Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Driving in Thailand

I have never driven a scooter before. That is, until I got to Thailand and was given one upon arriving in Pak Nam Pran for our paragliding tour. Of course, I picked the red one.

Both nervous and excited, we set out for a short practice lap around the neighborhood and then headed out on the beach-front road for a tour of the area, all four of us newbies following Matty as if we were little ducklings. After learning the location of the local bar and hopping over a dozen speed bumps, we turned onto a busier road.

The thing about driving in Thailand is that most of the roads have just one lane in each direction. But the shoulder functions as a kind of second lane for bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and slow scooters. It is also a left-side drive country, which is getting less novel to me after spending more than a month in South Africa, but is still a little confusing when it comes to turning.

More than a few times I was passed on the right by faster scooters, motorbikes, motorbikes with side cars, and pickup trucks. The excitement really started though when I passed my first scooter!

Then there was the round-about. It's so weird to go clockwise around a roundabout and to vie for lane space with a bunch of other scooters, motorbikes and trucks all going different speeds. Of course, we succeeded, arriving at the day's farmers market location.

As I searched the roadside for a place to park my scooter, I witnessed a young woman accidentally knock over a row of scooters like dominos as she attempted to park her scooter tightly between two others scooters. Trying not to laugh, I heaved a sigh of relief that I hadn't done that. And then I happily handed over my scooter to Matty to park.


Another day, a week or so later, I did have the new-to-me experience of laying down my scooter as I tried to merge onto the road from a gravel driveway. Luckily I was not injured and my scooty (as I've come to call it) came through as if nothing had happened at all. Still, I was a little shaken and so proceeded to drive the rest of the way home at 25kph. At that pace, it's impressive I made it home at all!


Other interesting facts about driving a scooter:

  • It costs only $5 to fuel up my scooty.
  • If you leave your scooter in the sun, the seat will burn your buttocks through your clothes.
  • Hats like to fly off your head when you go fast.
  • Dogs run in the streets at night, so it is good to drive slow.
  • When I am the first scooter in our group, the song "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las pops into my head without warning.

And last, but not least:

  • There is an adorable Thai puppy in Pak Nam Pran who loves to ride on scooters. He jumped on my scooty as I was trying to leave the beach today, only to cause me to pick him up in an attempt to evict him, resulting in my scooty falling over yet again and me looking like a total fool. Still, that puppy cuddle was worth it.


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