Get Out of My F#%$** Way!

No such thing as a one way street in Thailand
by Somchai

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It's difficult to know where to begin on this topic. Driving in Bangkok is not for the faint of heart, and not recommended for first time visitors to Thailand. However once outside the city, almost empty roads make driving a pleasure.

 

Expect the unexpected make driving here HELL ON EARTH. I love to drive, and really miss my BMW in England, so when one of my Thai friends offered to let me take his new 5 series for a spin, I jumped at the chance. It was about 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon when I met him in Sathorn. As he pulled up in his brand new shiny toy, I could feel the adrenaline in me building. Up until this point I hadn't driven for about 2 years, but driving is a bit like wanking, you never forget.

We both had about an hours free time so he suggested that we take a ride onto the express way near the Rama 4 rd. Great I thought no traffic, and I could see what this baby could do. As I slipped into the drivers seat, a calming feeling came over me. There is nothing like the smell of leather in a new car, actually a leather outfit on a young lady is pretty good too.

Anyway I digress. I spent a few minutes making myself familiar with the controls so as not to make a complete dick of myself and give my friend some confidence in my driving ability. The traffic around that area is always heavy, whatever time you are there, so I waited for my chance to join the traffic. Now Thai people tend to change lanes and then indicate after they have moved, but not me, I didn't want to risk an accident, so I indicated and slowly nervously pulled out into the moving mass of cars, 4x4, monster buses, tuk tuk's, trucks and the elephant. As soon as I moved into the traffic I felt I was at the battle of ....... but instead of canons to the left and canons to the right, it was fucking motorbikes. They were like flies round shit, they came from all directions, it was as if they had waited for me, and what made it worse was that the car had a sensor inside that sounded whenever something or someone got too close. It was going off almost every second, so I asked my friend to turn it off, as I was begining to worry about something happening to the car.abit was contributing to my panic. oand any chanceproblems tretctemerin me the chance to drive hisI never forgetThais are strange people – their values, their needs, their outlook on life. There are many Thai traits which the farang find irritating, but often can’t really explain why. Of course, there are good and bad points to every nationality,affic is and Thais are certainly a very helpful people. For example, you can always rely on a Thai to give up his Sunday off to help you move apartment, or drive you to the airport. They are in general a fun-loving lot, who enjoy a joke as long as it’s not aimed at them. There are however times to have fun, and there are times when a little more decorum and seriousness are perhaps required, in the workplace for instance.

I consider the Thais greatest characteristic to be that of tolerance. Often we foreigners come over here and strut around as though we own the place. We gamble, screw, and get pissed, and they tolerate it and just smile. There aren’t that many countries where this would happen.

What about the negative or less appealing sides of their character ? One of my few Thai friends is a great sociologist and in his words the biggest problem with the Thais is that they don’t walk fast enough. Sounds silly doesn’t it, but you just observe the Thais when they are going to work or even coming back home in the evening. Many of them adopt a sort of slow shuffle that seems to send a message to the world ‘I don’t really care about myself as a person, and I don’t really care about where I’m going”. To continue quoting the sociologist “Thais need to throw back their shoulders, stand up straight, and move 25% quicker”

I think the main gripe that foreigners have is that Thais can be extremely unreliable and unpunctual. I’ve lost count of the number of hours that I’ve spent waiting for people to turn up for appointments. I have a colleague who simply refuses to have Thai friends because he’s been let down once too often.

Thais are generally quite materialistic, yet on the other hand, their daily needs are few. As long as they have somewhere to sleep, food in their belly, and a TV to watch or a comic book to read, it seems like the vast majority of them are extremely happy.
My own personal whinge, and one that I must admit is changing a little, is that Thais rarely or never complain because supposedly it ‘spoils the social harmony’. They need to start complaining a lot more, because there are many businesses large and small, who are taking advantage of this gentle nature, and giving their customers a disgracefully bad service. If I could wish Thais to try and change in one solitary way, then this would be it.

The Thai people do certainly have a sense of humor, but sarcasm is an absolute no-no, whether it is intended to be a leg-pull or not. In England for example, if a friend has obviously had a haircut, we might say something like ‘did the Red Indians get you?”. And everyone will have a good laugh and no one will be offended. A Thai will often be deeply hurt by that kind of comment, and smile out of embarrassment more than anything else. The Thai sense of humor is rather more slapstick than subtlety. The act of a man slipping on a banana skin in the street will have a Thai in veritable fits of laughter.

Supposedly Buddhists do believe in re-incarnation, but when I ask my students if they believe in life after death, 90% don’t really know, so we can assume that many of them think that this is their only chance. And yet too many of them are just ‘aimlessly shuffling’ through life with very little ambition or direction, and happy with just the basic creature comforts. It’s like they are only ‘half-alive’, and they don’t value life on this wonderful planet enough. I always find that very, very sad indeed.

Q: What's your view of Thais?

 

 

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