There are many great things about Thailand. Many people are very friendly, the ‘winter’ weather is lovely, and cost of living is pretty cheap. However, there are also many reasons why I can’t wait to get back home, even if it is bloody freezing. Here are the main ones.
- The standard of driving is terrible.
- Bureaucracy and politeness seem to get in the way of effective organisation.
- The standard of driving is awful.
- Dietary habits seem somewhat unhealthy. There’s a surprisingly large number of overweight people here.
- The standard of driving is horrendous.
- A small minority of people seem to be more grumpy than a London bus driver. I never knew such a thing was possible.
- The standard of driving is dreadful.
- The WiFi and internet is quite unreliable.
- The standard of driving is frightening
- Whilst there are many aspects of Thai culture which do great things to counter gender and LGBT issues, there is still an overriding ‘natural’ hierarchy in traditional families, where the man ‘owns’ the woman.
- The standard of driving is atrocious
- It seems to be totally acceptable to flood the entire bathroom with this weird hosepipe thing when cleaning your bum.
- Oh yeah, the driving is pretty bad too.
Seriously, I have genuinely never felt less safe, whether on a bike or in a vehicle. The vast majority of vehicles in Thailand are either two-wheeled mopeds or motorbikes, or Toyota Hilux-style pickup trucks, often modified in many bizarre ways to increase carrying capacity. Many of the pickups often have people chilling out in the back, with absolutely no safety precautions, even at 100kph on the highway. Even though it’s a legal requirement to wear a helmet, at least half of moped travellers don’t. Most of them like to keep their helmets in the front basket or hanging off their elbows. Perhaps they’re more fashionable like that? Apparently even the helmets that are worn are almost all not built to the proper safety standards. Cramming lots of people, pets and shopping onto one moped is also commonplace. I once saw a woman driving with 5 children hanging off her moped, none with helmets. People also like to drive around (including on the highway) using only one hand to control their steeds. I’ve seen people zipping along whilst carrying shopping, logs and branches, bicycles, babies, and talking on the phone of course.
Hill starts are a totally unknown concept. Nobody seems able to reverse into bay parking without someone there to help. Lane discipline is entirely non-existent. Maybe I’m too easily wound up, but this one really irritates me in traffic jams. For a country where the major religion preaches heavily about patience and suffering, road users here are incredibly impatient. Apparently it’s also totally cool to just park your truck in the inside lane of a 6-lane highway while you go fishing under the bridge. Talking on the phone whilst driving is also fine. And last but certainly not least, there appears to be absolutely no deterrent or negative stigma about drink driving here. I’ve seen people wobble all over the place at all times of the day, and have seen or heard numerous road accidents around town that seem to simply constitute one vehicle driving straight into a tree/lamppost/building. It’s really no wonder that Thailand has one of the highest road death rates per capita in the world.
So, as you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of Thai roads. I don’t think *anyone* here could pass a UK driving test. It really troubles me that the entire population can be so… switched off, when it comes to road safety. As much as I am behind the people in the UK kicking up a fuss about road safety, in particular the safety of cyclists, I absolutely cannot wait to be back on UK roads where I’ll feel so much safer on the bike.
A quick update of last week:
- I tried to climb Doi Suthep, the mountain behind Chiang Mai, on Nu’s bike at the weekend. I reached the Doi Suthep temple after about an hour, having ascended a total of 1000m. It was tough, but fantastically rewarding, and coming down in the morning sunshine was a wonderful feeling.
- I continued to watch a lot of TV. I’m nearing the end of all 8 seasons of Scrubs.
- I cooked my first meal in the apartment (stir-fried veg and tofu with noodles).
- An old university friend of mine, Zora, stayed for a couple of days. She was passing through Chiang Mai at the end of her two month travels around east Asia.
- We entered a pub quiz with her two friends and did reasonably well, and found an impressive Thai reggae band in an empty bar.
- I was back at the telescope for another two nights, again losing my Friday night to crappy weather and frustrating training sessions. It seems that in astronomy as well as driving, Thai people aren’t quite as switched on as they could be.
- I had a traditional Thai massage. I felt like I couldn’t spend six weeks here and not at least try it once. I will never try it again – it was horrible.