Sunday, November 24, 2013

a means of transportation

I’ve mentioned the traffic once or twice but there’s not a way to really understand it unless you see it. Steering wheels are on the right, cars drive on the left. Many of the roads are one-way divided highways with giant islands down the middle and special U-turn ramps to exit you from one direction and head you in the other. Smaller roads will have cutouts for u-turns and even smaller roads will just have the painted line to divide the two lanes. But really these lines are just suggestions. As in Cairo and Rome and I’m sure a few other cities around the world there don’t seem to be any rules at all. I have yet to see a speed limit sign or anything other than a ‘no u-turn’ designation. Three lanes will be painted on the road but the traffic will be 5 cars wide. When wanting to pass it’s completely legal to veer into oncoming traffic to do so. Just make sure you move back…eventually. Roundabouts are relatively common and I asked someone once who had the right of way and the answer was, whoever has the most guts. That’s pretty much the way all of the traffic works.

Motorbikes are a major form of transportation and they zoom and weave in and out of traffic going all directions and speeds with entire families and all their worldly possessions piled on them (seriously, I’ve seen a family of 4 and a dog with countless bags of groceries and furniture all on one bike.)

I’d hoped to maybe get a bicycle once I got here but while we were in our orientation we kept getting the counsel to not even try a bike or a motorcycle as the traffic is just too crazy and it’s too dangerous. Imagine my surprise when we got here to Udon and the other teachers who were already here told us we’d be getting a motorbike from the school to use.

I’ve always had a secret love for motorcycles. I’ve dated a couple of guys who drive them and, like playing an instrument, it automatically makes them just a little bit hotter than guys who don’t. Maybe it’s the bad boy persona, the feel of living just a bit on the wild side. I’ve joked for years that I was going to sell my car and get a Vespa or a mo-ped or something. So this is my chance to try it out. And hopefully not die!

We were taken to a parking lot and given a 2 minute tutorial on how to drive and then about 15 minutes of practice before getting the keys to our own bike and being sent on our merry ways. No license, no test, nothing. (That right there ought to give you an idea of how well the traffic works!) The only bike left was a tad bigger than a mo-ped, ie it’s super heavy. I had one incident with the bigger bike trying to make a u-turn and misjudging the weight and turning radius. I ended up with a few nasty bruises but made friends with a couple of nice Thai guys who came to help me lift the blasted thing and put it upright again. But aside from that little episode I’m getting the hang of things and can weave in and out of traffic with the best of them.

They have parking lots full of them, reminiscent of the bikes in Amsterdam.  You'd better know which one's yours!
I'm pretty sure this sign says "Ride at your own risk!"

gas is often sold at the roadside markets in bottles like booze...just don't drink it!
a terrible picture of my own Red Beast


  1. Holy Crap. You are so brave! Via la Amy!

  2. Wow, look at you rockin' the motorbike! Vroom Vroom! The petrol sold in bottles like soda--hilarious! I would have thought it was soda if you hadn't said something. I've seen that type of traffic--including families piles on the motorcycle with their groceries or livestock--in Indonesia and you're right, it's totally crazy.