constant flow of motorcycles on the sidewalk crowd out the pedestrians and force them to the streets for "safe" adrenaline-rushing passage. If you can imagine the streets being safer than the sidewalks!

Yes - the sidewalk ended in Ho Chi Minh City when commercialization and motorists both discovered it. Every day is an adventure! 

Loving our mission in Hồ Chí Minh City!!

Teaching the Swing Dance at the Branch Halloween Party


  1. Wow, very interesting to see how others live, very simply.

  2. And equally crazy is the fact that many suburban areas in the US mandate that home owner's have sidewalks that are seldom ever walked on, and park strips that there has yet to be a consensus on how to landscape or maintain.