THIS IS A TRANSLATED VERSION OF THIS SWEDISH POST!
How often do you hear that comment? And it’s not always only about Thailand, but as much about Greece, Cyprus, Spain or any other holiday paradise.
The locals drive like complete idiots without respect for neither rules nor people.
I have to say there’s some truth in this comment, or statement, but it’s also extremely subjective. Why it’s subjective?
Because as with everything it all depends on who’s saying it.
Thailand has left-hand traffic, which we don’t have in Sweden. We have right-hand traffic. Left-hand traffic isn’t really any stranger than just switching sides on everything while driving, including the traffic rules. I drove a lot while on New Zealand, and it wasn’t harder than our right-hand traffic. But New Zealand is civilised! Right? 😉
I drove (some what) on Tobago as well, but the many narrow roads weren’t part of my favourites, so I avoided driving most of the times. I haven’t driven too much in Thailand either, and when I have been driving I haven’t felt comfortable at all.
I’m not at all afraid while riding the bike with Oh, because he drives really well, and he’s very attentive on the wild traffic around him, although I know sometimes he also drives under the influence. Like many Thai people do.
When I was on Koh PhaNgan I rented a bike with a friend and we were driving around the island. I managed to get from Haad Rin to ThongSala (wow, that far – really?), and while in the city I drove straight into the curb, crashing the front of the bike, or rather the plastic on the front, and myself. The blood was all over. The days after I saw the looks people gave me, and somebody made a loud and jolly comment that “that’s what happens while driving under the influence”.
BUT I wasn’t drunk. I would never drive drunk either, because I’m a tad smarter than that. Actually. I know I completely lose control when I’m drunk, so while drinking I stay away from things needing to be manoeuvred.
Everybody thinking I was drunk and only shrugging in indifference made me feel a tad uneasy.
Tourists drive like idiots in Thailand (and probably in all holiday paradises). Many drive totally asfaced too, due to the countries’ lax traffic laws regarding driving under the influence, or simply because you tend to be able to buy your freedom. From most things. I don’t really know why, but many tourists visiting Thailand seem to leave their brains back home.
And when you come back home it’s perfectly fine screaming loudly how badly the Thai people drive.
Sure, I’ve been sitting in a mini van, believing my last hour was in – totally frantic I was staring out through the front window on my way back from a visa run, while in Bangkok. The driver manoeuvred the vehicle with skill and ease between the lanes and the shoulder, but despite his skillfullness I was terrified since he was driving extremely fast and the traffic in Bangkok is well… there are many cars out driving at the same time, as I’ve pointed out before. It’s a big city.
Thai people are born and raised in this traffic, well maybe not born in it, but still… Most of them start driving bikes already in their lower school ages, and I’m not talking about bicycles either. I have no clue what the parents teach their children before they jump up on the bike, but in my head they don’t cover too many traffic rules. And then you know perfectly well how teenagers behave (and this because I used to be one); they fall easily for pressure, they want to show everyone how cool they are, and they want adrenaline rushes. Not great combos.
Oh has been in accidents many times, although never with me sitting behind. While working in Bangkok as a messenger a taxi came crashing into his side, leaving plenty of big, nasty scars for rememberance.
Although I must say while on Koh Samui, or Phuket or other holiday paradise places, from where you hear stories about how badly the Thai people drive, I have usually only seen accidents with farang people, tourists that is. The accidents along the roads I’ve seen between Thai people are easily counted.
Now, of course I don’t mean the Thai people don’t have accidents, of course they do! What I do mean is the tourists aren’t as innocent in this “game” they persist the Thai people play.
The Thai people are raised in a completely different traffic than the one we Swedish people are used to. We are used to strict rules/laws in traffic and we’d rather not jaywalk. Now, we’re not as strict as the Japanese are, they really don’t step out in the streets if the red man is glowing, regardless if the streets are empty or not. BUT we trust our traffic rules immensly, and we get upset when people break them. Very upset.
Then when we arrive in Thailand and throw our reasons overboard, and the brains are already back home, and then some alcohol on top of that, and a lot of amusing dope. We throw ourselves on the bike or in the car and away we go. Because this is Thai style! Besides it’s so nice driving without a helmet – so free, and so wonderfully cosy to drive without a leather outfit – preferably wearing just some small trunks – oooh, what pleasures.
Why be sober and protect yourself? Nonsense! I’m on vacation…
It’s easy to rent a bike in Thailand, too. Usually they only ask for your passport. To rent a big bike – a motorcycle? Well, they’d rather want to look at your driver’s license, but that’s still a license for a car, so that doesn’t prove you know how to drive a big bike anyway. Some places are getting tougher, though, but I can still walz into some place somewhere and rent a big, fat motorcycle with my driver’s license for car – without a problem. The fact I don’t know how to manoeuvre it is another case. Many people lack a basic sense of self-perception, and have no idea where their limits are, and they’d like to show everybody how cool they are, too. Kind of like teenagers.
A combination made for trouble!
According to Wikipedia Thailand isn’t even in the top ten regarding traffic accidents per citizen, but falls somewhere in the middle, where Eritrea is in top and San Marino (where apparantly nobody dies in traffic accidents – ever!) is in the bottom. The good bottom.
So what was the idea with this post anyway?
If it didn’t make you reflect how you behave while on vacation, and make you want to take responsibility over your own actions, well, I guess, there was no point or thought at all…