Thailand Grand Prix

Urban traffic, Thailand by Roger Lemoyne

There are many things I like about living in Thailand and my recent return has brought new joys for me—but not necessarily my wife.

Thailand is filled with exotic temples, fruits, beautiful women and scenes that will stay with you all of your life. Of course I missed many of these things while going back to the States for a year, but one thing I’m finding great joy in is driving.

Now if you’ve ever been to Thailand or most any country with few imposed driving regulations you might think I’m crazy. Can’t argue with you there. The lack of enforced regulations is the thing I like and I believe that it keeps road-rage down to a bare minimum. In fact I rarely hear about an incident of road-rage here.

When I first arrived in Thailand it was pretty much ‘anything goes’ on the speedways and small roads. It has improved to a degree but it’s still fun to watch. There is an etiquette to driving here, but it’s aggressive. If you are timid you’ll find yourself pushed to the side of the road and probably in tears. Drivers cut one another off, make their own lane, use the emergency lane—the rough lane on the outside—as a high speed passing lane and of course backup when they miss a turn. It’s crazy but I join in the circus and have a great time. In the cities a two lane–on your side—can quickly turn into a five lane road and no one seems to be bothered.

Talk about a way to relieve personal stresses! I take to the road and my worries vanish as I concentrate on the business at hand. When driving Thai friends and neighbors they always comment on how I drive just like a Thai. To me that’s a great compliment even if it’s not meant that way. People who come to visit from the States usually close their eyes for the first couple of days and the sounds of prayers are sometimes heard after a trip. I’m pretty sure I’m getting a blessing…

If ever you come to visit I’ll certainly provide a crash helmet upon request. And, by the way, I’ve never had a crash in my pickup truck—the motorcycle is another story.

Even with the political turmoil here Thailand is still a very safe place to visit and you will hardly notice any problems unless you watch TV. The people are beautiful, friendly and forever smiling.

The Move and Driving in Thailand

Urban traffic, Thailand by Roger Lemoyne

The move to Thailand was traumatic for me. I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t like change in my life. But here I was moving away from family and friends to place I held in my daydreams. I tried to tell myself that I was doing it for my wife. I wanted her to have a chance to go back ‘home’. The truth is: she was only interested in my health and happiness and she loved it in the States. Leaving our kids- who were grown and not living close to us at the time- was hard on her. Leaving all the things we had accumulated over the years was almost as difficult.

We sold, gave away and donated piles of things and in the end it really was good to get rid of them—At least for me. I was having panic attacks and thought the end was near. It wasn’t living in Thailand that worried me it was the getting there. Through it all my wife took charge and made things happen.

We had a small townhouse on the outskirts of Bangkok that Julee had built years before. We used it when we visited Thailand. I had sent boxes of things and a lot of books ahead and they were waiting on us when we arrived for our new life.

After we arrived we bought a pickup truck- I love pickups- and a motorcycle for me. We settled in and began our tour of Thailand for the first few months.

I had to learn how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and only made a few hundred mistakes. Luckily Thai driving habit are pretty much anything goes—so I fit right in. I found the main rule in driving is: the biggest vehicle wins! I took to the aggressive style of driving like a NASCAR rooky. If you don’t get in there and push you’ll find yourself on the side of the road crying and wondering how people could be so… mean.

There is a driving etiquette in Thailand and it is aggressive. Road rage is something you just don’t see. You cut someone off or you are cutoff and you just forget about it and move on to the next battle of wits and machine. You also don’t see many wrecks—which totally surprised me at first. I’ll do a separate post about the police of Thailand.

One thing you have to keep in mind while driving in Thailand is if you- the foreigner- are involved in an accident, guess whose fault it is? No matter what, in most cases, you’re the one who pays.

We went to some of the beautiful places and we had a blast. Thailand has islands, resorts, waterfalls, mountains and friendly people all over the country. Some of the most beautiful women in the world glide along and I must admit I do enjoy looking. Not with lust—really—but with admiration.

In my straight-line, male thinking I have discovered why they glide. It’s the flip-flops- sliders- they wear. Now how smart am I! I’m full of wisdom, as you will find out if you follow.

We did the tour for several months but we were in Thailand to live, not be tourist. We returned to our little place with rice fields and heat all around and started settling in. I enrolled in a Thai language school in downtown Bangkok. Three days a week I made the one and half hours trip into the maze of the giant city. I loved walking the streets and trying out my Thai with just about anyone I met. I’m from the south and saying hello is ingrained into me. The Thai’s don’t do that, but being a dumb foreigner, they would smile at me and return the greeting. I had a routine I worked out so that I would ask a question—I knew the answer to—and I could respond to the answer they gave me. Some days I felt like I was on top of the world, but most I wondered if I would ever be able to speak to anyone and understand them.

Going to school I had to park in a large lot and take Sky-Train to the city center. Parking and driving in that lot added years of experience to my Thai driving skills. You have to retract your outside mirrors to avoid hitting other cars. Parking slots are always filled so you park in front of the properly parked cars, leave your car in neutral with the front wheels straight, and then lock your car. When you get back to your car after your business is completed you get to move 10 or so cars just enough to allow your car to get out of where you parked. It’s not as bad as it sounds and when it’s a new experience it’s kind of fun. No anger– just patience.

 I hope you enjoy my post. I promise they’ll get better as I go. Let me know what you think and introduce yourself. I want to get to know you too!