I drove by another accident today. Mia thinks it’s the bicyclists that are crazy. But, I think everyone is these days. There is more traffic, bicyclists, motorbikes of all sizes and shiny new cars too, more people, migrant workers from Burma, Asian tourists, Western tourists, blah, blah, blah.
I feel a sense of ownership, and I’m just a mere expat. But because I’m going crazy I feel compelled to write. I’m not sure why tourists like to rent motorbikes, but I see how busy rental shops are during this high season.
My own motorbike journey has been documented well enough here, from advice on traveling around Chiang Mai to getting over my own fears about getting on one to finally learning how to drive the damn thing. But if you must, here it is.
1. Visit the hospital. I got this doozy from a friend, who was told this from a Thai. He said, visit the Emergency Room, and have a look around before deciding if you really want to drive here. I’ve been to the hospital and I’ve seen what he’s talking about.
2. Learn to drive. I drove by a big motorbike lying on its side inches away from the moat, across from a motorbike rental shop. And I’m willing to wager it was from some ass, who thought he could drive it. If you are not sure, then have a friend who is sure, drive it for you to a big parking lot where you can learn how without endangering the lives of others.
This happened rather serendipitously but I learned from at least a couple of different people. Guys are going to give you different advice than girls. And after you’ve gathered your intel, you are ultimately going to have to go for what feels right on your bike. But at least, you learned before getting into traffic.
3. Watch how traffic moves. I was a passenger for 9 months before deciding to take the handle bars by the horns. I watched how different folks drove, and how traffic moved in a country very different than the one I grew up in. When I did drive, this was invaluable; I remembered very clearly what my friends and Thais did in various situations.
4. Get into good habits. I like what Basem said here in his article 10 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Squid (on a motorbike). Of course, if you are reading this, then you are already thinking before doing which is a good thing. Thank God someone is.
5. If you leave the city, tell someone. My friend Julia was sickened when she was on a bus (going to Pai) and the driver slowed down to avoid/look at the person lying in the middle of the road, but didn’t stop. Thankfully the bus driver that hit my father stopped.
6. Ask yourself, do you really need to? I know expats who have made the decision not to drive, and they do their daily battle with songtaews or rotdang drivers. When I was learning, I took it very slow and easy, more so than my friends because my father died from a motorbike accident.
So for me, the decision to drive a bike was a serious one. And I have to remind myself of this sobering thought when I feel myself getting impatient or angry. I hope you will too.