Driving in Thailand
How did you feel the first time you ever started up the engine of a car by yourself? Was is thrilling? Exciting? Were you nervous? Ready? Or just plain terrified?
When it came time for me to learn how to drive (back in the States), I was excited and ready. I had a good deal of respect for the road, the machine I was in control of, and the others on the road with me – I was prepared to be a good, responsible driver… and I always have been. Sure, I’ve made goofs every now and then like missing a stop sign on a back country road, going through an occasional yellow light and barely making it across before it turns red, driving a consistent 5 mph over on the highway. But, I’ve (thank God) never been in an accident, nor had a ticket or traffic violation. I enjoy driving, and I do so responsibly.
It’s now been more than a year since I’ve driven a motorized vehicle on a road of any sort (other than my own foot-powered bicycle). At first, I was completely and utterly frustrated by my new found lack of independence – as Brook and I each had our own vehicles back in the States – but, I eventually grew accustomed to it, and came to enjoy the fact that I couldn’t go grocery shopping alone anymore. Rather, Brook had to drive me and come along for the trip.
A couple of months into our time here in Thailand, we were given a small motorbike (on loan) to use for trips around Lopburi – you know, the kind that are just out of comfortable reach for a bicycle or walking trip. When we had to give it back this past March, we then went on to buy our own. Nothing big and fancy, but something suitable for our location and similar to everybody else on the road.
(Click photo to view it larger)
Driving in Thailand isn’t only different because of our change in vehicle, but it is also a drastic change from the laws and regulations that are heavily enforced back home (and in the majority of Western societies). Traffic law, lines painted on the road, stop signs, one way signs, stop lights… they are all mere suggestions here in Thailand. Is the 6 lane superhighway just too inconvenient for you? Go ahead and turn that slim shoulder into lane #7 – no penalty allowed! Have you come upon a one-way street and going the extra 25 feet down to the next street just too much of a hassle for you? Go ahead and drive down it anyway (motorcycles, SUV’s, cars, and trucks alike!), just be sure to flip on your hazard lights as you go.
Oh, and not to mention that the correct side of the road to drive on is opposite of home – we go on the left – and the fact that everything is measured in kilometers instead of miles. Just a little more confusion sprinkled in there for kicks.
Brook is a good driver. Brook is a confident driver. Brook knows how to drive both a motorcycle and a car (both stick and automatic). This means Brook has always been the one to take us places… until now.
Today, I drove in Thailand for the very first time. I also drove a motorbike for the very first time as well… and I was completely terrified. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feel of the wind in my hair, blowing across my face, experiencing the wide open world on a motorcycle – but, I’d rather be the one riding on the back. NOT the one in charge of the machine. No. Nope. Absolutely not. Brook, however, decided that it’s about time I learn… so, I finally did (after him trying to force me into it since we moved to our new house 2 months ago) today.
There aren’t many things that can scare me to the point of tears, but driving a motorcycle/motorbike/anything 2 wheeled and motor-driven is one of them. I was on the verge of tears, doing everything I could to keep them in, the entire time. We started out slow, Brook’s arms around holding onto the bars with me, giving me instructions the whole way. And, dangit, he was really really nice, too. (He knows how scared it makes me!) After about 5 minutes of driving assisted, he backed off and I did it. I really did it! I drove maybe another 5 min (seeming like an hour to me) around our neighborhood – which is riddled with super annoying speed bumps every 50 feet – all on my own.
Granted, as soon as I was allowed to turn back onto our own street and go back home (yeah, he kept pushing me to go farther and keep going… apparently I wasn’t too bad at it), I ran inside and bust out in tears. Supposedly, he’s making me go back out and drive it again in 20 minutes because I have copies to pick up at a shop down the road, but, we’ll see how that goes.
Here’s to a day of firsts! (And terrified girls crying and shaking so much that their arms, shoulders, legs, and ankles are already sore.) 🙂
*** Several hours later… I ended up making that second trip, and even drove the 2 km to the 7Eleven at the entrance to our community. And, all without a single tear. I’m still a bit nervous, but it looks like I may be able to start getting over my fear after all. Woohoo! ***