Traffic and other amusing sights

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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand
February 29th 2008
Published: March 1st 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Ok... I've decided to write a little story about a few things that keep putting a smile in my dial in Thailand... Hope it sounds as funny as it is.

Well, first things first... we're writing the year 2551. Yes, that's rght, 2551. Even though life here seems to be about 100 years behind, the calender is actually more than 500 year ahead. Quite funny when you look at your bus or train ticket... back to the future hey.

But that's just for general information. The real fun in Thailand starts on the streets! Yes, it's beautiful. Not only do motorcyclists wear their jackets backwards and a cloth on their face to reduce the dirt they breathe in... no, they also by petrol in bottles. Glass bottles to be exact. Those are usually sold for 20 or 30 Bath on the side of the road, not unusual for them to sit right next to a deep-frying wok or fresh fruit... It's a quite pretty pinkish red liquid that looks a bit like grape juice actually.

Ok, now after we have found the petrol, we don't have to look far to find the motorbikes. They come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ages. Some look like they have survivedd WWII, others come in pretty pink with Hello Kitty images plastered all other them. Interesting in itself but it gets better by the minute. Let's take a look at the road rules in Thailand... but I need a new paragraph for that to make sure everyone understands those rules...


And that's pretty much all we need to know. Ok, maybe a bit more in detail. We are in Asia which means we drive on the left side of the road (I think this is called 'right hand driving' as ridiculous as it may seem). As long as you remember this rule, you should be fine. If that's not enough... try beeping. Asians love their horns. Honestly, they beep in every situation, mostly though to let others know they are coming through or around the corner or just to make themselves noticed. You wanna go right? Well, just do it. No real need to indicate if you beep and are quick and watch what others do. I'm actually amazed that I haven't seen a single accident yet... knock on wood.
Motorcycles also drive on footpaths (if there are any), down one-way streets and against the traffic (may that be on the highway or inner city traffic). They are truly tonca tuff!!! It's also not an unusual sight to see up to 4 people get off one little scooter! So mum gets the kids ready for school in the morning and instead of driving them in the Landrover, they hop on the back and the front and wherever else and off they go.

Another interesting form of transportation here is the saam-law... a motercycle with 3 wheels... 1 in the front, 2 in the back. Locals use them to pick up farang from the bus terminal, train station or just off the street... 'taxi for you??? where you go?' Quite amusing. And if you ask one driver he will quote you one price to get from A to B, ask another and you will get a different quote. We figured that saying 'no thanks, we'll take a metered taxi' will drop the price hugely! So if you're happy with the price, squeeze in, close your eyes and hold on tight. These things go fast, are noisy and stinky and will disobey any street signs and traffic lights. But they usually get you from A to B which is a good thing... especially in a city like Bangkok where 1cm on a map is probably 10km walking distance...

For more fun, less leg room, less bum room (if you share one) and if you feel you want to do something good for the environment, jump on the back of 3 wheeled bicycle where the 'driver' is usually about 80 years old, very friendly and just too happy to take you to wherever you wish to go. Admittedly, they lack the comfort and you feel like a massage would be just the perfect 'desert' after this 'main course', but we were lucky enough to get a happy driver with a radio. Made the 4km trip in discomfort just so much more of a uniqhe experience... never to be forgotten! I was surprised about the stability of the thing to be honest...

Ok, if you're not on a train, a bus, a tuk-tuk, or other mode of transport, you will probably be walking these crazy streets(many of which don't always have a footpath, or if they do, that footpath might not be the safest place to walk on anyway). And at first this can be quite daunting too but do it more often and you canbecome quite a master at it... Crossing the roads (especially those ones that have 2 or more lanes in one direction) is much fun. You may decide to start out by using traffic lights but you will soon realize that this does not seem to be the best choice. Sometimes (or more often than not) it is just much better and quicker to just cross wherever you need to or feel like it. If you are a beginner do this: Do what the locals do. Watch them, go when they go, stop when they stop and you should be fine. At times it's also good to 'run for your life' cuz trucks and buses don't seem to like the idea of using the brakes too often.
But back to crossing at traffic lights... Funny about this country that lives in 2551, they have traffic lights that actually count down the remaining time between green and red phases for cars!!! Great idea! Just marvellous... And a great invention for pedestrians is the animated 'green man' that starts an easy stroll at first which turns into a bit of a speedy walk next and ends up RUNNING as time runs out! Now how's that for great entertainment. You could just sit at the intersections and watch that play all day... I find it's just great how that green little man kicks you in the butt when you're half way across the road...

Alright, this is by no means everything that could be said about traffic in Thailand but it's a start. It just needs to be seen to be believed... that's all I can say.

Less amusing this here are for example the massive amounts of dogs that roam the streets looking all scruffy (except for one beautiful fella we fell in love with in Bangkok... beautiful security dog!) and bashed up. Cats are everywhere too. Most of them are usually without tails and I have started to wonder if cat tails might be a delicasy here in these Asian lands... you never know... I have to say Thai people love their meats! For breakfast, lunch and dinner (and probably for any sort of snack in between) they eat chicken, duck, pork and beef(and maybe even those cat tails...). That may be fried, grilled, deep fried, BBQed, boiled... you name it, you can get it.

Talking about food... one thing I have to say is pretty disappointing for me is that it is becoming more and more difficult to find vegetarian food here! It is actually quite frustrating. And the Lonely Planet should update their details more often cuz we've only ever had about 2 good experiences with restaurants mentioned in the guide books... Eateries were either not there or offered everything but vegetarian food. Seems much harder to eat vegie food here than I had expected... but as I said, meat and fish eaters that are happy to try food from stalls will find a bit of heaven on earth here because the variety just seems to be massive!!!

And the variety of the smells here is just as big as the food variety. There is a wonderful range of smells to be discovered daily, from pee to poo to burning meat and trash, all the way to dunkin donuts from down the road. Whatever tickles your fancy, you will find it here! Guaranteed! Just keep smelling...

Well, so much for this little chapter on all sorts of things that can be seen and smelled here. Hope you enjoyed it!
Thank you... Come again!


1st March 2008

reading and laughing
Hallo Bärbel, wir haben mit viel Freude und Lachen Dein "little chapter" gelesen. Du hast es so gut beschrieben, dass wir es uns so gut vorstellen konnten, even the tastes and smells. :-) Wir hoffen noch mehr von Dir bzw. Euch zu hören, äh zu lesen und sehen. Keep writing! Ganz liebe Grüße Vera und Andreas
1st March 2008

I am a Thai who have been to London, Frankfurt, Rome, Lucerne, Chicago and New York. Frankly speaking, I have never felt that life in Thailand is 100 years behind that in all those places mentioned. Regarding horns, Thai drivers are not more obsessed with blowing their horns than their counterparts in England, Germany, Italy, Switzerland or USA. On the contrary, I found American drivers very impatient with traffic condition and tended to use horns to voice their frustration. There are not much less traffic rules here than what you have in your country, believe me. You see frequent breaking of rules in Thailand because of lax law enforcement. Anyway, I trust that if laws are equally loosely enforced back in your country, there surely will be widespread violence or riots.
2nd March 2008

Hi I hope that my article didn't offend you. It was never my intention to offened Thai people. For me it is all very interesting to see because it is just so much different from other places I have been to and lived. Believe me, I have traveled many countries and seen many things. I have lived many years in America, Spain and Australia. And I do agree that those countries use their horns to express their agressions and frustrations. And I also agree that looser law enforcement would cause a lot of trouble in those countries. Please accept my apologies if my words offended you. Please do undestand though that whatever I write is just a personal opinion and experience and other travellers may not see things the same way I see them. Quite honestly, many travelers I have seen and met here stay for only a short period of time, a 2 week holiday on the beach etc... and they don't get to see many things that I will see throught a 3 months' travel period. And I am sure that your experiences abroad are unique and personal too and others may not see things the same way. Everything is very personal, isn't it. Happy Travels :-)

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